England win Dublin arm-wrestle
England took a massive step towards clinching the Six Nations title with a 12-6 victory over Ireland in challenging conditions in Dublin on Sunday.
England took a massive step towards clinching the Six Nations title with a character-filled 12-6 victory over Ireland in challenging conditions in Dublin on Sunday.
The side which deserved to win, won. That is a good thing, but it happened in miserable weather and were it not for the closeness of the contest it would have been a miserable game. But England found the day less miserable than did the Irish home boys.
England were much more composed than the Irish though Ireland started the second half with greater zeal for their country's glory and then they got up to 6-all. At this stage England lost James Haskell to the sin bin, not an unusual destination for the flank.
This is when you count how many points the team concedes while they have a man fewer. But the opposite happened. England regathered their composure and resolve and while Haskell was away they scored the six points which won the match. After he returned they did not score again.
Ireland scrummed well in the second half, but not well enough to take over the game. The best facet of their play was their mauling from line-outs, but again it was not enough to win the match. On the other side they handled poorly and kicked really poorly. They looked rattled. England. on the other hand, did things in measured fashion, kicked well and chased really well.
England kicked off long, Conor Murray kicked a regulation return which England caught and then they went through many phases till Jamie Heaslip was penalised at a tackle and Owen Farrell - fine Irish name that - kicked the first of his four winning penalties. 3-0 after two minutes.
To some this match was seen as a trial for the British and Irish Lions' tour to Australia, and Heaslip had been mentioned as a possible captain. This match may well have ruled him out. He conceded six points for penalty, dropped two English kicks, the first with a look of fear, and looked nonplussed while his opposing captain, Chris Robshaw, was all energy and leadership.
Ireland dropped the ball and England footed free, but Rob Kearney saved. Simon Zebo was hurt at this stage and replaced by Keith Earls.
Earls had the best runs of the whole match. The first was on the blindside of a maul which set the Irish attacking till Jonathan Sexton hoofed the ball mindlessly away. The second was from a miracle pass from Brian O'Driscoll to Earls on an overlap.
England had a maul in the Irish half and Heaslip was penalised to an illegal entry into the maul. Farrell goaled. 6-0 after 29 minutes.
By the way the manners of Thomond Park are not replicated at the Aviva Stadium. Farrell kicked at goal in increasing noise.
Ireland lost Sexton to what looked like a hamstring injury. His place was taken after 31 minutes by Ronan O'Gara, the Munsterman's 127th cap.
Ireland started the second half with greater aggression and dominated the scrums. England were penalised at the first two scrums of the half and on the second occasion O'Gara made it 6-3 after 44 minutes.
Haskell was penalised and yellow-carded for kicking at the ball while lying on the ground at the back of an Irish ruck. O'Gara goaled. 6-6 after 57 minutes.
England now had their best attacking opportunities. First they caught Kearney near his own line, and Ireland conceded a five-metre line-out. Then Youngs lobbed a little kick into the Irish in-goal where Manu Tuilagi came within an ace of scoring. But Rory Best was penalised at the line-out maul and Farrell was unerring. 9-6 after 63 minutes.
England chased a kick and Courtney Lawes tackled Kearney who conceded a penalty for holding on as Mike Brown tried to get the ball off him . 12-6 after 65 minutes.
Haskell came back, O'Gara missed a kick at goal and then Farrell missed a kick at goal.
Thus ended the second weekend of Six Nations rugby, nothing as exhilarating as the first weekend.
Man of the Match: The obvious candidates were Ben Youngs, Owen Farrell, Alex Goode and our choice of Man of the Match, Chris Robshaw, England's captain.
Moment of the Match: Brian O'Dricoll's pass to Keith Earls.
Villain of the Match: There were candidates as there was a lot of niggle and two outbreaks of serious fighting. Cian Healy was involved in both outbreaks and if there is to be a villain he would be it.There was also whoever puts the advertising paint onto Aviva Stadium that ended on the players.
Pens: O’Gara 2
Pens: Farrell 4
Yellow card: James Haskell (England, 57)
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip (captain), 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Donnacha Ryan, 4 Mike McCarthy, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 David Kilcoyne, 18 Declan Fitzpatrick, 19 Donncha O'Callaghan, 20 Chris Henry, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Ronan O'Gara, 23 Keith Earls.
England: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Brad Barritt, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Mike Brown, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Tom Wood, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 James Haskell, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 David Wilson, 18 Mako Vunipola, 19 Courtney Lawes 20 Thomas Waldrom, 21 Danny Care, 22 Toby Flood, 23 Manu Tuilagi.
Referee: Jérôme Garces (France)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Pascal Gauzere (France)
TMO: Iain Ramage (Scotland)