England 21 Ireland 10: Hosts' Grand Slam dream intact as Watson and Brown score second-half tries
Eddie Jones saw his first game in charge of England at Twickenham prove that his players can win the Grand Slam as they defeated reigning champions Ireland in a pulsating match.
England are the only team to have won all their matches and now face a titanic clash with Wales, also unbeaten, at Twickenham on March 12. England scored tries through Anthony Watson and Mike Brown with Owen Farrell’s boot completing a great day for Jones and his men.
The hosts had to deal with two yellow cards for James Haskell and Danny Care in the second half but came through the Irish storm thanks to a brilliant try saving-tackle by Jack Nowell on Robbie Henshaw . It typified England’s defiance on a day when they came of age as a team.
Maro Itoje had a great first start for England working alongside the excellent Billy Vunipola, man of the match, and Jack Clifford came off the bench to win a crucial turn over in the final minutes.
The first half was a story of total England domination and Irish defence that refused to allow a try. England started at a high tempo and even raised it for the second quarter- a time when they normally suffer a dip in effort. In this game they showed great endeavour but constantly had their attacking play stifled by the wily Irish at the break down. Referee Romain Poite twice penalised Ireland for using blocking runners and this hampered their own attacking play.
Quick ball was created but for every contact situation where England did get rapid possession there was another where the Irish got in the way or even stole the ball. Vunipola was at the heart of England’s forward driving play and the No8 came close to a try but was bundled into touch and hurt his right wrist.
Captain Dylan Hartley was driven over the line after an excellent passage of attacking play only to have the effort ruled out for a double movement. This was the best of a handful of attempts by England to batter their way over the line but the Irish defence held firm.
It meant England had to be content with two Owen Farrell penalties to secure the first half lead with Johnny Sexton kicking one for the Irish from a rare excursion into English territory. The half ended with a strong run from Irish centre Robbie Henshaw who showed that the reigning champions could be dangerous when given loose ball to use.
Murray, the Irish scrum half scored a close range try for Ireland after 45 minutes and Sexton converted to put the champions 10-9 ahead but then a great miss pass from Chris Robshaw put Anthony Watson in at the corner and then Mike Brown finished off a great move started by a driving line and kept alive by quick ball from James Haskell.
Farrell’s conversion completed the scoring after 62 minutes and then it was a case of England having to defend against waves of Irish attackers with Nowell pulling off that great try saving tackle. Josh van der Flier was held up over the line by new cap Eliott Daly as England held their nerve to record a third victory of the championship.
See a Timeline of the Match HERE
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