three in a row

Schmidt's dominant Ireland see off England as Henshaw excels in Dublin

Grand Slam hopes remain on track after a third consecutive win in this year’s Six Nations.

Ireland 19

England 9

IRELAND’S GRAND SLAM hopes remain on track after they produced an impressively dominant performance to beat England 19-9 in Dublin.

Jonathan Sexton tackles George Ford Johnny Sexton smashes opposite number George Ford in the tackle. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Joe Schmidt’s side were tactically excellent yet again, denying England consistent field position, taking points on offer through the boot of Johnny Sexton and manufacturing a clever try for the magnificent man of the match Robbie Henshaw.

Out-half Sexton again directed play with intelligence and composure, while Paul O’Connell’s pack outfought the much-lauded English forwards in the physical stakes.

There were one or two set-piece issues after Mike Ross left the pitch, but at scrum and lineout there was further evidence of how sharp Schmidt’s side are.

England enjoyed a strong spell of possession to finish the game as Ireland tired, almost scoring through Jack Nowell in the left corner, but a forward pass saw it ruled out. Stuart Lancaster’s side will now hope to see Ireland lose in Cardiff next time out, but Irish confidence is certain to soar.

This win had all the hallmarks of Ireland under Schmidt; clever kicking, huge work rate, intelligent decision making and an ability to keep the scoreboard moving throughout.

The home side enjoyed a superb start, benefiting from some poor England discipline to eke out field position and allowing Sexton to slot two penalties inside the first 10 minutes, both after the English failed to roll away at the ruck.

A calculated and cynical decision from James Haskell for the second might have drawn a yellow card later in the game, as Ireland threatened the tryline following good carries from Rob Kearney and Sean O’Brien.

Sean OÕBrien injured Sean O'Brien was a first-half casualty. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

But England recovered to briefly find their attacking bearings, George Ford popping over a drop goal as referee Craig Joubert played penalty advantage. The Bath out-half pulled his next attempt wide to the left from close to halfway after Jordi Murphy was penalised for not releasing the ball in a ruck.

That English visit to the 22 was a relative rarity in the opening half, Devin Toner producing a sublime steal at the lineout in the 23rd minute and with England presumably aiming to manufacture a maul try.

Ireland lost openside O’Brien to apparent concussion shortly after that, the Leinster back row suffering the head injury as he charged into George Ford, then stumbling worryingly as he attempted to rejoin play.

Fortunately, Eanna Falvey was on hand to hold O’Brien back from further damage.

Rory Best and Vunipola exchanged jackaling turnover penalties before Ireland’s magnificent out-half put in a thumping hit on Burrell to allow Robbie Henshaw to earn another in view of the English posts. Sexton made it 9-3 with half an hour gone.

Jordi Murphy was having a breakdown impact too, while scrum-half Murray consistently threatened in open play and from set-piece starter plays. However, Schmidt would have ben frustrated as attacking changes went untaken coming towards half time.

Sexton missed a tough penalty from out on the left, before sending a garryowen too long as Ireland built pressure in the English defensive third. One of Schmidt’s power plays saw Henshaw burst through in midfield, but then a knock-on from Bowe on Sexton’s inside pass saw England hack clear.

Jonathan Sexton and Paul O'Connell after winning a penalty Sexton and O'Connell celebrate a penalty win. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

A big linebreak from Murray after England captain Chris Robshaw had dropped the scrum-half’s box kick saw Ireland off to another strong start in the second period, but when Henshaw then kicked ahead Murray’s offload, fullback Alex Goode escaped tackle attempts from Henshaw and Sexton behind his own tryline.

England’s lack of discipline around the ruck continued though, Dave Attwood failing to roll and allowing Ireland into a 12-3 lead with 48 minutes gone.

Ireland’s next attacking thrust finally brought the desired effect, as Henshaw finished wonderfully after Murray lofted a clever kick over the head of Goode with advantage being played.

It was a wonderful kick chase and turnover tackle on Anthony Watson by the brilliant Simon Zebo that put Ireland on the attack in England’s 22, some hard carrying following before Joubert signalled penalty advantage and Murray carried out the ‘free play’.

Henshaw rose impressively over the retreating Goode, gathering in the air then snappily touching down the ball as he landed and just before his body slid over the touchline. TMO Deon von Blommestein confirmed the score and Sexton added the extras.

The Racing Métro man lasted only another minute of the fixture, however, retiring with what appeared a hamstring injury, Ian Madigan replacing him at out-half.

England then had their best attacking chance of the game as number eight Vunipola burst through Murray’s tackle off the back of an England defensive scrum. The Saracen ran all of eight metres before making the odd decision to kick the ball away as Kearney closed it.

The ball trickled over the tryline and Tommy Bowe covered back to touch down, much to Ireland’s relief.

Robbie Henshaw scores a try despite Alex Goode Henshaw dots down for his second-half try. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

The excellent Mike Ross was replaced heading into the final quarter and at the next scrum, Ireland were penalised to allow Ford make it 19-6. Marty Moore and Jack McGrath were deemed to have collapsed the set-piece and England’s out-half was on target.

Ford then added another penalty with 68 minutes on the clock, Peter O’Mahony penalised this time for not supporting his own body weight as he jackaled at the breakdown.

All of a sudden, England had momentum and their bench helped in that regard, scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth sniping and directing with notable energy.

Jared Payne departed to the concussion bin and Ireland faced into their toughest defensive set of the afternoon with eight minutes remaining, forced to tackle through 13 phases before Nick Easter and Billy Twelvetrees combined for an obstruction with the tryline begging.

Replacement prop Cian Healy then produced a big moment of contact to force Easter into a midfield knock-on as England again looked to build from deep. That was to be the story of the closing minutes, Nowell being denied what looked a score by Twelvetrees’ forward pass.

Ireland march on.

Ireland scorers:

Try: Robbie Henshaw

Conversion: Johnny Sexton [1 from 1]

Penalties: Johnny Sexton [3 from 4]

England scorers:

Penalty: George Ford [1 from 2]

Drop goal: George Ford

IRELAND: Rob Kearney (Felix Jones ’71); Tommy Bowe, Jared Payne, Robbie Henshaw, Simon Zebo; Johnny Sexton (Ian Madigan ’54), Conor Murray; Jack McGrath (Cian Healy ’59), Rory Best (Sean Cronin ’74), Mike Ross (Marty Moore ’58); Devin Toner (Iain Henderson ’65), Paul O’Connell; Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien (Tommy O’Donnell ’25), Jordi Murphy.

Replacements not used: Eoin Reddan.

ENGLAND: Alex Goode; Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph (Billy Twelvetrees ’69), Luther Burrell, Jack Nowell; George Ford, Ben Youngs (Richard Wigglesworth ’69); Joe Marler (Mako Vunipola ’65), Dylan Hartley (Tom Youngs ’53), Dan Cole; Dave Attwood (Nick Easter ’67), George Kruis; James Haskell (Tom Croft ’62), Chris Robshaw, Billy Vunipola.

Replacements not used: Henry Thomas, Danny Cipriani.

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