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Heartbreak for Ireland as England pressure eventually tells at Twickenham

Joe Schmidt’s reigning champions are now winless after their opening three matches of this year’s competition.

England's Billy Vunipola takes it into contact against CJ Stander (left) and Mike Ross.
England's Billy Vunipola takes it into contact against CJ Stander (left) and Mike Ross.
Image: David Davies

England 21

Ireland ​10 ​

Rory Keane reports from Twickenham

IRELAND REMAIN WINLESS in this year’s Six Nations championship after a sobering defeat at the hands of England in Twickenham.

Britain Six Nations Rugby England Ireland Source: Kirsty Wigglesworth

England were far from perfect on their first game back on home turf since last year’s World Cup debacle. They botched a flurry of try-scoring opportunities during a hugely dominant first-half but all that pressure eventually told as Anthony Watson and Mike Brown crossed​ for decisive​ tries after the break.

Owen Farrell kicked 11 points from the boot​ to see his side home after Ireland were forced to make 95 tackles during a turbulent first half ​​as they resisted waves of English attacks​. ​

​Trailing 6-3 at the break was a testament to their defensive organisation as well as England’s lack of composure and when Conor Murray barged over for a try early in the second-half, a first victory at Twickenham since 2010 looked on the cards.

Spearheaded by their giant pack, England, however, wrestled back control of the contest to make it three wins from three for Eddie Jones’s side. ​

England v Ireland - 2016 RBS Six Nations - Twickenham Stadium England's Billy Vunipola takes it into contact against CJ Stander (left) and Mike Ross. Source: David Davies

Ireland’s scrum began in impressive fashion and when Dan Cole was penalised for dropping his bind, Sexton stepped up to kick the first points of the evening as Ireland took an early 3-0 lead in south-west London.

England were looking dangerous in the wide channels with Billy Vunipola uitilising the back door pass to free up the likes of Jonathan Joseph and Anthony Watson. Stander was soon penalised for not rolling away and Farrell made it 3-3.

There was soon danger for Ireland as Watson soared above Sexton to take a high ball only for his supporting team-mates to go off their feet. Sexton probed the line to set up an attacking Irish lineout and, after a Stander take, McGrath and McCloskey made strong caries.

From the next breakdown, Best mis-timed his run around the corner and knocked on as Joseph scooped up the ball and hacked downfield with Rob Kearney getting back brilliantly to snuff out the danger.

Sexton scythed through the England midfield defence on a trademark wraparound only for referee Romain Poite to penalise Henshaw for blocking Farrell on a decoy run. Farrell narrowly missed the long-range effort.

There followed a 20-minute spell of relentless English pressure led by the rampaging Billy Vunipola, who caught the Irish defence napping as he burst down the blindside from a surging maul.

Stuart McCloskey offloads Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Using Trimble as a speed bump, the Saracens number eight looked set for a line before Murray and Stander did brilliantly to force him into touch.

Vunipola caused the damage again as he steamrolled over Mike Ross to get England on the front foot. George Kruis made another explosive carry before Hartley drove for the line; McCloskey doing brilliantly to deny the England skipper inches from the whitewash with a superb last-ditch tackle. Hartley was penalised for a double movement as Ireland lifted another siege.

England continued to batter Ireland’s line and you felt it was only a matter of time before the Irish dam bust. A man-and-ball tackle from Sexton on Ford prevented a certain try with England players queuing up on the life edge to score.

Camped in the Irish red zone, England blew yet another chance as Joseph knocked on Ford’s flat pass from a solid English scrummage. From the ensuing scrum, Joe Marler was done for dropping his bind as Ireland lifted the siege.

England finally earned some points as Stander was penalised for side entry after Toner was smashed on the gainline by Kruis. Farrell made it 6-3. A paltry return for such first-half dominance.

Ireland began the second-half with a renewed sense of vigour as England conceded their first try of the championship.

James Haskell’s late hit on Murray earned the Wasps flanker 10 minutes in sin-bin. Rory Best opted go for the lineout as the forwards hammered the line. Spotting the smallest of gaps on the blindside, Murray sniped over from close-range as Ireland secured a lead that was unthinkable before the break.

Stuart McCloskey and Andrew Trimble with Mike Brown Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Toner’s silly late nudge on Farrell gifted England an easy three points to make it 10-9.
Still feeling the effects of a late hit from Ben Youngs, Sexton dropped a routine pass in midfield.

England went hunting for the try after that and were duly rewarded as Chris Robshaw sent Watson over in the left corner. Farrell failed with the touchline conversion as England regained a 14-10 lead on the hour mark.

Ireland were beginning to look weary as Cian Healy and Nathan White entered the fray. Billy Vunipola made big yards again before quick hands from Ford and Farrell put Brown over in the corner. Farrell made it 21-10.

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Ireland were looking dead and buried only for Sexton to spark the match into life with another searing line-break. A deft wraparound with White released the Leinster 10 who sent Henshaw racing for the line but Jack Nowell’s brilliant cover tackle prevented the try in the corner.

Danny Care earned a late yellow card as Ireland went searching for a late try but Van der Flier’s effort was disallowed after the Leinster openside looked to have gained downward pressure.

​A bruising encounter took its toll as both coaches emptied their benches. Ireland went probing for late try but it came to nothing.

A tough outing, in every sense of the word.

England scorers: Try: Watson, Brown, Conversions: Farrell [1], Penalties: Farrell [3]
Yellow Card: Haskell [45-55], Mike Brown [71 - 80]

Ireland scorers: Try: Murray, Conversions: Sexton [1], Penalties: Sexton [1]

England: Mike Brown; Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, Owen Farrell (Elliot Daly ‘65), Jack Nowell; George Ford, Ben Youngs (Danny Care ‘59); Joe Marler (Mako Vunipola ‘59), Dylan Hartley (captain) (Jamie George ‘70), Dan Cole; Maro Itoje, George Kruis; Chris Robshaw (Jack Clifford ‘70), James Haskell (Courtney Lawes ‘76) Billy Vunipola.

Replacement not used: Paul Hill, Alex Goode.

Ireland: Rob Kearney; Andrew Trimble, Robbie Henshaw, Stuart McCloskey (Simon Zebo ‘63), Keith Earls; Jonathan Sexton (Ian Madigan ‘76), Conor Murray (Eoin Reddan ‘70); Jack McGrath (Cian Healy ‘59), Rory Best (Richardt Strauss ‘70), Mike Ross (Nathan White ‘59), Donnacha Ryan (Ultan Dillane ‘65), Devin Toner, CJ Stander (Rhys Ruddock ‘66), Josh van der Flier, Jamie Heaslip (captain).

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