Ireland produced the performance their whole nation had been waiting for on Saturday as they defeated rivals England 24-8 in Dublin.
Ireland produced the performance that their whole nation had been waiting for on Saturday as they defeated old rivals England 24-8 at Aviva Stadium.
Declan Kidney's side were arguably three gears up from their showings in earlier rounds and consequently stunned the Grand Slam chasers, with tries from Tommy Bowe and Brian O'Driscoll sealing a much-needed win to lift team morale.
England in contrast were not quite at the races and will now face a slightly anxious wait to see how France and Wales pans out in Paris. A points difference of 26 points is the task for Wales if they are to claim the Six Nations crown at the death.
A recalled Jonathan Sexton was deadly in front of goal for the fired-up Irish and struck four penalties in all while the score for O'Driscoll brought his total championship try tally up to a record 25.
However a large amount of credit for the victory must go to their back-row of Jamie Heaslip, Sean O'Brien and David Wallace, with the latter duo immense both in contact and in the loose.
England seemed confident at kick-off, although Ireland's defence immediately held up well and they soon won a penalty after their pack dominated the opening scrum.
They won another too when England strayed offside at a line-out after six minutes, with Sexton kicking three points from in front of the posts. 3-0 it was to Ireland.
Martin Johnson's side lost promising possession when trying to break through the midfield soon after, and although Ireland's counter ended with a knock-on, their next brought a high tackle by an, at times angry, Chris Ashton on Sexton. He found the target and England found themselves 6-0 down after fifteen minutes.
Four minutes later Wallace ended the attempts of Ben Youngs to attack and the nine was then penalised at the scrum for knocking the ball out the hands of an opponent.
Sexton kicked for the corner and with territory established, Ireland worked the ball up and back down the line. Although O'Driscoll then crossed in the left-hand corner, Bowe's pass to the overlap was adjudged forward.
Still, there was the consolation of another three points for Sexton and the knowledge that they held the upper hand. It was to get worse for England.
Having been awarded a penalty in the 25th minutes that he would surely have normally taken, an out-of-sorts Tony Flood was found wanting with the boot.
Ireland pressed forward immediately and caught England flat-footed, with a busy Bowe this time making no mistake as he took a smart Sexton's pass to cross.
Sexton could not convert, but Flood could at least put England's first points on the board with a penalty just past the half hour. And boy did they need it.
They could not use that to fashion a response though; instead Wallace came close to scoring after England's backline were dispossessed dealing with a high kick.
Youngs had helped bundled Wallace into touch but he was then sin-binned for throwing the ball into the crowd and preventing the quick throw. Sexton kicked his fourth, with Wallace almost crossing one minute before the half time interval.
England appeared just as nervous at the start of the second half as Ireland piled on more heat, although they failed to make the man advantage pay off. But with Danny Care replacing Youngs it didn't matter as O'Driscoll picked up a loose ball to cross in the left-hand corner after 46 minutes, with Sexton converting.
Ashton then burst for the line but his final pass found Gordon D'Arcy. However, Ireland gifted their opponents a try on 52 minutes after a line-out went awry and Thompson took advantage, England's record-cap hooker racing over for a try.
Jonny Wilkinson added the two and it was around this time that England finally appeared to get their act together and consistently apply pressure themselves.
Ireland's defence remained unbreached, however, and with heavy rain falling, the hosts got some respite when Care struggled to control the ball on the wet surface.
Ireland remained ahead on territory in the closing ten minutes and try as England might, their increasingly tired-looking attacks never looked likely to prosper.
Victory was celebrated like a championship for Ireland but who can blame them? Success against their old foes and depriving them of a Grand Slam, the Six Nations title?
Man-of-the-match: Leinster flanker Sean O'Brien was once again immense for Ireland with his carrying strength killing England. David Wallace and Jonathan Sexton also deserve a big mention for their efforts but captain and centre Brian O'Driscoll gets the gong for his all-action showing that saw him become the top try-scorer in Five/Six Nations history.
Tries: Bowe, O'Driscoll
Pen: Sexton 4
Ireland: 15 Keith Earls 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian O'Driscoll (capt), 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Andrew Trimble, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 David Wallace, 6 Sean O'Brien, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Tom Court, 18 Leo Cullen, 19 Denis Leamy, 20 Peter Stringer, 21 Ronan O'Gara, 22 Paddy Wallace.
England: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Matt Banahan, 12 Shontayne Hape, 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Nick Easter, 7 James Haskell, 6 Tom Wood, 5 Tom Palmer, 4 Louis Deacon, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Alex Corbisiero.
Replacements: 16 Steve Thompson, 17 Paul Doran-Jones, 18 Simon Shaw, 19 Tom Croft, 20 Danny Care, 21 Jonny Wilkinson, 22 David Strettle.
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Tim Hayes (Wales)
Television match official: Giulio De Santis (Italy)