England roared back into the Six Nations mix with another comprehensive demolition of Ireland yesterday as tries by George Ford, Elliot Daly and Luke Cowan-Dickie helped them to a 24-12 Twickenham victory in their best performance of the year.
England were superb in the first half, leading 17-0 at the break and treating the home fans to glimpses of the attacking verve and aggressive defence that marked their memorable World Cup wins over Australia and New Zealand four months ago.
Ireland looked flat and short of ideas as they barely fired a shot in the first period and, though they did regroup in the second, they were well beaten despite coming into the game on the back of two wins.
“We knew Ireland were on good form and we came out flying, we put an emphasis on that all week. It was great to get out here with the boys,” said England flanker and man of the match Courtney Lawes after his team had chalked up a third successive dominant win over the Irish.
After three rounds, both teams are on nine points from two wins and one defeat, with France, who have won their first three games, topping the standings on 13 points. Wales and Scotland are on six with Italy yet to register.
England set the tone from the opening exchanges and barely took their foot off the pedal throughout the first half.
They were on the board after nine minutes when Johnny Sexton failed to deal with the awkward bounce of Ben Youngs’s grubber kick, allowing Ford to dive on it.
A similar scenario unfolded for the second try, Jacob Stockdale fatally hesitating over Ford’s kick and Daly reaching it just in time to touch down.
England’s attack was full of hard, aggressive running and neat, delayed passing that repeatedly punched holes in the Irish defence. Conversely, when the visitors had the ball the English loose forward trio of Lawes, Tom Curry and Sam Underhill were swarming all over them.
Farrell slotted a penalty to stretch the lead to 17-0 at halftime, and it was no more than England deserved. Ireland had barely visited the English 22 and the one opportunity they did get was wasted when Sexton screwed an easy penalty wide. They looked more fired up after the restart and hit back with a Robbie Henshaw try but it didn’t last long and even then Sexton was again off beam with the simple conversion.
England’s replacement forwards brought new energy and a rolling maul, with most of the backs joining in, shoved Cowan-Dickie over, before Farrell slotted a tough conversion to make it 24-5. The crowd was energised, baying for a fourth bonus-point try, but Ireland regrouped and had the last word when Andrew Porter burrowed over.
It was too little, too late, however, and they will seek to get their campaign back on track at home to Italy on March 7.
“We gave a very good team two tries from our mistakes, not covering the chip kick, and then we didn’t take our chances,” said Ireland captain Sexton.
“We were getting the ball on the back foot, trying to get to the edges and we couldn’t, looked a bit silly at times.”
England next host Wales.
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