Ireland smothered by ruthless England
Ireland 6 England 12:England’s clarity of purpose and intelligent game management were decisive in securing victory in today’s Six Nations Championship match at a rain drenched Aviva stadium. It was a first tournament victory in Dublin for the visitors since 2003 and they deserved their triumph that guarantees they are the only remaining team in the tournament that can win a Grand Slam.
England were ruthlessly professional but they came to Dublin with a clearly defined game plan and were largely able to implement it. They were rigid in their structures but that was attributable to the adverse conditions. Their kicking was largely well directed, their chase organised, and they took Ireland through multiple phases.
England’s 21-year-old outhalf Owen Farrell kicked four from six penalties opportunities but there was a great deal more quality to his performance. His punting was well judged and he ensured that when the ball arrived from the skies so did the chasing Englishmen. The visitors were patient and organised and well marshalled by captain Chris Robshaw; few would quibble with his man of the match accolade.
England’s back three were exemplary under the night ball, their midfield assured in the tackle, while the work of the pack took the legs from Ireland long before the end. The visitors had the stronger bench and it showed.
Ireland were left to rue a couple of injuries to Simon Zebo (10 minutes) and Jonathan Sexton (32 minutes) but won’t try and camouflage their shortcomings on the day. The handling was rank. There was mitigation in the conditions but not to the extent that Ireland spilled ball. It made for a frustrating afternoon for players, supporters and management.
Ireland showed much more ambition in their patterns but that counted for little when line-breaks were quickly followed by ball hitting the deck. There was no faulting the perspiration expended by green-shirted players but the execution was another matter entirely. Seán O’Brien was outstanding, Peter O’Mahony gave everything and the pack worked hard but inaccuracy in possession was a relentless bugbear.
Craig Gilroy and Gordon D’Arcy tried hard, Earls made an impact with a couple of excellent runs but Ireland’s play lacked the cohesion and sustained precision to yield dividends.
There was a very obvious lesson from minute one that shoddy handling was going to be an expensive vice, scuppering any notion of being able to sustain pressure. Time and again an Ireland player would put the ball on the ground and the visitors were handed the chance to clear their lines.
England were patient and more precise. Their patterns were pretty conservative based on those they showcased against Scotland but there was a pragmatism to them, taking in the inclement weather. They played with a large dollop of common sense.