England roll up their sleeves for victory
Much of Ireland’s response was good, but the handling malaise became a disease. Heaslip untypically dropped a couple of box kicks in his direction; Craig Gilroy failed to hold a high pass from O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy lost the ball in contact after taking a good line, Mike McCarthy twice fumbled in open play, Murray fumbled off a line-out, and so on and so on.
Murray did release Keith Earls for a blindside break from deep off a line-out maul, and in perhaps the move of the match O’Driscoll also released the replacement winger with a flat skip pass only for the covering Tom Wood to deny Rob Kearney a try. But with the crowd increasingly quietened, Heaslip was adjudged offside at a line-out and Farrell doubled England’s lead. The captain was not having a great day and after Sexton’s departure about the only Irish respite was Farrell ending the half with a miss from 45 metres.
Ireland regrouped well at the interval and O’Gara landed a penalty to open the home account. O’Brien made a huge carry off the restart, though was fairly smashed for his troubles, and after a couple of fine Murray box kicks either side of Best brilliantly snaffling the ball, James Haskell was binned for ill-advisedly playing the ball with his foot while on the wrong side.
O’Gara struck the ensuing, angled penalty from 45 metres superbly. Suddenly the sides were level and the Aviva was alive. Not for long.
England kept possession off a line-out, Farrell grubbering deftly into the corner and earned another penalty off a collapsed maul, then tagged on another when Kearney was very swiftly pinged by Jerome Garces for not releasing.
The Irish maul soon earned a penalty which O’Gara only missed by a whisker but in a game where every point, as well as ever inch, was hard-earned, it felt like a big miss.
SCORING SEQUENCE– 3 mins: Farrell pen 0-3; 29 mins: Farrell 0-6; (half-time 0-6); 45 mins: O’Gara pen 3-6; 57 mins O’Gara pen 6-6; 63 mins: Farrell pen 6-9; 64 mins: Farrell pen 6-12. IRELAND: R Kearney (Leinster); C Gilroy (Ulster), B O’Driscoll (Leinster), G D’Arcy (Leinster), S Zebo (Munster); J Sexton (Leinster), C Murray (Munster); C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster), M Ross (Leinster), M McCarthy (Connacht), D Ryan (Munster), P O’Mahony (Munster), S O’Brien (Leinster), J Heaslip (Leinster, capt). Replacements: K Earls (Munster) for Zebo (11 mins), R O’Gara (Munster) for Sexton (32 mins), D O’Callaghan (Munster) for Ryan, C Henry (Ulster) for O’Brien (both 66 mins), S Cronin (Leinster) for Best, D Kilcoyne (Munster) for Healy (both 75 mins), D Fitzpatrick (Ulster) for Ross (79 mins). Not used: E Reddan (Leinster). ENGLAND: A Goode (Saracens); C Ashton (Saracens), B Barritt (Saracens), B Twelvetrees (Gloucester), M Brown (Harlequins); O Farrell (Saracens), B Youngs (Leicester Tigers); J Marler (Harlequins), T Youngs (Leicester Tigers), D Cole (Leicester Tigers), J Launchbury (London Wasps), G Parling (Leicester Tigers), J Haskell (London Wasps), C Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), T Wood (Northampton Saints). Replacements: C Lawes (Northampton Saints) for Parling, M Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers) for Twelvetrees (both 47 mins), D Hartley (Northampton Saints) for T Youngs (51 mins), M Vunipola (Saracens) for Marler (59 mins), T Waldrom (Leicester Tigers) for Lawes (71 mins). Not used: D Wilson (Bath), D Care (Harlequins), T Flood (Leicester Tigers). Sinbinned: Haskell (57-67 mins), Referee: Jerome Garces (France)