England (6) 21
TRY: Anthony Watson, Mike Brown. CON: Owen Farrell. PEN: Owen Farrell (3)
Ireland (3) 10
TRY: Conor Murray. CON: Johnny Sexton. PEN: Johnny Sexton.
It was no big surprise but still a huge disappointment that Ireland went down by 21 – 10 in this one. The Irish scores came from a Conor Murray try and a Johnny Sexton conversion and penalty.
There were some positives in the débuts of Stuart McCloskey, Josh van der Flier and Ultan Dillane but Ireland were ultimately undone by misfiring line outs and insufficient forward power.
The first half was a non event as defences dominated. England took a 6 – 3 lead into the break, though I’d guess that Ireland were the happier having been under the cosh for most of the half.
Things did liven up somewhat in the second with Ireland noticeably upping their attacking intent. An early penalty was kicked to the corner and though England rebuffed the initial attack James Haskill was binned for a high tackle on Murray. The Irish scrum half gained immediate revenge when he burrowed over for the opening try off the back of a maul at the resultant line out. Sexton converted and Ireland led 6 – 10.
A careless penalty from Devin Toner allowed Farrell to pull the score back to 9 – 10 before Ireland had another go at the England line but this time they were rebuffed and England broke wide on the right through Newell.
The English forwards battered the the Ireland line, sucking in the Ireland defenders, and Chris Robshaw found Watson out wide for the easiest of scores. No conversion but England were back in front at 14 – 10.
Within five minutes England added the decisive try. This time it was the influential Billy Vunipola who got behind the defence. The ball was moved on through Watson and Farrell for Mike Brown to score in the corner. Farrell added the extras and England looked home and hosed at 21 – 10.
In fairness to Ireland they refused to lie down. Within minutes Henshaw was bundled into touch inches from the line and they continued to get into good positions but the misfiring line and struggling scum proved to be their nemesis’ and England held on.
Danny Care, on for Ben Youngs, was carded for lying over the ball close to the line and minutes later Josh van der Flyer looked to have crossed under the posts only to be adjudged held up and despite being a man down for the final minutes England held on reasonably comfortably.
Final Score England 21 Ireland 10.
Ireland: Rob Kearney, Andrew Trimble, Robbie Henshaw, Stuart McCloskey, Keith Earls, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Jack McGrath, Rory Best, Mike Ross, Donnacha Ryan, Devin Toner, CJ Stander, Josh van der Flier, Jamie Heaslip. Replacements: Richardt Strauss, Cian Healy, Nathan White, Ultan Dillane, Rhys Ruddock, Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan, Simon Zebo.
Not as bad as I’d thought it would be with Ireland showing remarkable grit and determination to remain competitive despite very poor line out work and no real answer to Billy Vunipola!
The Six Nations defence is over now and the World Cup 3 1/2 years away. Maybe time for a bit of experimentation from Joe Schmidt ‘cos I don’t know if even the “eventists” that have bolstered the crowds at international’s over the years will continue to turn out in their droves for what are basically boring games. 🙁