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The Irish didn’t quite achieve their dream after earning the maximum points in the first three rounds, but winning consecutive championships puts this Ireland team among a select group of Six Nations champions. They are the sixth team to accomplish this, and notably, only the third team (along with Wales in 2012-13 and England in 2016-2017) to follow up a grand slam victory with the title. It seems that other teams are particularly motivated to defeat the grand slam champions.

Peter O’Mahony seemed content as he reflected on his time as Ireland’s captain. After more than a decade since his debut, this was his first complete season leading the team. There were some who criticized him for never having won a title in his 15 years as captain for Munster and at times for Ireland, but now he has achieved victory twice in the span of 10 months (with Munster winning the United Rugby Championship in May).

“It’s definitely difficult to surpass,” he stated. “There are days, like today, that you couldn’t even imagine. In my experience with Munster, I’ve gone through numerous losses. Even during the [Six Nations] match against France, which was the last round of the championship in 2020. I believe that game has benefitted us for a significant amount of time. It may have been the most painful, but did we gain valuable lessons from it? Absolutely, and that definitely stands out.”

Such was Ireland’s dominance after round three – 15 match points from 15, six clear of the field – that the last two rounds have seemed somewhat anticlimactic. Their defeat against England at Twickenham was a shock. They were not at their best, but it pays to remind ourselves that, even so, they were beaten only by a drop goal in the last play.

It was anticipated that there would be a response in their match against Scotland, however, Ireland did not manage to replicate their performance from previous rounds. They were fortunate to come away with any kind of outcome, which Andy Farrell accurately described as a “genuine Test match”. Unfortunately, in today’s high-energy era of thrilling rugby, “genuine Test match” is often used to downplay a disappointing experience.

One significant factor is the level of competition. In contrast to a decade ago, the caliber of rugby in the Six Nations has greatly improved. This was acknowledged by Farrell when evaluating Ireland’s performance in the championship. The opening match, where Ireland secured a bonus-point victory against France in Marseille, is likely to be the most discussed.

“It was common knowledge how significant the competition’s start was. However, I specifically refer to the Italy game [a 36-0 victory at home]. Take a closer look at the changes that have occurred with the Italian team since then. The adjustment in our team members and the fact that we achieved a bonus-point win speaks volumes about our group.”

In July, Ireland will have the opportunity to travel to South Africa for two Test matches. Despite some discomfort in the southern hemisphere, many have praised this Irish team as the top in the world. However, Farrell is cautious in downplaying this label. He recognizes the challenge and excitement of facing the best team in the world, and has no doubt that South Africa holds that title.

The age-old debate over whether team A performed poorly or if team B simply allowed them to excel was once again relevant during the Scotland game. In Dublin, Scotland has a tendency to struggle against Irish aggression, however, in this particular match, Ireland seemed to lack their usual vigor for extended periods, possibly due to Scotland’s performance.

The coaches of both teams gave credit to Scotland’s defense for their performance. Their impressive 233 tackles were the most made in the championship and rank in the top 10 of Six Nations history, specifically seventh. It’s worth noting that nine of these top 10 tackle counts were made against Ireland.

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Scotland placed fourth, with a record of two wins out of five games. However, they were within reach of a grand slam victory. Gregor Townsend, their head coach, expressed his frustration as the dominant emotion.

“We were unable to secure a victory against France, primarily due to a decision made by the TMO. However, we also struggled in the final minutes of the game. Additionally, our performance during the third quarter against Italy left us frustrated. Out of the five games we have played, we have either won or come close to winning. It was disappointing not to be in contention for the title.”

Instead of challenging the top-ranked team, Scotland will now embark on a tour of the Americas and face off against USA, Canada, Chile, and Uruguay in upcoming matches.

Source: theguardian.com