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Quins’ Marcus Smith is England match winner with last minute drop goal to secure 23-22 victory over Ireland


REPORT Courtesy of BBC Sport


“I have been practising my drop-kicks. We had the advantage so I thought let’s go for it,” says match-winner Marcus Smith of Harlequins

Marcus Smith follows in the footsteps of Jonny Wilkinson and George Ford as the latest English fly-half to write his name in drop-goal folklore.

Wilkinson delivered the biggest prize of all during the 2003 World Cup final and Ford’s masterclass saw off Argentina at last year’s tournament in France, while Smith’s boot ended Ireland’s dream of historic back-to-back Six Nations Grand Slams.

Smith came off the bench to mark his return from injury with a last-gasp clip over the posts to hand England a stunning victory – and afterwards namechecked both Ford and England kicking coach Kevin Sinfield.

“I was pretty excited to be honest,” Smith told BBC Sport.

“We got an advantage in the wide channels after Manny [Feyi-Waboso] did a destructive run, like he did all game, and got us to within 10 metres.

“Then the forwards went in and exhausted them. We had another penalty advantage right in front and I have been practising my drop-goals, learning off George [Ford] and Kev [Sinfield], and I thought, why not?”

This was supposed to be the Six Nations for Smith to cement his standing as England’s number 10 after impressing at full-back as England finished third at the World Cup, but he was ruled out of the opening three games of the competition with a calf injury.

He replaced the usually assured Ford, who missed a penalty and conversion, in the second half and his arrival on the field seemed to lift everyone inside Twickenham of an England persuasion.

Smith received the ball from Harlequins team-mate Danny Care, who also came off the bench for his 100th Test cap to steer England over the line.

“It was nice to get the ball off Danny on his special day,” Smith added.

“This was a tournament I was really excited for and it was an opportunity for the team to step forward off the back of the World Cup.

“Being ruled out before the first games was disappointing but watching the lads from home on the sofa got me excited again.

“I was desperate to get back for part of the Six Nations so I feel lucky and honoured.

“We didn’t get the result we wanted against Scotland but this team will take a lot of pride and confidence from that performance.

“We challenged one of the best teams in the world through 80 minutes.

“It ebbed and flowed and it was a brilliant spectacle for the fans. I know the boys will be very happy with that one.

“The chat all week was to have the belief and the confidence in one and another because we don’t turn into a bad team overnight.

“Last week was a blip but if we keep our standards high and push each other, anything is possible. It’s moments like this that give us hope and confidence moving forward.”

Smith’s impressive cameo will give Steve Borthwick a selection headache for the final game against France, with the Six Nations title possibly still on the line.

The 25-year-old’s importance to the squad, especially with Owen Farrell absent at Test level, has been clear to see during this campaign despite his recent unavailability.

The hosts showed greater attacking intent and a renewed speed of ball in hand against Ireland than at any other time during Borthwick’s tenure.

And with his contribution, Smith has to be in contention for a starting berth in Lyon next Saturday.


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