A convincing win away against serious opposition marked another landmark in the fast-tracked development of Stuart Lancaster's England and the head coach and his lieutenants were in no doubt of the scale of their achievement on Sunday.
Dublin on a cold, wet day has done for many a more experienced side than this England one. Andy Farrell, the backs coach who knows a thing or two about the big occasion, and winning on it, was adamant it was their best yet.
"That was an absolutely massive win," he said. "We've come to Ireland, playing against a hell of a good side. These days are made for people like Ronan O'Gara and Brian O'Driscoll, with all their experience. So to get through that in those conditions … There was a tricky point there in the third quarter, where we had a couple of back-to-back errors, but the way we composed ourselves and finished the game stronger, the way our energy got better and our line speed got better, our composure – it was a masterclass, really. For a young side to play like that in a pressured situation against a team that has been there and done that was a credit to everyone."
Four penalties from the boot of Farrell's son, Owen, and a performance of accuracy in the wet from everyone saw England home in a manner that was mightily impressive and slashed their odds of a grand slam with fixtures against France, Italy and Wales remaining. England's accuracy, in particular, was in marked contrast to the error-strewn Ireland performance, despite the hundreds of caps that the home team brought to the party.
If it is the shape of things to come – and with each game there is less of a reason to think it might not be – England's young side will be quite a proposition once they have accumulated the kind of caps total boasted by the sides they keep beating. Handily, that could come to pass by 2015, the year England host the World Cup.
Lancaster was as proud of their slow-burning, tryless performance as Farrell Sr. "It's right up there," he said. "We could go back to some of the away games we played in the Six Nations last year – France, Italy in the snow – and Scotland last week. But I think we also drew a lot of strength from our summer tour, as well, when we went to big arenas like Ellis Park. So to come to Dublin against a quality Irish side, it's right up there with those wins."
And, perhaps most impressively of all, not a mention of that win against the All Blacks. Who knows where they rank that one but in its own way this win was at least its equal, not least because there could be no questioning the motivation levels or the physical condition of their opponents.
The Aviva Stadium on Six Nations day is not a place for the faint-hearted traveller. England should know. This is their first win in Dublin since 2003 – and we all know how good that team were.
The margin of victory was six points – and it was not even that with 20 minutes to play – but it might as well have been 60 for all the comfort Ireland could take. Declan Kidney was ashen-faced as he listed his walking wounded, led by Simon Zebo, who broke a bone in his foot and will be out for 10 weeks. It would have been as easy for Kidney to list those that were not carrying knocks – and Jonny Sexton's hamstring looks like being the next most serious concern – but at least there are two weeks until the next round of matches.
Kidney insisted that Ireland's campaign was still on track. "Right now we're extremely disappointed. But France are next up at Twickenham and England have to go to Cardiff. There's a hell of a lot to play for. The Grand Slam is a wonderful thing but trying to put it together takes an awful lot. There's a championship, first and foremost, and we're well in that."
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