28 February 2009
Ireland 14 England 13
ENGLAND again paid the price for their indiscipline as Ireland ground out a Croke Park victory to keep them on Grand Slam course.
Despite a last-minute try from Delon Armitage, who also kicked a long range penalty, and a conversion from Andy Goode and penalty from Toby Flood, England were undone by a Brian O'Driscoll-inspired Ireland. The skipper landed a drop-goal and scored a try to add to Ronan O'Gara's two penalties.
Phil Vickery and Danny Care were sent to the sinbin and England's yellow card tally now stands at 10 in four Tests after a second successive RBS 6 Nations match that was within their grasp to win.
England Team Manager Martin Johnson said: "It's very annoying. I've just told the guys that it has cost us a Test match. All that work you put in to try to win a game is gone, wasted.
"It's not one individual doing it all, it's a number of individuals at key moments. We work on discipline all the time. One of the fundamentals of the game is not to be penalised.
"We lost the game by a point and gave 18 penalties away. When the penalty count gets twice as high as it should be then you're going to lose.
"We were playing in a volatile, passionate place and despite the penalties we kept ourselves in game very well and we handled what they had to throw at us attacking wide.
"That makes it all the more frustrating. We didn't need to give penalties away because we weren't getting broken in defence."
Captain Steve Borthwick admitted: "We give far too many penalties away and it's difficult to win Test matches when you're giving away kicks at goals and being yellow carded.
"If there was an easy fix (to our indiscipline) then we would do it. Quite clearly we need to learn as it's undoubtedly costing us Test matches. We know we let ourselves down. I think the players are facing up to it."
O'Gara's radar deserted him for his first two penalty attempts, pulling the first one after Mike Tindall did not roll away after a tackle, and pushing the second wide when Harry Ellis failed to release the ball.
There were precious few try-scoring chances in the first half, the clearest falling to Ireland when Tomas O'Leary received the ball from the line out and chipped over for Tommy Bowe to chase. However, Mark Cueto got to the bouncing ball first and touched down.
O'Gara finally hit the target just short of the half-hour mark when Nick Kennedy was penalised for offside but Flood drew the scores level 3-3 at half-time when Ireland failed to roll away after England turned over a line-out and pressure the Ireland line.
O'Gara hit the post with a penalty immediately after the restart when James Haskell handled the ball in a ruck and it needed a 30-metre drop-goal from O'Driscoll to break the deadlock.
With Vickery banished for not staying on his feet at a ruck, O'Driscoll - battered and bruised after a clash of heads with Riki Flutey and an obstruction from Armitage as he attempted a touchline chip and chase - put Ireland further in front when Television Match Official Giulio de Santis confirmed that he had squeezed over after sustained pressure on the England line.
Mathew Tait made a early impression as a replacement for Paul Sackey when he cut an angle through the middle but ran into traffic as Flutey and Cueto were up in support.
Armitage reduced the arrears to 11-6 with a 40-metre penalty to keep England in the hunt but indiscipline cost them another three points when Care went to the sinbin for crashing into Marcus Horan from behind off the ball in a ruck and O'Gara slotted the penalty.
Andy Goode set up Armitage for a last-minute try when he chipped through and the fullback beat the defence to touch down. The replacement flyhalf landed the conversion but it was too late.
Ireland: R Kearney (Leinster); T Bowe (Ospreys), B O'Driscoll (Leinster, captain), P Wallace (Ulster), L Fitzgerald (Leinster); R O'Gara (Munster), T O'Leary (Munster); M Horan (Munster), J Flannery (Munster), J Hayes (Munster), D O'Callaghan (Munster), P O'Connell (Munster), S Ferris (Ulster), D Wallace (Munster), J Heaslip (Leinster). Replacements: R Best (Ulster) for Flannery 68, D Leamy (Munster) for Heaslip 68, P Stringer (Munster) for O'Leary 66. Not used: T Court (Ulster), M O'Driscoll (Munster), G D'Arcy (Leinster), G Murphy (Leicester Tigers).
Scorers: Try: O'Driscoll; Penalties: O'Gara 2; Drop goal: O'Driscoll
England: D Armitage (London Irish); P Sackey (London Wasps), M Tindall (Gloucester Rugby), R Flutey (London Wasps), M Cueto (Sale Sharks); T Flood (Leicester Tigers), H Ellis (Leicester Tigers); A Sheridan (Sale Sharks), L Mears (Bath Rugby), P Vickery (London Wasps), S Borthwick (Saracens, capt), N Kennedy (London Irish), J Haskell (London Wasps), J Worsley (London Wasps), N Easter (Harlequins). Replacements: D Hartley (Northampton Saints) for Mears 66, J White (Leicester) for Haskell 55-65 & Sheridan 80, T Croft (Leicester Tigers) for Kennedy 66, L Narraway (Gloucester Rugby) for Easter 76 , D Care (Harlequins) for Ellis 58, A Goode (AC Brive) for Flood 66, M Tait (Sale Sharks) for Sackey 58.
Yellow cards: Vickery 55, Care 70
Scorers: Try: Armitage; Penalties: Flood, Armitage; Con: Goode
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)