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Ireland finish over the top of 14-man England with bonus-point win in London

It was edge-of-the-seat stuff at times as the English scrum dominated Ireland’s pack.

England 15

Ireland 32

EDDIE JONES PROMISED that England would bring a physicality that Ireland hadn’t seen before but he surely didn’t mean the kind that involved Charlie Ewels smashing his head into the skull of opposite number James Ryan in just the second minute.

Red card and Ireland were certainly the ‘red-hot favourites’ from there. To be fair to England, though, they then brought far more of the kind of physicality that Jones had been talking about.

It was uncomfortable for Ireland at times but Andy Farrell’s side did have the composure to finish over the top of the fatigued England players after being pegged back to 15-15 heading into the final quarter, two late tries for replacements Jack Conan and Finlay Bealham helping them to a bonus-point victory.

jonathan-sexton-james-lowe-garry-ringrose-and-jamison-gibson-park-celebrate-as-hugo-keenan-scores-a-try Ireland celebrate at Twickenham. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Ultimately, this keeps Ireland in the hunt for the Six Nations title, their hope being that England can upset the Grand Slam-chasing France in Paris next weekend.

Ireland must keep up their side of the bargain with a big win at home against Scotland. 

There is a Triple Crown on the line too, although Ireland have huge scope to improve against the Scots. This was edge-of-the-seat stuff at times in southwest London. 

The English forwards massacred the Irish scrum, winning six penalties in that area alone, while some of their maul work was superb too as they gave Farrell’s side a scare in front of a raucous Twickenham with a crowd of 81,658 in attendance. The likes of Ellis Genge and Maro Itoje were brilliant. 

It took Ireland until the 72nd minute to effectively seal the deal as sub back row Conan blasted over to score their third try just after the excellent Andrew Conway had surged up the right-hand side, the English legs finally tiring after their trojan effort.

Bealham followed over with a maul score soon after, ensuring the bonus-point victory after earlier tries for James Lowe and Hugo Keenan.

A win in Twickenham is always a big deal and Farrell will be very pleased that his men were able to keep their heads in the endgame but he will come away with some big concerns too. 

That said, the likes of Keenan, Conway, Caelan Doris, Jamison Gibson-Park and Bundee Aki were among the standout performers and this feels like a key lesson for Ireland on their journey to the 2023 World Cup.

conor-murray-celebrates-finlay-bealham-scoring-the-bonus-point-securing-try Finlay Bealham scored Ireland's bonus-point try. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Handed a numerical advantage by an opposition red card for the second game in a row, Ireland initially struggled to make it count. They forced several offloads in English territory and their indiscipline was damaging, with 14 penalties conceded in total.

England deserve credit for their show of defiance but it means a second defeat of the championship for Jones’ side, who were always facing an uphill battle after that red card for Ewels. 

The early setback was an undisputable one – Ewels simply had to go when the TMO Marius Jonker drew referee Mathieu Raynal’s attention to the hit. It left James Ryan wobbling as he tried to get back to his feet and he had to be replaced permanently by Iain Henderson.

Johnny Sexton added three Irish points off the tee to the red card punishment and Ireland blasted into the lead just three minutes later.

Gibson-Park found hooker Dan Sheehan with a clever pass into the shortside, where the hooker flicked the ball back inside for Josh van der Flier to break. He had the influential Gibson-Park back inside but opted to draw and deliver a pass out to Lowe on the touchline for the left wing to scorch home.

Ireland had started sharply in attack and appeared to have a second try 12 minutes in after a Sheehan bust off Beirne’s tip-on pass was followed by Conway releasing Doris to run over England scrum-half Harry Randall in the left corner.

matthew-carley-shows-a-red-card-to-charlie-ewels Charlie Ewels was red-carded in the second minute. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

But a TMO check confirmed that Garry Ringrose had knocked the ball under pressure at a ruck a couple of phases before and the score was chalked off.

That’s where England’s scrum dominance started, with wing Jack Nowell joining the set-piece and enjoying a handy ride as Genge and Kyle Sinckler did the heavy lifting in the front row for a relieving penalty.

The English soon lost flanker Tom Curry to injury, with Alex Dombrandt on in his place, but they were grabbing momentum with a Joe Marchant jackal turnover, another scrum penalty, a Beirne knock-on, then a scrum free-kick.

A forward pass from Marchant was missed – Sexton wasn’t happy about it – as England then streched the Irish defence with their attack, leading to a penalty they kicked into the right corner, only for Cian Healy to make a clever turnover on hooker Jamie George at the back of the close-range maul, grabbing his arm to force the ball loose.

A helter-skelter passage followed after Ireland hacked the ball clear, Keenan countering up the right-hand side and offloading for Sexton to chip ahead but Ringrose was tackled into touch.

Just after Itoje destroyed an Irish maul, more set-piece penalties followed for Jones’ side at scrum and maul, but Marcus Smith was wide with a shot at goal. He did find the target in the 33rd minute, though, after Sexton was penalised for chasing Ringrose’s kick from an offside position.

james-lowe-celebrates-scoring-a-try-with-josh-van-der-flier Ireland celebrate James Lowe's try. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

With England back to 6-8, Ireland needed to compose themselves and they were helped by an Itoje high tackle on Ringrose, allowing them down into the English 22. They hammered into their carrying game from close-range, drawing a penalty, and Gibson-Park cleverly quick-tapped it to find fullback Keenan steaming up on his right on a clever line to finish Ireland’s second try.

Sexton converted as Tadhg Furlong asked Raynal to watch England’s “hit and chase” at the scrums, but Ireland finished the half by conceding. 

Nowell won back the restart ahead of Conway before an Itoje carry drew a penalty from Beirne for not rolling and Henderson playing the ball off his feet. Henderson was perhaps lucky to avoid yellow but Smith kicked the three points. 

Henderson spilled the restart of the second half to give England a sniff but Ireland were soon down the other end via a big Lowe breakout as he connected with Gibson-Park at the fringe of a ruck. Ireland sensed blood but lacked accuracy again, spilling possession twice in quick succession as Lowe and then Beirne forced offloads.

It was little surprise that a fourth scrum penalty followed the second of those knock-ons.

Conway produced a remarkable 50:22 from a very narrow angle to give Ireland another attacking chance in the 48th minute but, again, a loose offload from Furlong was knocked-on by Aki.

Like clockwork, the scrum penalty followed as the English front row marched forward. It was a fifth of that variety but Raynal didn’t mention further sanctions for Ireland.

jack-nowell-celebrates Jack Nowell celebrates England winning a penalty. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

There was more pain, though, as they continued to give up penalties. The next one came after Freddie Steward emptied opposite number Keenan on kick chase and Marchant struck for another jackal turnover penalty.

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Smith closed the gap to 12-15 with 53 minutes on the clock. Soon, Itoje produced a huge hit on Sexton on kick chase as the momentum continued to swing in England’s favour, a lineout penalty against Henderson following swiftly.

‘Swing Low’ was booming out around Twickenham as the home crowd sensed blood, Keenan knocking the ball on as Steward hounded him on another big kick chase. 

One guess for what followed at the scrum. After Raynal finally warned Ireland about their scrum pens, Smith knocked over the three points to level the game at 15-15 with just under 20 minutes left. It was entirely deserved for England.

Ireland were reeling but another brilliant 50:22 by Conway gave them a badly-needed attacking chance. This time, Ireland went to their hard carrying game – Herring going very close to scoring on an excellent line off Gibson-Park. 

Though Sexton tried to play to width and was picked off by Steward, there was pen advantage playing as Itoje grabbed Gibson-Park’s arm in a ruck so Raynal came back to the infringement. Remarkably, there was no yellow card but Sexton kicked Ireland back into the lead.

jack-conan-scores-their-third-try Jack Conan scores Ireland's third. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ireland gave England an ‘in’ as Conway kicked out on the full after Keenan had passed back into the 22, but Ireland came up with a crucial lineout steal.

They had a chance to possibly seal the deal in the 70th minute as Doris broke through in midfield and surge into England’s 22 but his offload inside to Conor Murray agonisingly dropped behind the replacement scrum-half.

They had the mettle to get the job done in the end, however, as a sweeping passage of attack led to Conan barreling over and then Bealham put the icing on the cake with a score from the close-range maul effort.

Onwards for Ireland, with silverware on the line next weekend regardless of how France go.

England scorers:

Penalties: Marcus Smith [5 from 6]

Ireland scorers:

Tries: James Lowe, Hugo Keenan, Jack Conan, Finlay Bealham

Conversions: Johnny Sexton [3 from 4]

Penalties: Johnny Sexton [2 from 2]

ENGLAND: Freddie Steward (George Ford ’79); Max Malins, Joe Marchant (Elliot Daly ’70), Henry Slade, Jack Nowell; Marcus Smith, Harry Randall (Ben Youngs ’53); Ellis Genge (Joe Marler ’67), Jamie George (Jamie Blamire ’79), Kyle Sinckler (Will Stuart ‘); Maro Itoje, Charlie Ewels (red card ’2); Courtney Lawes (captain), Tom Curry  (Alex Dombrandt ’15 (Joe Launchbury ’67)), Sam Simmonds.

IRELAND: Hugo Keenan; Andrew Conway, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki (Robbie Henshaw ’65), James Lowe; Johnny Sexton (captain) (Joey Carbery ’79), Jamison Gibson-Park (Conor Murray ’68); Cian Healy (Dave Kilcoyne ’53), Dan Sheehan (Rob Herring ’53), Tadhg Furlong (Finlay Bealham ’74); Tadhg Beirne, James Ryan (Iain Henderson ’2); Peter O’Mahony (Jack Conan ’61), Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris

Referee: Mathieu Raynal [FFR].

About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from Twickenham

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