- England defeat Ireland in Dublin for first time in 10 years
- Owen Farrell rewards defensive effort with 12 points
Ireland 6 England 12
Fly half Owen Farrell kicked England to a 12-6 RBS 6 Nations victory over Ireland in Dublin to reward a display founded in defensive organisation and fierce tackling.
The metronomic Saracens man slotted two difficult penalties in either half – four from six overall – to give England a first win in Ireland since 2003 and make Stuart Lancaster’s side the only unbeaten side left in the competition.
Crucially, England added all their second half points while down to 14 men, managing the game with nous after flanker James Haskell saw yellow for infringing on the wrong side of a ruck and replacement Ronan O’Gara levelled the score with two penalties of his own.
Ireland dominated possession and territory for long passages of the game but England’s line speed, spacing and intensity in defence – led by Man of the Match Chris Robshaw – forced turnovers at crucial junctures, especially in the first half.
Farrell opened the scoring after three minutes, slotting a sweetly struck penalty moments after picking himself up from a late Sean O’Brien tackle.
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Ireland dominated the following moments but England superbly repelled a series of attacks. First Tom Wood leapt to steal an Ireland lineout on the 22 and then ferocious tackling blunted wave after wave of Irish runners before Ashton stole possession and made 70 metres chasing his own kick.
The game had a rare edge, with 29 players becoming involved in a scuffle after 15 minutes and big hits flying in all over the pitch. England’s “white wall” defence, was crucial as Ireland continued to press, only to be further pegged back by Farrell.
Minutes before opposite number Jonny Sexton limped off to be replaced by 128-Test cap O’Gara, the 21-year-old extended the visitors’ lead to six points on the half hour mark, booting an even better penalty through the uprights after Ireland infringed at an England catch and drive.
The game continued in a similar fashion until half time, with referee Jerome Garces calling captains Chris Robshaw and Jamie Heaslip together on two occasions in an attempt to calm proceedings down.
Ireland bounce back
Photo: Getty Images
Ireland got on the scoreboard five minutes into the second half after loosehead Cian Healy won a penalty from Dan Cole, with O’Gara confidently putting over the resultant kick. With the home side on top and threatening to build up further concerted pressure, Lancaster looked to his bench, bringing on Manu Tuilagi, Courtney Lawes and Dylan Hartley for Billy Twelvetrees, Joe Launchbury and Tom Youngs respectively.
But it was Ireland who scored next and drew level, with a big moment in the context of the game. Haskell was sent to the sin bin after getting in the way at the back of an Ireland ruck and O’Gara sent the crowd wild with his second penalty.
However, with 14 men on the field England managed the game with an expertise beyond their burgeoning cap-count and quickly retook the lead. Soon after Tuilagi was inches away from collecting Ben Youngs’ deft chip in the in-goal area, Farrell’s added two penalties to give England a six point lead with 12 minutes to play.
That completed the scoring, with England closing out the game and coming out on top of what was billed as a Grand Slam eliminator.