England's sweet chariot marches on
Sat, 17 Mar 2012 00:00
England continued their resurgence under the guidance of stand-in coach Stuart Lancaster with an utterly commanding 30-9 thumping of Ireland at Twickenham on Saturday.
Smashed! Ireland were smashed as you may never have seen an international team smashed before.
From a team in total disarray after last year's World Cup, England have grown into a genuine international force - finishing second only to the Grand Slam-winning Welsh side in this year's Six Nations championship.
It was a huge statement by England and will once again raise the stock of Lancaster - as he awaits the decision of the Rugby Football Union over who will become the full-time coach.
For the English fans it was a joyous occasion, as they repeatedly sung the words of the 19th century African-American spiritual song: 'Swing low sweet chariot.'
You have heard old men saying things like 'Test matches are won and lost in the front row', and you have probably thought that it no longer applied. It certainly applied at Twickenham on a drizzly St Patrick's Day in 2012 when Ireland came to play and got smashed.
They were in trouble in the first half but hanging in there at 9-6 - three Owen Farrell penalties to two Jonathan Sexton penalties. But the writing was on the wall for two of England's penalty goals came from scrum infringements.
Ireland were already in trouble by then, penalised three times at the scrums but when Mike Ross went off holding his ribs to be replaced by young Tom Court, Ireland fell apart. In the second half they were penalised four times at scrums and had a penalty try awarded against them. But the effect on Ireland was worse than that. The pressure from the scrums rattled the whole side and they were probably lucky that they lost by only 21 points.
It was not a day for expansive rugby. The match was centred on the scrum and everything revolved around that. There were in fact in 80 minutes only three good runs - one by Keith Earls in each half and one by Tom Croft at the start of the second half when Ben Foden started a counterattack near his own 22 and the ball squirted out of Croft's untouched hands in the Irish 22.
For the rest the game was a mixture of scrums, errors and kicking at goal. Even England's second try was scrum generated.
England were leading 22-9 with seven minutes to play when Ireland were again penalised at a dilapidated scrum. Ben Youngs tapped and sprinted past Tomas O'Leary to score.
The penalty try began with a clever chip by Farrell down towards the Irish corner on his right. O'Leary carried over and conceded the five-metre scrum that was such an engine of Irish destruction. The scrum fell apart four times before producing a penalty. England chose another scrum and it was then that the referee wandered off to award a penalty try.
Man of the Match: The scrum was the thing that won the match. It had to be a member of the front row and the most effective of the three was Dan Cole who destroyed Cian Healy. Dan Cole is our Man of the Match.
Moment of the Match: We are giving it to the scrumming down in Ireland's left corner, five metres from their line that took the score to 19-9 and ensured and English victory.
Villain of the Match: Nobody.
Tries: Penalty try, Youngs
Pens: Farrell 6
Pens: Sexton 3
England: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 David Strettle, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 Tom Croft, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Mouritz Botha, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Alex Corbisiero.
Replacements: 16 Lee Mears, 17 Matt Stevens, 18 Tom Palmer, 19 Phil Dowson, 20 Ben Youngs, 21 Charlie Hodgson, 22 Mike Brown.
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Keith Earls, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Andrew Trimble, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Donnacha Ryan, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best (captain), 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Tom Court, 18 Mike McCarthy, 19 Peter O'Mahony, 20 Tomas O'Leary, 21 Ronan O'Gara, 22 Fergus McFadden.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garces (France), Neil Paterson (Scotland)
TMO: Jim Yuille (Scotland)
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