England emerged from the lion’s den of Dublin having mauled Ireland, with a 32-20 triumph the least Eddie Jones’ men deserved for their herculean efforts on the Emerald Isle.
England will take huge confidence from it as they eye a third title in four years. Here is our report card from the game.
Billed as a tussle between two title titans – and it didn’t disappoint. England were sensational from the start, Elliot Daly sending Jonny May scampering over after a breathtaking opening few minutes. The green machine eventually started up and went through the gears, Cian Healy powering over from a ruck.
But the Red Rose retook the lead when full-back Daly kicked through and, after a dallying Jacob Stockdale juggled trying to gather, he was seized by Jack Nowell and Daly dived on the loose ball to touch down, Farrell’s penalty sending England in at the break 17-10 ahead.
In a tight and tense second half, England put up a white wall to prevent the home side climbing back into the game. Jonny Sexton kicked them to within four but Henry Slade slalomed through for a third try when he won the race to May’s clever kick over the top, and then a brilliant fourth when he somehow held on to an intercept from Sexton.
For Ireland… The bench – The good for Ireland? In truth, not a lot really. Honestly, it’ll be difficult for Joe Schmidt to drag through the ugliness of this performance and pull out any positives.
They had more possession (60-40 per cent) and more territory (53-47 per cent), yet could make little use of either, as they were constantly smothered by hungry England tacklers.
One thing that will give the Kiwi food for thought is the impact of his fringe players. Andrew Porter made himself busy off the bench, charging around the field, while Sean Cronin and John Cooney combined for the latter to score at the death to give the scoreline a more flattering look.
For England… Answering questions – Jones has transformed England under his tenure, which has suffered its rockiest period in the last 12 months. They lost seven of 13 games in 2018.
But what really matters is World Cup year and England have started it brilliantly. Ireland may have beaten the All Blacks in the autumn, but the Red Rose can count themselves unlucky to also not have claimed their scalp.
They were denied a hat-trick of Six Nations successes last year by the Men in Green. They seem keen to right that wrong, as well as a few others.
For Ireland… Out of ideas – This is a team that defeated the mighty All Blacks 11 weeks ago. Ireland count two wins against the world champions in the last 26 months. Their defence is rock solid and Schmidt is a coaching genius, yet somehow he and Ireland could come up with nothing to combat Eddie and England.
England were on it right from the first whistle and even though the hosts recovered to briefly take the lead through Healy’s score, they were always second best, at times looking clueless, aimless. World Cup favourites? Not on this showing.
For England… Over-physicality – This was viewed as a game where Ireland could get at “hothead” England skipper Owen Farrell. But it was Red Rose colleagues who were seeing red as the visitors tried to quieten the renowned vociferous Aviva Stadium crowd.
But their tactics backfired, riling up the hoards decked in green even more. Tom Curry’s shoulder charge on defenceless Keith Earls was cowardly and he was deservedly binned, while Maro Itoje was perhaps lucky to not see yellow for again taking out Earls when challenging for a high ball.
TACTICAL TALKING POINT
Full of it – Daly was seen as a weak link at 15 for the visitors, the winger had performed poorly there during the autumn. Bombs from Sexton and Conor Murray were going to dropped on him with regularity.
And yet it was opposite number and another converted winger, Robbie Henshaw, who was put under more pressure at full-back, as Daly delivered. First a deft pass to May for the opening score, before then kicking through and chasing to pounce on Stockdale’s mistake.
Plenty to ponder for Schmidt and his backroom team. Plenty of soul searching to be done for Ireland’s players during the next week too. This is a supremely talented side. They’re No2 in the world. Now they have to prove why.
Always in control, which sounds ludicrous to say considering they were the away side. The Aviva has been a fortress for Ireland, yet there were no home comforts for the hosts. The margin of victory was 12 points, but make no mistake. This was a Dublin drubbing.
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