Ireland captain Paul O’Connell was left to rue the one that got away as Brian O’Driscoll’s final Grand Slam hopes were ended at Twickenham.
O’Driscoll, now one game short of a new world appearances record, lost his final test match in London in a game that saw Ireland relinquish their claims to the Triple Crown and the Slam for another season.
A sensational test game saw Ireland dominate England early in the second-half before succumbing to a Danny Care try and the boot of Owen Farrell in the final quarter.
The home side ended the game just three points to the good, 13-10, and with a win that throws the Six Nations championship chase wide open.
Joe Schmidt’s Ireland still top the group but O’Connell knows momentum was with the visitors, 3-0 down at the break to a Farrell penalty, when Rob Kearney crossed for a brilliant try just minutes after the restart.
A Johnny Sexton conversion and penalty were all they could add however before Care, with the try, and Farrell, with a conversion and a penalty, sealing the deal for England.
A rueful O’Connell admitted: “We made silly errors. After you score, you need to retain the ball and hopefully make your next play in their half of the pitch.
“And we didn’t retain the kick-off, and put ourselves under pressure, and they accumulated a few scores, and their belief went up.
“If we had maintained our dominance for 5-10 more minutes it could’ve been a different story. We let England off the hook, then, with a few silly errors, both defensively, and in how we tried to get out of our half. That’s just a bit disappointing.”
O’Connell did praise how Ireland dealt with England’s physicality but knows chances went a begging at Twickenham.
He added: “I must say I was very happy with how the pack stood up to England’s physicality. I think we mauled well when we chose to maul. The scrum was excellent; defence of their maul was good as well.
“We created a lot as well, we just didn’t finish it.”
Like O’Connell, Ireland coach Joe Schmidt was keen to talk up the positives.
He said: “I thought our scrum functioned well, I thought we did some good things off the lineout, I thought our set-phase play off the set-pieces was very good.
“Where we probably weren’t good enough was cleaning out their fringes at ruck-time.
“Their line speed was very effective and we didn’t play as effectively as we needed to, through that line-speed or on the edge of that line-speed.”
Ireland can still win the Six Nations with games at home to Italy and away to France to come and Schmidt added: “The overall championship is the over-riding piece of silverware that you want to get your hands on.
“Our points differential still puts us in a strong position. So we’ve got to make sure that we go forward to Italy, as opposed to looking back too much at this game.
“I feel really sorry for the players because they put a lot of effort in.”
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