England went back to the top of the Six Nations table after securing a 21-10 win over Ireland at Twickenham on Saturday, reports CRAIG LEWIS.
It was a third successive win in the tournament for England, and surely their most impressive of the lot. Eddie Jones’s men now hold a one-point lead over Wales in the standings, and certainly look like real title contenders.
With two rounds to go in the Six Nations, England will next play Wales and France, and they will head into those crucial matches with plenty of confidence after comprehensively outplaying Ireland.
The injury-hit Irish have only attained one log point so far this Six Nations season, and after now suffering back-to-back defeats, they have seen their title defence brought to an end.
England were guilty of ill-discipline early on at Twickenham, conceding five penalties in the opening quarter, but fortunately for them, only one was in kicking range, with Ireland flyhalf Johnny Sexton opening the scoring with a three-pointer in the sixth minute.
Despite this, England looked the better side for most of the first half, and after centre Owen Farrell drew the scores level with a 12th-minute penalty, captain Dylan Hartley went close to scoring just after the quarter-hour mark. However, South African TMO Shaun Veldsman declared a double movement, and England were denied a deserved try after an extended period of pressure.
In the end, England could only add three more points before half-time, with Farrell knocking over a second penalty as the hosts finally converted their territorial dominance into points.
Ireland would have been grateful to only be three points behind at the break, and then found themselves with a one-man advantage early in the second half when England flanker James Haskell was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle. The visitors immediately made England pay as scrumhalf Conor Murray burrowed over the tryline, and suddenly Ireland had the benefit of a four-point advantage.
Farrell cut that deficit to just a solitary point when he slotted a third penalty in the 51st minute, though, and almost immediately after England were restored to a full complement of players, winger Anthony Watson was put away for a try in the corner to restore the lead.
Just a few minutes later and it was the turn of fullback Mike Brown to dart over as England impressively responded to open up a decisive 11-point lead. In another big moment soon after, a superb tackle from Jack Nowell denied Robbie Henshaw from going over for a try that would have brought Ireland right back into the game.
There was a brief glimmer of hope for Ireland when replacement Danny Care became the second English player to be shown a yellow card with nine minutes left to play, but England did well to concede no further points as they held on for an impressive victory.
England – Tries: Anthony Watson, Mike Brown. Conversion: Owen Farrell. Penalties: Farrell (3).
Ireland – Try: Conor Murray. Conversion: Johnny Sexton. Penalty: Sexton.
England – 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jack Nowell, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 James Haskell, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Joe Marler.
Subs: 16 Jamie George, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 Jack Clifford, 21 Danny Care, 22 Danny Care, 23 Alex Goode.
Ireland – 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 CJ Stander, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Jack McGrath.
Subs: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Nathan White, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Simon Zebo.
Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images