Injuries to Zebo and Sexton merely deepen the gloom of a dark day
“That gives England a little bit of daylight,” admitted Kidney. “Who is to know? Right now we are extremely disappointed . . . I think France are in Twickenham next time around, let’s see what they show up with. England have to go to Cardiff as well in the last game.
“I would say there is a hell of a lot to play for but there is every time you put on a jersey. We have three more opportunities to get three wins. Let’s get to eight points and let’s see what everyone else has at the end of it.
“The Grand Slam is a wonderful thing to win but putting it all together takes an awful lot. There is a championship first and foremost to be played for, and we are well in that. We just need to learn from today.”
Two of the handling errors in that mistake-riddled opening half were out of character spillages of high balls by Jamie Heaslip, who also conceded the first two of Owen Farrell’s four penalties. Typical of his willingness to show up for work, he was Ireland’s leading tackler and joint second highest carrier behind Sean O’Brien, although in a game of inches, they didn’t gain much.
“I don’t really want to blame the conditions because both teams played in (them) but they didn’t help,” said Heaslip, who was at a loss to know why Ireland were so culpable. “There were a lot of knock-ons and unforced errors and it was frustrating, but we just tried to constantly regroup and go again.
“England, to their credit, played a good pressure game. They contested our rucks and put us under pressure, and their line-speed was quite good. When we had the ball we put them under pressure but we didn’t take our scores.”
England rocked a little in the third quarter, with Ronan O’Gara briefly pulling the sides level. But helped by an injection of fresh firepower off the bench and with Ben Youngs and the feisty Owen Farrell marshalling matters, England calmly and assuredly saw out the ten minutes which James Haskell spent in the bin, even outscoring Ireland by 6-0 in that spell before closing out the game.
England stuck to their game plan, kicked well out of hand, controlled their own ball better and made less errors, without ever looking like they would open up Ireland’s defence; Ireland being attributed with the game’s only three line breaks.
But conditions were probably more conducive to England, whose physical strength and power told in a try-less arm -wrestle and England’s own defensive line speed and tackle execution was unremittingly accurate.
“To come here with such a young side and show that level of maturity to close out the game was very pleasing,” said Stuart Lancaster, whose contentment was understandable.
This was another big stepping stone for an emerging force in the world game.