Zach Mercer, England’s outstanding number eight and stand-in captain, paid tribute to his team after they came through the sternest of tests from Ireland at a rainy and windswept Donnybrook to claim their first Grand Slam in six years with a hard-fought 14-10 victory.
"It was awesome to get the win and fair play to Ireland,” said Mercer. "To get that turnover at the end just shows the character that we have shown throughout the Six Nations. I couldn't be more proud of the boys.
"The conditions were tough but we can't use that as an excuse, we tried to use the wind in the second half but credit to Ireland they used it against us.
""Coming from where we were last year in the Six Nations, it is night and day compared to now, so I am over the moon.""
"It was the Grand Slam that got us through, we want to be known as history-makers so I am really proud. I said in an interview earlier in the week that the Six Nations title was inevitable but it was the Grand Slam we really wanted.
"We actually didn't think about the title before the game it was all about the Grand Slam. To go back on the plane with the boys knowing that we have won it, it is massive.
"Coming from where we were last year in the Six Nations, it is night and day compared to now, so I am over the moon."
The clean sweep followed on from the World Rugby U20 Championship success and banished any lingering memories of last year’s worst-ever U20 Six Nations finish of fifth.
England led 14-3 at the break after Jack Nay and Henry Walker scored from lineout moves and Max Malins added the extras.
Other than three points from the boot of Billy Johnston, Ireland were not able to turn sustained periods of pressure into points.
However, they did score near the hour mark when Jordan Larmour, one of the stars of this year’s competition, made good ground and set up a good attacking position in the visitors’ 22. The Irish forwards pounded the line before Gavin Coombes forced his way over under the posts for a try that Johnston turned into seven points with the conversion.
A frenzied finish saw Ireland pile on the pressure through a series of pick-and-goes until they eventually crossed the line in the dying seconds. However, replacement back Theo Brophy Mills managed to somehow get his body under the ball to prevent if being grounded and England were left to celebrate.
FAMOUS SONS INSPIRE LES BLEUETS
France finished as runners-up for the third year in a row following a 40-20 win over dethroned champions Wales.
The sons of two former internationals did the damage as France hit back from a 13-point deficit to claim their 11th consecutive Six Nations win on home soil.
Romain Ntamack, son of Toulouse and France legend Emile, converted his own try and four others, one of which was scored by number eight, Alexandre Roumat, the son of Biarritz and France second-row Olivier, to the delight of the 10,000-capacity crowd at the Stade Sapiac.
A converted try from Roumat’s opposite number Aled Ward and two penalties from the deadly boot of the competition’s top points scorer Ben Jones put Wales in control up to the half-hour mark before the home side finally clicked into gear.
Tries from Baptiste Couilloud and half-back partner Ntamack wiped out the lead before Roumat, Pablo Uberti and Geoff Cros put the game out of Wales’ reach in devastating nine-minute spell in the third quarter.
Theo Millet added a fifth try for France with a last-minute effort from Arwel Robson scant consolation for Wales, who had to settle for a third-place finish.
POTM | Tonight's player of the match was Scotland U20's try-scoring back-row, Matt Fagerson! pic.twitter.com/pAziasclwr— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) March 18, 2017
ITALIANS SEE RED AS SCOTS PREVAIL
Darcy Graham enhanced his glowing reputation with a brace of tries as Scotland dominated ill-disciplined Italy from the off at the Broadwood Stadium to run out 38-17 winners.
Graham raced over in the third minute and Andrew Simmers got a second as Scotland took a 17-0 lead into the interval, Josh Henderson having converted both scores as well as landing a penalty.
Italy started the second half down to 14 men having seen Jacopo Bianchi sent to the sin-bin just before the interval, and Scotland capitalised with an intercept try for number eight Tom Dodd that was topped shortly afterwards by a brilliant individual score from Matt Fagerson.
Italy’s forward might brought them two tries through prop Marco Riccioni and a penalty try after Scotland had pulled down a maul. Then, Giovanni D’Onofrio closed the gap further with a try in the corner but any hopes of a comeback win were dashed once Lorenzo Masselini saw red. Lodovico Manni also got his marching orders shortly after Italy had conceded another try to the jet-heeled Graham.