DUBLIN - Ireland rose to the occasion for their first ever meeting with England at Croke Park today as they thrashed the world champions 43-13 and toppled 60-year-old record for their biggest win over them in the process.
Ireland dealt admirably with all the emotional baggage surrounding the match and, after a tight opening quarter, cut loose to record their fourth successive victory over the English.
The score topped their previous best 28-24 from 2004 and bettered the margin set in 1947 by a 22-0 victory.
Their four tries to the one of England were fair reward for their dominance. First five-eighths Ronan O'Gara made yet another sizeable contribution with a perfect goalkicking display with 21 points from five penalties and three conversions.
It was the ideal way to bounce back from the painful last-gasp defeat by France at the same stadium two weeks ago while for England it was a first, and worrying, defeat of the tournament.
Despite some protests over the last week at the prospect of 'God Save the Queen' being played at a stadium where 14 people died after a raid by British-led troops in November 1920, the predominantly Irish crowd greeted it with applause.
Most of the 82,000 crowd then gave full voice to the two Irish anthems to create a spine-tingling atmosphere.
England did their best to deaden it when Jonny Wilkinson slotted an early penalty but it was to prove a rare high point for Brian Ashton's side.
Three penalties for O'Gara put Ireland on top before the game was effectively settled in the last 10 minutes of the first half.
With England's bad-boy lock Danny Grewcock in the sin-bin Ireland bossed the lineout to score two tries, through Girvan Dempsey and David Wallace to earn a 23-3 halftime lead.
England threatened a comeback after the break with a try by debutant wing David Strettle and a Wilkinson penalty but Ireland responded by upping the pace further and England had no answers.
O'Gara used a kick across the English line to set up Shane Horgan up nicely for a third try in the 65th minute.
It was one-way traffic from then on and replacement halfback Isaac Boss finished things off with an intercept try, converted by fellow sub Paddy Wallace.
"It was a very good performance," man of the match Ireland prop Paul O’Connell said. "I thought we played very clever, we held on the ball, kept racking up the scores.
"They came back at us a bit and woke us up and I thought we dominated after that.
"I don't think it was anything very special it was just the whole pack working very hard."
Of the overall emotion of the day he added: "We wanted to do the occasion justice - two weeks ago we probably didn’t - today was the big one, the one everybody has been talking about it.
"Having Brian (O'Driscoll) and Strings (Peter Stringer) back was good and it was a great day."
Ireland 43 (Girvan Dempsey, David Wallace, Shane
Horgan, Isaac Boss; Ronan O'Gara 5 pens, 3 cons, Paddy Wallace con) England 13 (Dave Strettle; Jonny Wilkinson 2 pens, con). Halftime: 23-3.
- REUTERSBy Paul Hoskins