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Late Marcus Smith drop goal extinguishes Ireland's Grand Slam dream

By Josh Raisey
Marcus Smith of England celebrates scoring the winning drop goal during the Guinness Six Nations 2024 match between England and Ireland at Twickenham Stadium on March 09, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

A Marcus Smith drop goal in the final play of the game secured England a 23-22 win over Guinness Six Nations leaders Ireland, ending the visitors’ hopes of back-to-back Grand Slams.


It was a significant improvement from Steve Borthwick’s side from the first three rounds of the Championship, or indeed any match of his tenure.

Ireland started the match like a team chasing a Grand Slam, and were able to notch three points on the board after only two minutes following a series of sniping runs around the breakdown.

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But England bounced back from the early penalty to score the first and only try of the first half through Ollie Lawrence.

A George Ford penalty ten minutes later extended England’s lead to 8-3, but Ireland were able to capitalise on the hosts’ increasing ill-discipline, and built a 12-8 half-time lead through the boot of Jack Crowley.

Match Summary

Penalty Goals
Drop Goals
Line Breaks
Turnovers Lost
Turnovers Won

Ireland looked as though they were going to pull away early in the second half following a James Lowe try, but England were able to respond within minutes through George Furbank. With both tries unconverted, a four-point gap was restored.

England had regained the momentum, and a yellow card to Ireland captain Peter O’Mahony after a Ben Earl break gifted England a chance to kick for the corner and go for the try. The hosts were able to deliver, with player of the match Earl scoring and Ford converting to give England a 20-17 lead with 20 minutes remaining.


With a full squad back on the field, Ireland fired back in the final ten minutes, with Lowe scoring his second of the match to leave Ireland with a 22-20 lead heading into the final minutes.

After a long range penalty from Elliot Daly went wayward, it appeared Ireland would hold on for the win before England launched a late surge on Ireland’s line. With a penalty advantage, Smith avoided the tension of a last-play penalty by kicking a drop goal from in front of the posts to send a raucous Twickenham crowd wild.

Ireland remain at the top of the Six Nations table ahead of a home fixture against Scotland in round five, but their hopes of making history with back-to-back Grand Slams were dashed by an England team that were vastly improved from the one that lost the Calcutta Cup in round three.



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MattJH 132 days ago

So, are England the best team in the world now or….

Rugby 132 days ago

This why we love rugby. Plus it give Bokke big breathing space at no 1 ranking.

1 South Africa 94.54
2 Ireland 90.69 (-1.42)
with a big win Ireland could have gone to 92.98

craig 132 days ago

Must be depressing winning everything except the ones that actually count.

PDV 132 days ago

Ireland a formidable team but today showed they have some way to go to be in the conversation for best in the world. Dominated physically, with creaking set pieces. Discipline also failed them when England put on the pressure. All areas the World Champions are particularly good at. No disgrace in losing to England at Twickenham but certainly a wake-up call.

andre 132 days ago

And a few days ago they were compared to the best ever All Blacks 🤣. These guys !! What an aweful travesty to rugby

Christo 132 days ago

England proved that Ireland are one dimensional by shutting them down completely and Ireland had no plan B whatsoever. So much for the self-proclaimed “best in the world team” who have yet to do better than a quarter final place at a RWC.

Diarmid 132 days ago


Rob 132 days ago

Before anyone claims I’m being a sore loser congrats to England, we didn’t play as well as we could have in part because of how well England played. However, the fact that Genges clear out of furlong around the 30th minute wasn’t checked is beyond me, comes in at speed, arm tucked hits Furlong in the face with his shoulder and sends him flying back holding his face, I respect furlong for getting on with it but still should’ve been looked at. If you haven’t seen it go have a look it’s very clearly a card. Yellow or red is a debate that I don’t want to get into but anyone with sense should see that it’s a card.

Ace 132 days ago

Wow, two incredible test matches today!

I was convinced Ireland had done enough to pull it out of the fire but, damn, those English forwards just don’t know about giving up. Kudos to England. They were order of magnitude better than the bunch that turned up last time.

But do not dismiss Ireland. They are still a formidable team with a great coach and this little hiccup will probably stand them in good stead to grow as a team.

This is why test match rugby is so awesome!

Turlough 132 days ago

Congratulations to England. Better team won. They targeted our lineout and their physicality meant Ireland never were comfortable and I thought England were comfortable in possession. We nearly stole it but kudos for England for fighting to the end and getting the reward. Maybe Ireland arent the best team in the world after all.
I had thought England would use the first 3 matches to develop their system on the hoof then targeting the Ireland game after two weeks of coordination training. Different result last week and they would be playing for the grand slam next week. Borthwick looking a bit smarter now.

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Shaylen 4 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

These guys will be utility players Nick it cannot be helped because coaches cannot help themselves. Rassie looks at players like these and sees the ability to cover multiple positions without losing much. It allows the 6-2 or 7-1. He wont change his coaching style or strategy for one player. At provincial level players like these are indispensable. If there is an injury to your starting 12 but your back up 12 is a bit iffy then a coach is going to go with the back up 10 who is gold and who can play a good 12. Damian Willemse for the Springboks is an obvious case, for the Stormers its the same. Dobson plays him at 12 or 15, with Gelant in the team he plays 12 but if Gelant goes down he doesnt go for his back up 15, he just puts Willemse there. With Frawley its the same at international and provincial level. He just slots in wherever. Frans Steyn made a career out of it. He was much maligned though as a youngster as he never fully developed into any role. He then went to Japan and France to decide for himself what kind of player he was, put on muscle and retained his big boot, ran over players and booted the ball long and came back into the Springboks after about 3 years away and was then certain about how he wanted to play the game no matter what position. Coaches cannot help themselves because they only want what is best for their teams and that means putting your most talented players on even if it means you cause them some discomfort. Sometimes players need to decide how they want to play the game and then adapt that to every position and let the coach decide how they want to use them.

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Jon 10 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

I think the main problem here is the structure of both countries make up. They are going to have very similar.. obstacles(not problems). It will just be part of the evolution of their rugby and they’ll need to find a way to make this versatility more advantageous than specialization. I think South Africa are well on the way to that end already, but Ireland are more likely to have a hierarchical approach and move players around the provinces. Ioane is going to be more than good enough to lock up one of those available positions for more than a few years I believe though. Morgan would definitely be a more long term outlook. Sacha to me has the natural footwork of a second five. Not everything is about winning, if a team has 3 players that want to play 10s just give them all a good go even if its to the detriment of everyone, this is also about dreams of the players, not just the fans. This is exactly how it would be in an amateur club setting. Ultimately some players just aren’t suited to any one position. The example was of a guy that had size and speed, enough pace to burn, power to drive, and speed to kick and pass long, but just not much else when it came to actual rugby (that matched it). New Zealand has it’s own example with Jordie Barrett and probably shows what Reece Hodge could have been if the game in Australia had any administration. Despite the bigger abundance of talent in NZ, Jordie was provided with consistent time as a fullback, before being ushered in as a second five. Possibly this was due to his blood, and another might not have been as fortunate, but it is what it was, a complete contrast to how Hodge was used in Australia, were he could have had any position he wanted. When it comes down to it though, much like these young fellas, it will be about what they want, and I think you’ll find they’ll be like Hodge and just want to be as valuable to the team as they can and play wherever. It’s not like 63 International Cap is a hard thing to live with as a result of that decision!

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