England inflicted a deflating 24-12 defeat on Ireland in the Six Nations on Sunday. The game was over at half-time with England leading 17-0. Ireland won the second half but that was a lick of paint on a house with shaky foundations.
Good Ireland performances were few and far between with Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray being especially poor.
"Much had been made of the similarities between Sexton and Owen Farrell beforehand, of the Irishman’s role in the family soap opera," wrote Gerard Meagher for The Guardian.
"Certainly they both gave the referee Jaco Peyper a constant grilling but the contrast in performances - Farrell excelling despite a bizarre moment when he refused to let go of CJ Stander’s leg - can hardly have been more pronounced.
"Sexton’s torpor typified Ireland’s off-colour performance and more than anything, this was a dose of realism, an end to their grand slam hopes and those of claiming the triple crown."
Rob Kitson, also writing for The Guardian, referenced Ireland's build-up visit from Bono.
By then, though, it was way too late. If Ireland had hoped that inviting Bono into camp during the build-up might pay on-field dividends they were sadly mistaken. The only U2 track that sprang to mind in the end was Sunday Bloody Sunday: Ireland did win the second half 12-7 but for Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray, so often their side’s tactical driving force, this was definitely a black Sabbath.
The Telegraph's Tom Cary highlighted that little has changed between the Schmidt and Farrell eras in terms of team selection.
"Apart from the enforced switch caused by Rory Best’s retirement, Farrell has stuck with the same bunch of players. Jordan Larmour for Rob Kearney and Andrew Conway for Keith Earls are but minor tweaks. Farrell has retained faith in Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton, in Tadhg Furlong and Cian Healy, in Josh van der Flier and Peter O’Mahony, in Jacob Stockdale. Even Devin Toner, dropped by Schmidt for the World Cup, was parachuted in for a rare start on Sunday."
— Allie Hodgkins-Brown (@AllieHBNews) February 24, 2020
At half-time during ITV's coverage, Clive Woodward said:
I honestly thought it was going to be a very close game.
That was one of the most one-sided games of rugby I've seen. England were brilliant, 60 per cent possession. Ireland just had so many mistakes. Even the Sexton kick at goal summed up their whole game.
17-0 doesn't justify the [performance], it should be a lot bigger than that. England have been first class in every aspect of the game.
Post-match, Eddie Jones felt similarly to the 2003 World Cup-winning head coach.
"I thought the first half was outstanding," said Jones.
"We played with intensity, we executed well, and we had the game won at half-time.
"If it was a cricket match we could have declared. Second half they got some possession, got a few calls from the referee, and we had to defend well and we did."
— Allie Hodgkins-Brown (@AllieHBNews) February 23, 2020
Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile