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Ireland left reeling at Twickenham as outstanding England batter Farrell's men

Eddie Jones’ side delivered their best performance since the World Cup semi-final against the All Blacks last year.

England 24

Ireland 12

THIS FELT LIKE the darker days of 2019 all over again, with the scoreline very much flattering Ireland.

Andy Farrell’s men were blown away in contact, edgy in delivering a big error count, dismantled at the set-piece, always playing catch-up in the kicking contest, and left struggling by a raft of poor individual performances.

With Eddie Jones’ England giving their best performance since their World Cup semi-final win over New Zealand last year, Ireland were left reeling at Twickenham as head coach Andy Farrell was served a reminder that his team have a long way to go if they are to rediscover the heights of 2018 under Joe Schmidt.

jonathan-sexton-competes-for-a-loose-ball-with-george-ford George Ford gathers Sexton's fumble to score. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

A brief passage in the 29th minute, with Ireland already trailing 14-0, summed it up.

Captain Johnny Sexton’s right boot had come loose and rather than pausing to slip it back onto his foot, the out-half tossed it away to his left and looked to attack again. He slipped upon receiving the ball and Conor Murray handed possession back to England with a poor box kick. Elliot Daly responded with a massive touch-finder to put Ireland right back into their own 22. 

Sexton never looked composed in Ireland’s defeat, failing to connect with the ball when kicking and producing a fumble for England’s opening try. Sexton’s error inside Ireland’s in-goal area was essentially repeated by the Jacob Stockdale for England’s second score.

Credit must go to England, of course, for they were outstanding back on home soil for the first time since the World Cup. 

Led by the likes of the monstrous Maro Itoje, hard-hitting Courtney Lawes – the official man of the match – and set-piece technician George Kruis, the English pack was brilliant in man-handing their visitors. The returning Manu Tuilagi was nigh on impossible to stop in midfield, while Elliot Daly – questioned so heavily in the build-up – was excellent at fullback.

Halfbacks Ben Youngs and George Ford brilliantly led England’s intelligent kicking game as they targeted Ireland fullback Jordan Larmour aerially and in terms of his backfield positioning.

manu-tuilagi-tackled-by-robbie-henshaw Manu Tuilagi was a big presence for England. Source: Billy Stickand/INPHO

On a day when nearly everything went right for England, Eddie Jones’ much-questioned decision to start centre Jonathan Joseph on the left wing worked out perfectly, while Tom Curry’s conversion to number eight continued impressively. 

In extreme contrast, Ireland had a wide range of bad individual displays in a very poor collective showing. James Ryan was about the only one to emerge with credit and head coach Farrell now has big selection decisions to make moving forward. Ireland’s bench offered more punch in the closing 15 minutes, Caelan Doris in particular. 

The halfbacks are always the most visible on the pitch and so, Sexton and scrum-half Conor Murray’s shortcomings were most magnified, but the pack was also bullied and Ireland’s backline offered little or nothing as they failed to get any platform aside from for Robbie Henshaw’s second-half consolation try. 

This was a bad, bad day for Ireland and they must now steady themselves to finish this Six Nations strongly at home against Italy and then away to France, who may well be seeking a Grand Slam on the final weekend of the championship. Ireland themselves are not out of the running for a Six Nations title yet, as unlikely as it now seems. 

But any Irish dreams about a clean sweep in 2020 were obliterated today at Twickenham, as they also missed out on the chance to claim a Triple Crown.

rob-herring-tadhg-furlong-jordan-larmour-conor-murray-and-bundee-aki-dejected-after-conceding-a-try Ireland had a poor start against England's early excellence. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Ireland were in trouble from the opening minutes in London as the English regained two early contestable kicks over Larmour, with the visitors needing a try-saving tackle from Andrew Conway on Tuilagi down the left to prevent a score before Courtney Lawes knocked-on a poor Ben Youngs pass.

But the pressure kept coming as Larmour had to field another kick in his 22, bizarrely opting not to call a ‘mark’ and kicking back out at England, who thundered forward.

From a midfield ruck, scrum-half Youngs cleverly grubber-kicked behind Ireland, the ball rolling into Ireland’s in-goal area where the retreating Sexton made a big error in failing to gather the ball in, allowing the chasing Ford to dot down an eight-minute try.

After Farrell converted for 7-0, Sexton’s shaky start continued with two poor kicks from hand as Ireland played an advantage and then he failed to connect with a straightforward shot at goal off the tee, pulling it wide to the shock of Twickenham.

A scrum penalty against Tadhg Furlong allowed England to kick up the right touchline only for a big Peter O’Mahony lineout steal to relieve Ireland. But a weak exit kick from Murray, as Itoje caused major hassle at the ruck, invited more English attak and O’Mahony was penalised at the breakdown to give the home side another close-range chance.

cj-stander-tackled-by-sam-underhill England defended superbly. Source: Billy Stickand/INPHO

 

Their maul was repelled but a few tight carries drew penalty advantage and another intelligent kick, this time Ford chipping over the defence, saw Ireland fail to deal with the ball again. This time, the retreating Stockdale was far too casual in allowing it to bounce, with Daly brushing past him to gather and dot down just before reaching the deadball line.

Farrell’s second conversion left England 14-0 to the good with 25 minutes played, and Ireland’s error count continued to rise as Bundee Aki knocked-on and Sexton caught the ball in an offside position.

The lineout began to creak too, with George Kruis picking off a Rob Herring throw only for Aki to win a breakdown penalty as Ireland defended.

With five minutes left in the first half, Ireland finally got a good platform with a lineout just outside England’s 22. They desperately needed a score but instead the passage ended with three points for Jones’ side as superb defence led by Lawes and Itoje sparked a turnover attack featuring another grubber from Youngs, retrieved by Joseph down the left.

Ireland were under severe pressure again and Sexton was caught offside, allowing Farrell to push the lead out to 17-0. Rather fittingly, the half ended with Stander knocking-on under intense defensive heat from the English.

elliot-daly-scores-a-try-as-jonathan-sexton-reacts Sexton reacts after Daly scores England's second. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Ireland simply had to score first in the second half and they duly obliged, taking advantage from some silly indiscipline from England captain Farrell just after the English pack had choked up and turned over an Irish maul five metres out from their tryline.

Farrell clung onto Stander as the Ireland number eight looked to remove himself from a ruck, referee Jaco Peyper needing his TMO to intervene and call it despite the blatantly obvious offence directly in front of him. 

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Ireland’s maul failed to fire again but they carried infield until Sinckler came offside, then Farrell’s men struck clinically as they opted for a midfield scrum with the penalty. Murray carried initially, O’Mahony made an important surge, Stander carried, then Henshaw smashed through Farrell and Tom Curry to score.

Sexton still hadn’t found his kicking boots and mishit the conversion attempt to leave Ireland 17-5 behind.  

But England seemed unperturbed by Ireland’s delayed response and their scrum started to demolish the Irish pack, a huge turnover metres from the Irish tryline leading to England popping their penalty into the right corner. Farrell’s men had no response to the England power in the maul as replacement hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie scored.

robbie-henshaw-scores-a-try Henshaw scored a second-half try for Ireland. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

That essentially proved to be that, as Lawes was named man of the match on his 31st birsthday.

Ireland did manage a second consolation score through sub tighthead Andrew Porter with the last play but it couldn’t mask what was a hiding.

Farrell’s men have plenty of work to do and the Ireland boss has some big personnel decisions to consider.

England scorers:

Tries: George Ford, Elliot Daly, Luke Cowan-Dickie

Conversions: Owen Farrell [3 from 3]

Penalties: Owen Farrell [1 from 1]

Ireland scorers:

Tries: Robbie Henshaw, Andrew Porter

Conversions: Johnny Sexton [0 from 1], John Cooney [1 from 1]

PenaltiesJohnny Sexton [0 from 1]

ENGLAND: Elliot Daly; Jonny May, Manu Tuilagi (Henry Slade ’74), Owen Farrell (captain), Jonathan Joseph; George Ford, Ben Youngs (Willi Heinz ’58); Joe Marler (Ellis Genge ’58), Jamie George (Luke Cowan-Dickie ’52), Kyle Sinckler (Will Stuart ’69); Maro Itoje, George Kruis (Joe Launchbury ’60); Courtney Lawes (Charlie Ewels ’58), Sam Underhill, Tom Curry (Ben Earl ’66). 

IRELAND: Jordan Larmour (Keith Earls ’64); Andrew Conway (Ross Byrne ’66), Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale; Johnny Sexton (captain), Conor Murray (John Cooney ’55); Cian Healy (Dave Kilcoyne ’26), Rob Herring (Ronan Kelleher ’60), Tadhg Furlong (Andrew Porter ’58); Devin Toner (Ultan Dillane ’60), James Ryan; Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier (Caelan Doris ’60), CJ Stander.

Referee: Jaco Peyper [SARU]. 

About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from Twickenham

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