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World’s top-ranked team dominate Six Nations – Ireland’s route to the title

Ireland won the Six Nations (Jane Barlow/PA)
Ireland won the Six Nations (Jane Barlow/PA)

Ireland became Grand Slam champions for the fourth time following Saturday’s 29-16 Guinness Six Nations win over England in Dublin.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the world’s top-ranked nation’s other results in the championship.

Wales 10 Ireland 34 – February 4

Caelan Doris, right, claimed Ireland’s opening try of the tournament inside two minutes, before Josh Van Der Flier, left, sealed victory in Cardiff
Caelan Doris, right, claimed Ireland’s opening try of the tournament inside two minutes, before Josh Van Der Flier, left, sealed victory in Cardiff (Joe Giddens/PA)

Ireland underlined their status as tournament favourites by ruining Warren Gatland’s return as Wales boss thanks to a stunning start in Cardiff. Tries from Caelan Doris, James Ryan and James Lowe inside the opening 21 minutes helped leave the outclassed hosts 27-3 down at the break. Ireland, who lost first-choice scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park and replacement prop Cian Healy to injury just before kick-off, weathered a temporary storm early in the second period before 2022 world player of the year Josh Van Der Flier crossed late on to clinch the bonus point and cap a fine afternoon’s work.

Ireland 32 France 19 – February 11

Ireland avenged last year's damaging loss in Paris by ending France's 14-match winning run
Ireland avenged last year’s damaging loss in Paris by ending France’s 14-match winning run (Brian Lawless/PA)

A pulsating second-round defeat in Paris ultimately denied Ireland a clean sweep in 2022. Twelve months on and Andy Farrell’s men stylishly turned the tables on Les Bleus to propel themselves into pole position for title glory. Ireland once again registered three first-half tries – through Hugo Keenan, Lowe and Andrew Porter – en route to halting the defending champions’ remarkable 14-match winning run. Garry Ringrose fatally ended French resistance in a gripping contest between the world’s top two sides following Damian Penaud’s stunning breakaway score and 14 points from Thomas Ramos.

Italy 20 Ireland 34 – February 25

Mack Hansen's two tries helped Ireland avoid an upset in Rome
Mack Hansen’s two tries helped Ireland avoid an upset in Rome (Steven Paston/PA)

Ireland were without a host of injured stars in Rome, including captain Johnny Sexton, and ultimately avoided a major upset with a disjointed victory. The bonus point was in the bag by the break courtesy of scores from stand-in skipper Ryan, Keenan, Bundee Aki and Mack Hansen. Yet the Irish were rattled for large parts of a relentless encounter and Pierre Bruno’s intercept try on the stroke of half-time, which added to Stephen Varney’s effort, ignited fresh optimism among the Azzurri. Hansen’s second score of the day eventually settled proceedings at Stadio Olimpico after Farrell was pictured biting his nails.

Scotland 7 Ireland 22 – March 12

Ireland lost five key players to injury in Edinburgh, including Garry Ringrose
Ireland lost five key players to injury in Edinburgh, including Garry Ringrose (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Depleted Ireland kept their composure and showed their class amid the mayhem of Murrayfield. Forwards Doris, Dan Sheehan and Iain Henderson each departed injured inside the opening 23 minutes before the loss of deputy hooker Ronan Kelleher shortly after half-time left veteran prop Healy filling the void in the middle of the front row and flanker Van Der Flier throwing lineouts. Despite the chaos and adversity, Ireland, who also had Ringrose stretchered off, overturned an early deficit and dominated the second period. Tries from Lowe and Jack Conan killed the contest following Hansen’s fine first-half finish.