- Danny Care’s second-half try secures narrow victory
- England surge back after Rob Kearney score
England 13 Ireland 10
England scrum half Danny Care scored a second-half try as England surged back to defeat Ireland in the RBS 6 Nations clash at Twickenham Stadium.
Full back Rob Kearney had put Joe Schmidt’s side in-front in a tight arm-wrestle of a contest and the shock of falling behind England stirred into action.
The England scrum half finished a flowing move crafted by Harlequins colleagues Mike Brown and Chris Robshaw as Stuart Lancaster’s side recovered from a difficult start to the second half to finally overpower the dogged visitors.
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Led by the industry of towering lock Joe Launchbury and the physicality of centre Billy Twelvetrees, England ultimately had the desire to deny Ireland the Triple Crown and keep themselves on course for a first clean sweep of the home nations since 2003.
A frantic start to the game was ignited at the first scrum after Ireland prop Cian Healy won a penalty from England tight head David Wilson, in the side after Dan Cole succumbed to a neck injury last week.
That sparked the hosts into action and Courtney Lawes put in the first of his shuddering on Johnny Sexton, but no one could collect when Farrell hacked the loose ball through behind the defence. Brown, who has made more metres than anyone else in the tournament, then picked up from a ruck on half way and ghosted past three statuesque defenders to get the crowd on their feet.
From the resultant field position Jonny May should really have scored his first Test try, only to be denied in agonising fashion. England’s forwards pounded away at the Ireland line with series of powerful drives and when the ball emerged, Twelvetrees fed the ball onto his onrushing Gloucester teammate who stepped inside only to lose possession as he tried to ground the ball.
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Ireland are famed for the pressure they exert at the breakdown and it was through this crucial area that they fought back. Peter O’Mahony won a fine turnover with Robshaw and Tom Wood on the deck, which was followed by bearded centre Gordon D’Arcy flying into punishing contact on the floor.
Despite driving lineout with success – to the tune of four tries – in the opening two fixtures, Ireland did not maul any in the first half. Instead a neat move emerged from the backs on 15 minutes, Sexton kicking brilliantly to Trimble in the right-hand corner and England only surviving thanks to last-ditch Farrell defence, twice.
First the fly half got a toe on the ball to disrupt possession and then he won an aggressive turnover at the very next ruck. With tackles flying in – Chris Henry chopped down a charging Lawes and Farrell was a bit late on Conor Murray – England’s No.10 slotted the hosts into the lead with a penalty on 24 minutes.
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The Saracens man hit the upright with another chance on 34 and within a minute of the restart England found themselves behind. Lions full back Kearney was the beneficiary of a gaping hole in the defensive line to collect Jamie Heaslip’s popped pass and gleefully score between the posts.
Sexton added the conversion and for a few moments England were rocking – the hosts conceded five penalties in the opening seven minutes. From the last of them, Sexton made Ireland’s advantage seven with a sweetly struck penalty.
But England roused themselves from the canvas. From the restart Twelvetrees, who was excellent throughout, leapt magnificently to claim a restart and May was nearly in again in the corner. Then the pack thundered though a series of carries yet again only to be denied by successive penalties deep in the 22. Farrell guided over the second of these on 54 minutes to make it a four-point game and moments later England were back in front, with the score forged by a Harlequins trio.
Robshaw produced a deft off-load as he hit the deck and Brown was away racing through the line. Care was a willing support runner and collected Brown’s accurate pass to dive in under the posts. The stadium was still rocking when Farrell kicked the conversion to make the score 13-10.
They would prove to the last points of the match but the action did not abate, with brutal carries and crunching tackles all over the pitch. England played the territorial game intelligently in the final quarter pinning Ireland back for long periods.
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The visitors’ dominant scrum – they won four on England's ball – looked like their best route back into the game and on 69 minutes Lancaster brought on Henry Thomas and David Attwood on to provide some necessary bulk.
Inexperienced tight head Thomas was solid at his first scrum but as Ireland attacked Attwood produced a brilliant turnover, virtually single-handedly winning the ball from a driving maul with aggression and precision.
On his 139th Test appearance – equalling the record of George Gregan – Brian O’Driscoll allowed Ireland to stretch their rivals as tired legs almost allowed Ireland in. However, it was not to be.
Indefatigable Launchbury summed up England’s commitment at the death, hunting down Dave Kearney down the left flank and extending a long lever to clip the wing’s ankles just as he threatened to break clear.
England clung on and fist pumps on the pitch and in the coaches box greeted the final whistle. A first Triple Crown since 2003 is now the prize on offer for Lancaster’s troops, with Wales next up in two weeks.
England vs Ireland teams
England: 15-Brown, 14-Nowell, 13-Burrell, 12-Twelvetrees, 11-May, 10-Farrell, 9-Care; 1- Marler, 2-Hartley, 3-Wilson, 4-Launchbury, 5-Lawes, 6-Wood, 7-Robshaw (captain), 8- B Vunipola
Replacements: 16-T Youngs (for Hartley, 75), 17-M Vunipola (for Marler, 64), 18-Thomas (for Wilson, 70), 19-Attwood (for Wood, 70), 20-Morgan (for B Vunipola, 36), 21-Dickson, 22-Ford, 23-Goode
Ireland: 15-Kearney, 14-Trimble, 13-O'Driscoll, 12-D'Arcy, 11-Kearney, 10-Sexton, 9-Murray; 1-Healy, 2-Best, 3-Ross, 4-Toner, 5-O'Connell (captain), 6-O'Mahony, 7-Henry, 8-Heaslip.
Replacements: 16-Cronin (for Best, 74), 17-McGrath (for McGrath, 72), 18-Moore (for Ross, 62), 19-Henderson (for O'Mahony, 70), 20-Murphy (for Henry, 74), 21-Boss (for Murray, 80), 22-Jackson (for O'Driscoll, 80), 23-McFadden (for Trimble, 66).
Referee: Craig Joubert
Touch judges: Romain Poite and Leighton Hodges
TV: Jim Yuille