Sorry Ireland toil in the heat as England run riot at Twickenham
Joe Schmidt’s side fall to record defeat as hosts emphasise their RWC credentials
Joe Cokanasiga (L) and Tom Curry celebrate with Manu Tuilagi after the centre’s try against Ireland. Photograph: Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty
England 57 Ireland 15
A heavy beating was always conceivable as there were several mitigating factors pointing towards it. But even so, this was ominous and, potentially, costly both physically and psychologically for Ireland.
Conor Murray went off in the first half, as he did in the final warm-up game here four years ago, although he returned briefly before being replaced permanently at half time. Afterwards Joe Schmidt confirmed that Murray had passed his HIA but had been taken off anyway.
More worrying still was the sight of Cian Healy lying flat out for some time and seemingly in acute pain before at least managing to limp off gingerly without recourse to a mobile stretcher at the end of the first half. But after he watched the second half with ice over his right ankle, Schmidt said an x-ray revealed no damage and the hope is that his sprained ankle will not keep him out of the World Cup.
But then there’s the mental damage. This eight tries to two thrashing set all sorts of unwelcome landmarks. This 135th meeting between the two countries provided a record winning margin in the fixture, eclipsing the 46-6 English win at Lansdowne Road in 1997. It was also the most points Ireland have ever conceded against England, usurping the 50-18 defeat here in 2000. Needless to say, it was also the biggest loss in 69 matches Joe Schmidt, eclipsing the nadir of the 43-20 World Cup quarter-final defeat by Argentina four years ago.
“That wasn’t the standards we set for ourselves. Quite frankly it was hard to describe without using a lot of profanity,” admitted Rory Best on pitchside.
“We’re nowhere near where we need to be. I suppose the only positive is that it’s the middle of August and not the middle of September, but that was nowhere near where we need to be.”
Admitting the video will make for painful viewing, the Irish captain also accepted that the forwards didn’t lay a sufficient platform for the backs, and he assuredly had the particularly cataclysmic Irish lineout vividly in mind.
In all Ireland lost six lineouts, which actually was effectively seven, and it was as bad under the skipper’s watch as it was when Sean Cronin, even with the help of Devin Toner, came on, directly coughing up two of England’s eight tries.
Ireland began reasonably well, and led after 26 minutes, before they began to wilt in the sweltering heat. Fatigue was clearly a factor but their defence was particularly porous, missing an astonishing 34 tackles. In uncomfortable echoes of last February’s meeting, England also had much the better of the collisions.
The midfield, especially Bundee Aki, were culpable for biting in as the wide defence was frequently outflanked, as the George Ford-Owen Farrell combination pulled the strings, Manu Tuilagi caused havoc whether carrying or acting as a decoy.
Admittedly, this was a statement win by an excellent England.
Maro Itoje typified the apparent gulf in conditioning and match fitness between the two sides, dominating in the air and across the gain line, and even sauntering in for one of the English tries.
Ireland had actually struck first.
After Healy had conceded a scrum penalty for Owen Farrell to open the scoring, Rob Kearney hit the line and sent out a lovely skip pass to find Jacob Stockdale in space. He executed one of his trademark chips with underspin, so much so that it beat him, Kearney and three English defenders for Jordan Larmour to gather and score. Ross Byrne, for whom you felt only sympathy as this horror show unfolded, confidently landed the touchline conversion.
But England struck back quickly and every bit as clinically with a well orchestrated strike move off a scrum near the left touchline 30 metres out. Billy Vunipola fed Ben Youngs infield off the base, and with both centres checking any drift with decoy runs George Ford moved the ball on to Jonny May, coming off his blindside wing to make the extra man as Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose bit in. May got the ball away before being hit by Stockdale for Elliot Daly to feed Joe Cokanasiga and he skated home from outside the 22 by beating the covering tackle of Larmour.
Farrell, unusually, miscued the conversion and after England withstood two of Byrne’s typically well placed crosskicks, Nigel Owens showed his human side by effectively calling a drinks break as Peter O’Mahony received treatment.
Byrne was also putting boot to ball rather than have his team go through endless phases if they weren’t going anywhere.
From around 50 metres out, Byrne kicked Ireland back in front.
Soon though, after CJ Stander’s pull back missed Byrne and forced Murray to clear for touch, Cokanasiga, Tuilagi, Itoje et al began making inroads with not only big carries but offloads as well. Save for tackles by Healy and Henderson, Ireland’s defence was mostly soaking up the damage. After 11 phases, with Murray receiving treatment on Ireland’s right touchline, quick hands by Youngs, Ford and Curry put Daly over. Farrell completed another wobbly conversion.
After the stoppage for Healy, the half ended with Van der Flier earning a much needed turnover penalty as England came calling ominously again. Ireland needed half time.
By the end of that period, Ireland had missed 21 tackles, whereas England had missed three.
But there was no let up on the resumption. After Kearney lost the ball in contact, Elliot Daly forced Ireland into another defensive lineout. Again, it didn’t go well. Best’s throw to Henderson at the tail slipped through the lock’s fingers, with the timing also seemingly slightly off, and this was compounded just a phase later when Jack McGrath left a hole for Itoje which Tadhg Furlong couldn’t plug.
Byrne, perhaps understandably a little rattled now, knocked on, Furlong was emptied by Sam Underhill, the midfield was again worryingly passive and then Byrne sliced out on the full after the ball had been passed to him from outside the 22.
Ireland were then outflanked on their right wing and although Kearney dislodged the ball from May, Vunipola picked up deftly, and after Underhill was stopped, Luke McGrath and Henderson couldn’t prevent George Kruis from muscling his way over.
There was a softness about England’s sixth try as well when, after seven phases, Kyle Sinckler deftly transferred for Underhill to take a straight line through the gap created by Devin Toner shooting up and Henderson holding back.
The half century was brought up when the Irish centres were again laid bare akin to the first try. Farrell pulled the ball back for Cokanasinga to explode through the ensuing gap outside Garry Ringrose, who had been checked by Tuilagi’s decoy run, and beat Luke McGrath’s covering tackle and dummy past Stockdale.
Aki stemmed the flow of English tries when taking Jack Carty’s flat pass, stepping inside Ford and away from Itoje before rounding Daly to finish superbly by the corner flag.
However the game ended on a grimly fitting note for Ireland when Sean Cronin over threw to O’Mahony at the front and straight into the hands of Luke Cowan-Dickie who just plunged over. Ford’s conversion made this a record win in the history of the fixture.
With Scotland, Ireland’s opening World Cup opponents, having beaten France earlier in the day, the pressure for vastly improved performances against Wales has mounted.
This review should certainly concentrate minds.
Scoring sequence: 7 mins Farrell pen 3-0; 8 mins Larmour try, Byrne con 3-7; 12 mins Cokanasiga try 8-7; 26 mins Bynre pen 8-10; 29 mins Daly try, Farrell con 15-10; 36 mins Tuilagi try, Farrell con 22-10; (half-time 22-10); 45 mins Itoje try, Farrell con 29-10; 53 mins Kruis try, Farrell con 36-10; 57 Curry try, Farrell con 43-10; 65 mins Cokanasinga try, Farrell con 50-10; 77 mins Cowan-Dickie try, Ford con 57-10.
England: Elliot Daly; Joe Cokanasiga, Manu Tuilagi, Owen Farrell, Jonny May; George Ford, Ben Youngs; Joe Marler, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler; Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola. Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie for George, Willi Heinz for Youngs (both 54 mins), Courtney Lawes for Curry, Mark Wilson for Underhill (both 58 mins), Dan Cole for Sinckler (60 mins), Mako Vunipola for Marler (61-78 mins), Piers Francis for Farrell (68 mins), Joe Marchant for Tuilagi (71 mins).
Ireland: Rob Kearney; Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale; Ross Byrne, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, Jean Kleyn; Peter O’Mahony, Josh Van der Flier, CJ Stander. Replacements: Luke McGrath for Murray (31-38 mins and half-time), Jack McGrath for Healy (40 mins), Sean Cronin for Best, Andrew Porter for Furlong, Devin Toner for Kleyn, Jack Carty for Byrne, Andrew Conway for Kearney (all 54 mins), Jack Carty for Byrne (55 mins), Tadhg Beirne for Henderson (61 mins),
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales).