Remembering Ireland’s Grand Slam triumph of 2018

For Irish rugby fans, the last few editions of the Six Nations have been defined by a certain mediocrity. They have finished third in each of the last three championships, and that suggests that the team have declined slightly from the giddy heights of winning the Grand Slam in 2018. Indeed, Ireland’s supporters undoubtedly still cling to the golden memories of that campaign. Whilst they won two successive Six Nations championships in 2014 and 2015, it’s always that bit more special when a team completes the Grand Slam. Indeed, it was only the second time Ireland had delivered a perfect record since the Five Nations became the Six Nations in 2000. As the 2022 Six Nations continues apace, with Irish hopes of a Grand Slam already dashed by France, let’s take a trip down memory lane and look back at that glorious 2018 triumph.

Dramatic start

After the title successes in 2014 and 2015, Ireland were still considered strong contenders in the Six Nations betting odds ahead of the 2018 tournament. However, a tricky opening fixture against France in Paris presented a stern first hurdle. Ireland have never boasted a particularly good record at the Stade de France, and Joe Schmidt’s side would have been under no illusions about what awaited them.

Indeed, Ireland were seconds from defeat as the game ticked beyond 80 minutes. Trailing 13-12 after a tense encounter, it was all or nothing for Johnny Sexton, who found a pocket of space to send a beautiful drop-goal in between the posts. Ireland had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, and there’s no doubt that the victory gave them the belief needed to go on and win the Grand Slam.

Setting the pace

Next up was a routine home fixture against Italy, and as expected, Ireland ran out easy winners, racking up eight tries in a 56-19 win. The Aviva Stadium was the setting again in week three for an entertaining contest against Wales, where Ireland did enough to win 37-27 in another high-scoring affair. When any team wins their first three games in the Six Nations, thoughts begin to turn to the promise of a Grand Slam triumph. A third home match in a row, this time against Scotland, offered Ireland a great opportunity to set themselves up for glory in the final round of fixtures. They duly delivered, dispatching the Scots 28-8.

Satisfying conclusion

With four wins from four, Ireland were in the mood for their second Six Nations Grand Slam after their previous triumph in 2009. Standing in their way were England at Twickenham, another venue where the Irish have struggled somewhat in the past. Up against their old foes, Ireland looked supremely motivated, and delivered a gutsy performance. Tries from Garry Ringrose, CJ Stander and Jacob Stockdale were the key events in a 24-14 victory. Ireland had gone to London and delivered the goods, on St. Patrick’s Day no less. It was the perfect ending to the perfect campaign. It’s incredible to think that, on another day, Ireland could easily have lost narrowly to France in their opening game, which could have led to a disappointing campaign. These are the fine margins in sport, and Ireland were the beneficiaries four years ago in what will go down as one of the country’s greatest sporting moments.

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