Six Nations: Five key moments as Ireland claimed the Championship

Nick Purewal 00:31 11/03/2018
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Johnny Sexton lets his drop goal fly

Johnny Sexton drops Ireland to victory in France

Ireland were coasting in their opening-round clash against France in Paris, that was until Teddy Thomas scythed off the wing, bisected the cover and skipped between the posts. But just when Ireland looked to have snatched defeats from the jaws of victory for the second time running in France, up popped Sexton with a nerveless, 45-metre drop-goal that won the day. Ireland built some 41 phases in a final-play winning move that extended into the third minute of overtime. Ireland hardly merited victory, but on such stunning rescue missions are title triumphs founded.

Ireland's Jacob Stockdale - the Six Nation's top tryscorer after three rounds

Jacob Stockdale races away with the crucial intercept against Wales

Jacob Stockdale seals victory over Wales with a fine intercept score

Not until the final throes of Ireland’s 37-27 win over Wales in Dublin were Schmidt’s men able to gain total control. At no point before the closing stages had Ireland nailed down the win. So when free-scoring wing Stockdale picked off Gareth Anscombe’s pass and powered home, the entire Aviva Stadium breathed a severe sigh of relief.

DUBLIN, IRELAND - FEBRUARY 24: Peter O'Mahony of Ireland and Aaron Shingler of Wales during the Six Nations Championship rugby match between Ireland and Wales at Aviva Stadium on February 24, 2018 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Peter O’Mahony leaps high against Wales.

Peter O’Mahony conjures a fine cover tackle and turnover against Scotland
Though Ireland eventually subdued Scotland by four tries to one for a 28-8 victory, the visitors bungled a host of clear-cut scoring chances that could have entirely altered the game’s complexion. Munster flanker O’Mahony produced a momentous performance of grit and industry throughout, battling manfully to nullify Scotland’s clear contact-area advantage. O’Mahony pulled off a fine stunning tackle on wing Blair Kinghorn that saved a try-scoring chance, but not finished there though, he leapt to his feet and forced a turnover penalty. At the top of the second-half, this was a vital intervention, with Ireland only leading 14-3.

DUBLIN, IRELAND - FEBRUARY 24: Johnny Sexton of Ireland and Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric of Wales during the Six Nations Championship rugby match between Ireland and Wales at Aviva Stadium on February 24, 2018 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Johnny Sexton has been outstanding for Wales in the 2018 Six Nations

Sexton fires a bullet pass to send Stockdale in for his first try against Wales
Ireland have spent large swathes of this tournament bulldozing through phases but at points struggling to finish off moves swiftly. No such trouble against the Welsh, with five tries the fruit of an attack-heavy performance. There could be no better tour de force than Sexton’s flat, fast and defence-splitting pass that sent Stockdale walking into the corner for his first of two tries in the 37-27 victory over Warren Gatland’s side either.

DUBLIN, IRELAND - MARCH 10: Garry Ringrose of Ireland slips past  Huw Jones of Scotland during the Ireland v Scotland Six Nations rugby championship game at Aviva Stadium on March 10, 2018 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Garry Ringrose made a superb return against Scotland

Garry Ringrose’s runaround sends Stockdale in for a second score against Scotland
Fit-again Ringrose had only played an hour’s Rugby since January with Leinster before this encounter. It never showed. Not one jot. Instead the 23-year-old scythed and stepped through the Scotland defence on several occasions. And then he forced a runaround off Bundee Aki to fire a bullet pass to send Stockdale home for a score that all-but sealed Ireland’s 28-8 win over Scotland.

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