IRELAND COACH JOE SCHMIDT felt the all-round effort of England’s man-of-the-match Mike Brown was the difference between his side winning and losing the Triple Crown. The Harlequins fullback was the home side’s best player by far as England held out for a 13-10 win at Twickenham.
Ireland struggled to contain Brown all day and his burst up-field, following a Chris Robshaw offload, directly led to the match-winning try for scrum-half Danny Care. The fullback, who Schmidt described as the Six Nations’ top player over the opening three rounds, also excelled in defence. Brian O’Driscoll was desperately close to sending an early grubber kick through with no-one home in the English 22 but the ‘Quins man dived at full-stretch to get a paw on the ball.
Schmidt said, “England defended superbly. I thought Mike Brown’s goalkeeper save, when there was non-one behind him in the first-half, was the defensive contribution of the game, without having to make a tackle.
“His running in broken field was probably the difference between the two teams. When he got the space he put Danny Care away. They are the fine margins and the small instances when things break open. They didn’t for us but did for England.”
Schmidt bemoaned the lack of bounces going his team’s way and, in case anyone doubted him, listed off four instances where a kick ended up in English hands or a missed tackle led to points on the scoreboard for Stuart Lancaster’s men.
O’Driscoll, playing in his final game at Twickenham, limped off in the closing stages but the Ireland coach allayed fears that he may be facing a trip to the physio’s table. The centre, said Schmidt, limped off with a cramping calf muscle but management are hopeful he will be fit to face Italy and France in the closing rounds of the championship.
While Ireland captain Paul O’Connell remarked that it was far too soon to think of topping the championship standings next month, the Kiwi feels his side were still well placed to challenge for the title. He added, “We’ve got to make sure we put ourselves in the best position to beat Italy… if you take them on at anything less than 100%, well, you saw what happened in Wales when they were within a score of them going into the final 10 minutes.”