England hammered Ireland 24-12 at Twickenham on Sunday to keep their Six Nations title hopes alive. JON CARDINELLI reports.
England weren’t given much of a chance ahead of this crucial fixture. There was a lot of talk about Ireland’s well-balanced pack as well as their superior kick-chase strategy. Many felt that England would be exposed at the gainline and under the high ball.
On the day, however, Ireland were physically and mentally exposed for much of the contest.
England dominated the collisions and breakdowns. Centre Manu Tuilagi made an early statement when he clattered into No 8 CJ Stander. Maro Itoje and Sam Underhill were relentless in their quest to hammer the Irish back.
England spent the majority of the first half deep in Ireland territory. Their accurate kick-chase put the visitors under all sorts of pressure.
George Ford successfully chased Ben Young’s kick to score England’s first try. Johnny Sexton made a hash out of dealing with the bouncing ball, and the England flyhalf capitalised on the lapse.
Sexton had an evening to forget. The Ireland flyhalf battled to assert himself behind a losing pack, and didn’t strike the ball at all well when kicking for goal. Sexton’s first miss – from right out of in front – set the tone for the rest of the game.
England continued to hammer Ireland at the gainline and kick into the space behind the defence. The visitors battled to exit, and a particularly poor clearance attempt gifted England another scoring chance.
Ford chipped the defensive line and Jacob Stockdale failed to deal with the bouncing ball. Elliot Daly showed great pace and anticipation to beat the wing and score.
Owen Farrell kicked a penalty on the stroke of half time. The 17-0 scoreline flattered Ireland, who may have trailed by more if not for several England handling errors in the red zone.
The England defence eventually relented to concede their first points in the 50th minute. Sexton, however, failed to convert Robbie Henshaw’s try.
England powered their way over from close range in the 63rd minute to restore their commanding advantage. They could not crack on to claim the fourth try and ultimately secure the bonus point.
The result marks Ireland’s first loss of the campaign and ends their Triple Crown hopes.
England will claim this trophy – and strengthen their bid for the big Six Nations prize – if they win their next match against Wales at Twickenham.
England – Tries: George Ford, Elliot Daly, Luke Cowan-Dickie. Conversions: Owen Farrell (3). Penalty: Farrell.
Ireland – Tries: Robbie Henshaw, Andrew Porter. Conversion: John Cooney.
England – 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Jonny May, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Owen Farrell (c), 11 Jonathan Joseph, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Tom Curry, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Joe Marler.
Subs: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Charlie Ewels, 21 Ben Earl, 22 Willi Heinz, 23 Henry Slade.
Ireland – 15 Jordan Larmour, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Johnny Sexton (c), 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 James Ryan, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Cian Healy.
Subs: 16 Ronan Kelleher, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Caelan Doris, 21 John Cooney, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Keith Earls.
Photo: Steve Bardens/The RFU Collection via Getty Images