Irish errors play part in England's 24-12 win over Ireland at Twickenham
Johnny Sexton fumble leads to George Ford try
England will have their sights set on a Triple Crown after following up their Six Nations victory over Scotland a fortnight ago with a 24-12 triumph over Ireland at Twickenham that extinguished Irish Grand Slam hopes.
The hosts were hugely dominant in the first half, their physicality putting pressure on Ireland and ensuring they maintained possession – and they were helped by a few Irish errors too.
Yet the game was punctuated by tetchy moments, and a raft of stoppages and replacements in the second half disrupted the flow of the match.
France may be the only unbeaten team after three rounds but Ireland could disrupt their Grand Slam bid as they travel to Paris in the final round of the championship, while wins over Wales and Italy in England’s next two games could put them in title contention, too, depending on how France fare in their matches.
Back to this game and it was an error from the Ireland captain that set up the opening try. Johnny Sexton fumbled the ball behind his own line less than ten minutes into the match against England to gift George Ford a try.
England had started the game strongly – their first at Twickenham in this Six Nations campaign – and dominated possession as well as territory early on.
From one attack just outside the Irish 22, England scrum-half Ben Youngs chipped over the Ireland defence and Owen Farrell chased hard.
Sexton and Jordan Larmour were back to cover the kick and as it bounced over the line, Sexton tapped the ball in the air to try to catch it but then couldn’t control it.
As the ball went loose, George Ford, who had been following Farrell in chasing the kick, pounced to touch down and score the opening try of the match. Farrell added the conversion to give England a 7-0 lead after nine minutes.
You can watch the try – and the moments that led up to it here…
Ireland were awarded a penalty from the restart but couldn’t capitalise from the five-metre lineout they opted for. Sexton had a chance to narrow the gap from a subsequent penalty but missed.
Another kick ahead produced England’s second try midway through the first half. This time Ford kicked behind the Irish defence and Elliot Daly beat Jacob Stockdale to touch the ball down just before it rolled dead.
England looked in total control at the break, a Farrell penalty in the closing minutes of the half giving them a 17-0 lead.
Yet it was Ireland who started the second half stronger, coming out in much the physical manner that England had started the first.
The visitors had a concerted spell of pressure in England’s 22, a series of penalties helping their cause. From one penalty in front of the posts Ireland opted for a five-metre scrum and following a series of strong carries towards England’s line, Robbie Henshaw burrowed over from close range.
England reasserted their authority on the hour mark. First they won a penalty with a huge scrum seven metres from their own line. They opted for the five-metre lineout and quickly had another penalty when Ireland collapsed their maul.
They went for another lineout and this time got the drive going, several backs joining in too. When it splintered, England got across the line and Luke Cowan-Dickie was at the bottom of the pile of bodies grounding the ball.
Ireland had the final say on the scoreboard when Andrew Porter drove over from close range for their second try and John Cooney converted after a series of pick-and-goes near the line following a lineout in the 22.
Ultimately the game fizzled out after a strong opening, but England will now be targetting a Triple Crown – they play Wales in round four – and Ireland will be hoping they can upset France’s Grand Slam bid in the final round.
The March 2020 issue of Rugby World magazine – a Six Nations special – is on sale now.
Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.