Stock­dale takes ad­van­tage as ground staff go ex­tra yards

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - RUGBY - NICK PUREWAL

IRE­LAND’S Grand Slam tri­umph owes plenty to Ja­cob Stock­dale’s record-break­ing scor­ing ex­ploits — but also an un­wit­ting help­ing hand from Twick­en­ham’s ground staff. Head coach Joe Sch­midt’s class of 2018 need never work again af­ter claim­ing just a third Grand Slam for Ire­land. Ul­ster wing Stock­dale set a new record of seven tries in one cham­pi­onship in the Six Na­tions era, as Ire­land echoed the ex­ploits of the 1948 and 2009 clean sweep win­ners.

The 21-year-old would have al­ready been in the dead-ball area when he dot­ted down how­ever — had Eng­land not ex­tended their in-goal area in the build-up to yes­ter­day’s breath­less en­counter.

Never in Ire­land’s wildest dreams could they have imag­ined beat­ing Eng­land by a record Twick­en­ham score­line to seal a Grand Slam in this Lon­don fortress.

It is even more pre­pos­ter­ous still then that Eng­land’s de­ci­sion to ex­tend their in-goal area gifted Stock­dale the room to dot down from his own chip and chase. At just 21 years of age, Stock­dale boasts 11 tries in just nine Test matches — and a Grand Slam tri­umph the like of which gen­er­a­tions of Ir­ish in­ter­na­tion­als sim­ply never got any­where near.

Ire­land be­came just the sec­ond team in Five or Six Na­tions his­tory to com­plete a Grand Slam at Twick­en­ham, em­u­lat­ing the France team of 1981.

The Eng­land head coach’s con­tro­ver­sial crit­i­cism of Ire­land and Wales came to light on Wed­nes­day, but dated back to a talk for Mitsubishi par­ent com­pany Fuso in July 2017.

Jones could do lit­tle save swal­low those words as his Eng­land side were com­pre­hen­sively un­done by Sch­midt’s reg­i­mented men, on their home ter­ri­tory.

Garry Rin­grose’s sweet foot­work kept Eng­land busy in mid­field, but it was his neat touch­down from Johnny Sex­ton’s high bomb that handed Ire­land their first try.

CJ Stander had the pres­ence of mind to barge into the base of the post for the sec­ond — cap­ping a set move where Tadhg Fur­long sent Bundee Aki hurtling through Eng­land’s line.

Tight­head props are not meant to throw game-break­ing passes, but therein lay the beauty of Sch­midt’s lat­est cun­ning plan. The world’s best coach has driven the globe’s sec­ond-best team into Ire­land’s an­nals.

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