Ireland ………………… 19
England ……………….. 9
Ireland faced off against the old enemy England at the Aviva on Sunday. The Irish came up against a physically big English side built on power in the scrum and the breakdown. Ireland would rely on their pace, ampoule intensity and technical ability to earn a resounding 19 points to 9 victory.
The opening minutes saw Ireland attack the English Lion’s throats with an impetus and drive that would characterize their performance. Joe Schmidt opted to change the game plan from the defensive tactics that saw Ireland scrape a win against France, search to a more attack-orientated style. Ireland set up to take the game to the English with an intensity of pace that would allow them dictate the shape of the game. England was forced to match Irelands width and speed on the pitch, in a type of play outside the Anglo player’s comfort zone.
Ireland took the game to England’s try line with a breathtaking pace of play in the opening minutes. The English side did well to hoard off an early Irish try, but at the expense of conceded two penalties. Sexton took both penalties comfortably. England proved they would be no walk over after their first attack. Out half Ford executed a drop goal with precision after a positive spell of English possession to stand the score a 6-3. Ireland recycled the ball quickly to avoid being bogged down in a battle at the breakdown with the English pack.
England was on the back foot for the majority of the first half. Conor Murray was the team’s nucleus as ever, shifting the quick ball out to the backs and the big forward runners. Jared Payne and Robbie Henshaw proved they were more than a placeholder defensive partnership in the centre. The pair each took the ball in hand to the English game line with a fierce confidence of ability. Johnny Sexton also dominated his head-to-head with his opposite number Ford, kicking 14 points.
The English pack continually sought to reduce the game to a bruising arm-wrestle, but the pace at which the Irish played didn’t allow the powerful forwards a chance to dictate the game. The big men in white were immovable in the scrum and did well to slow down the trademark Irish rolling maul. The English crash-ball runners made inroads into Irish territory when they got the chance but were restricted due to Ireland’s dominance in possession. Sexton closed out a dominant Irish half with another penalty kick, giving Ireland a 9 – 3 lead.
The second half opened with both sides running openly at each other, as Ireland continuing to force the English to play a wide passing game. The game plan was to keep the game out of the trenches of the breakdown, and Ireland were successful in doing so.
The pinnacle of the game was a headline debut try from young centre Robbie Henshaw. Ireland had pushed the English deep onto their try line. The home side continued to make ground from a relentless series of passing moves and short drives. The opening came however from an incisive cross-field kick from Murray. Henshaw showed both pace and desire to out leap and beat fullback Goode to catch the ball, before somehow shifting his body mid-air to ground the spectacular try. The first of undoubtedly many for the young Irish star. Sexton converted the tough kick well to give Ireland a 19 to 6 lead.
The Irish bench was used well to maintain the intensity of the first half, particularly in the pack – with O’Donnell, Healy, Moore and Henderson all making impacts in the second half. The Anglo visitors tired from the heat of the game in the later stages, and the mobility of the big, heavy-duty English players was brought into question. The Irish sides fitness and tireless work ethic gave them an edge as England lethargically tried to force a late comeback. The final ten minutes saw a tired England side void of any inspiration in the face of the well-organized green defence. In the final minutes Ireland again dictated the game to their purpose: slowing the ball down, keeping it tight, and closing the game out.
Ireland won what was a dominant display by 19 points to England’s 9. Joe Schmidt shaped the game to play to his team’s strength and the English sides weaknesses. Ireland now has just Wales and Scotland to play in what has become another hunt for a championship victory.
The chase is on.
15. Rob Kearney
14. Tommy Bowe
13. Jared Payne
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. Simon Zebo
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Conor Murray
1. Jack McGrath
2. Rory Best
3. Mike Ross
4. Devin Toner
5. Paul O’Connell
6. Peter O’Mahony
7. Sean O’Brien
8. Jordi Murphy