Reigning champions Ireland are still looking for their first win of this Six Nations campaign after England secured a 21-10 victory thanks to a clinical second-half display at Twickenham.

Ireland had to soak up enormous pressure in the opening half and came from 6-3 down at the break to go ahead shortly after the restart thanks to a Conor Murray try, but England regained control and carved out a third successive victory in this year’s championship.

And they achieved it despite having two men yellow-carded in the second-half as Joe Schmidt’s men were unable to make their numerical advantage count against a solid home defence.

After a lively opening, Ireland took the lead after six minutes when the scrum destroyed their English counterparts.

Returning tight-head prop Mike Ross laid the platform as he kept Joe Marler square and that forced Dan Cole to cave.

Johnny Sexton kept his composure and slotted the penalty from just inside the ten-metre line.

The hosts were the next to get on the scoreboard when a poor Murray box-kick was punished. The Ireland scrum-half kicked to the England back-field and they counter-attacked, with Devin Toner eventually not rolling away.

England centre Owen Farrell made no mistake and tied the game up from straight in front of the posts.

England lock George Kruis got up to disrupt the restart afterwards but Ireland went off their feet at the breakdown and Sexton kicked Ireland deep into the English 22.

Again Kruis caused trouble at the subsequent line-out but Ireland got the ball back, and they attacked until a poor Murray pass resulted in Rory Best fumbling possession. The ball was kicked down-field but Rob Kearney did brilliantly as Ireland held their composure.

Ireland were indecisive in their attacks, however, and even though they showed more width, a mix-up in midfield saw Robbie Henshaw obstruct Farrell.

England found their feet, while Ireland seemed to hold back at times in defence but the big hits from Donnacha Ryan, Henshaw and Rory Best kept Eddie Jones’ side at bay.

Ireland had another chance downfield, when England infringed again, but they were not able to convert in the green-zone for a second occasion.

Billy Vunipola had an increasing influence with his powerful runs, and almost crossed the whitewash when everyone else stood still. He played a big part too after 25 minutes when Dylan Hartley went close.

The England captain drove for the line but debutant Stuart McCloskey used his big frame to force Hartley into a double-movement and the TMO Shaun Veldsman ruled it out.

It was a dominant period from the English, and Sexton did not help Ireland’s cause when he could not find touch with the relieving penalty. It ended up with Haskell driving to within inches of the Irish line again, but he failed to make it across.

England had numbers out wide, however, Ireland’s scramble defence came to their rescue and George Ford missed the opportunity.

Then England had another chance moments later but it was Anthony Watson who failed to make it pay with a four-on-two overlap.

Ireland were let off the hook, but some smart work from Haskell forced an English penalty. And from a similar position to where he missed his second kick, Farrell made it two from three as England took a 6-3 lead after 35 minutes.

Early in the second half, Ireland moved deep into English territory and Haskell was subsequently yellow-carded for a dangerous, high tackle on Murray. And the try came from the next play.

Best did brilliantly to keep possession off the line-out and off the next phase Murray bobbed, and ducked inside Ben Youngs’ tackle to touch down. Sexton’s conversion was pin-point perfection and Ireland found themselves, remarkably, in a 10-6 lead.

Even with the extra man, however, Ireland still struggled to make it felt and from another missed line-out, Toner took Farrell out off the ball, and the England kicker pulled the deficit back to the minimum.

But from the 58th to the 63rd minutes England went on a devastating run. First Watson dotted down in the corner.

The Ireland defence was stretched and England came right back up the field to score their second try, this time it was Brown who touched down in the opposite corner.

It forced a response from Ireland and with debutant Ultan Dillane making a huge impact off the bench, they fought their way back into the game.

Henshaw was stopped by Jack Nowell’s last ditch tackle in the corner, and Dillane was hauled down just before the line. As a result, Care was yellow-carded for not rolling away.

With nine minutes remaining, Ireland missed their opportunity to make a difference on the scoreboard and Josh van der Flier was held up by replacement Elliot Daly to signal the end as England held on comfortably in the remaining minutes. 

RBS 6 Nations Extras: Alan Quinlan and Ugo Monya


England: M Brown; A Watson, J Joseph, O Farrell, J Nowell; G Ford, B Youngs; J Marler, D Hartley, D Cole; M Itoje, G Kruis; C Robshaw, J Haskell, B Vunipola.
Replacements: D Care for B Youngs (60), M Vunipola for Marler (60), E Daly for Farrell (66), J George for Hartley (71), J Clifford for Robshaw (71), C Lawes for Haskell (77).

RBS 6 Nations Extras: The Points


Ireland: R Kearney; A Trimble, R Henshaw, S McCloskey, K Earls; J Sexton, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best, M Ross; D Ryan, D Toner; CJ Stander, J van der Flier, J Heaslip.
Replacements: N White for Ross (60 mins), C Healy for McGrath (60), S Zebo for McCloskey (64), U Dillane for Ryan (66), R Ruddock for Stander (67), R Strauss for Best (71), E Reddan for Murray (71), I Madigan for Sexton (77).

Referee: Romain Poite (France).

RBS 6 Nations Extras: Joe Schmidt Interview