Ireland were game, but their game management was puzzling
But management and team will reflect most ruefully on the 10 minutes in which James Haskell was sin-binned. For starters, shouldn’t there be a policy of not kicking the ball off the pitch against 14 men, affording them both possession and territory, as well as an opportunity to run the clock down? From Farrell’s long restart, with plenty of hang time again, Seán O’Brien was tackled about 12 metres from the Irish line, and from the recycle Conor Murray box-kicked straight to touch on the Irish 10-metre line.
When Ben Youngs surprisingly kicked in behind Keith Earls after just a couple of phases, he also hoofed the ball into touch on his 10-metre line. Once again you’d have thought kicking long would have been a better choice.
A couple of phases later, Farrell kicked into the opposite corner, where Rob Kearney was obliged to concede a close-range lineout – though it seemed Chris Ashton tackled him on the ground. In any event, this led to Farrell making it 9-6 for side entry at the English lineout drive.
Ronan O’Gara’s ensuing restart to just beyond the 10-metre line did not have enough height to make it contestable, and from the ensuing kick tennis, Mike Brown followed up his own punt to earn a very hasty penalty for not releasing against Kearney.
Having taken one minute and 20 seconds over his previous penalty, Farrell ran down another 54 seconds in making it 12-6, and England used up over four minutes in taking three lineouts and two penalties at goal.
After Ireland then went backwards through five phases, O’Gara’s chip ahead was not regained and even then, just before Haskell returned, Kearney kicked the ball into touch from inside his 22 to afford England a fourth lineout in that critical 10-minute spell, during which time Ireland had the ball for about one minute.
Sunday games don’t seem to work at the Aviva, which was anything but as febrile as visits of England have been over the years. One is loath to criticise supporters who spent up to €90 in these straitened times for the privilege of being drenched, and it’s not the first time more lubricated travelling fans make their presence felt, but save for one rendition of the Fields in the 38th minute, the atmosphere was curiously subdued.
The home crowd were mostly sparked into life by renditions of Swing Low and sought to drown it out with boos, but that was also rather typical of their reactive rather than pro-active mood on an anti-climactic day.