England wing their way to win
16:46 05 September 2015
PA Wire/Press Association Images
England 21 Ireland 13
“Our World Cup starts on Saturday,” said England’s forwards coach Graham Rowntree, adding: “This team can win a World Cup now.”
And with that endorsement ringing in their ears, England made a brilliant start to their final warm-up match against Ireland at Twickenham.
From the very start of the match, they recycled clean ball through several phases, moving right, then left, before wing Jonny May sped in at the left corner and George Ford added a stunning touchline conversion.
Johnny Sexton replied with a penalty which bounced off the crossbar and over before the Twickenham crowd belted out ‘Swing Low’ for the first time of the afternoon.
And the home fans were on their feet again when Ford’s high kick to the right corner was plucked out of the air by wing Anthony Watson, towering above Simon Zebo, and planted over the line for the second try.
There was certainly no holding back and England’s Geoff Parling needed the blood bin after a big collision with Tommy Bowe, while Irish scrum-half Conor Murray was knocked out cold when trying to stop rampaging prop Joe Marler.
And Stuart Lancaster’s men were looking in ‘World Cup’ mode as some more great handling saw Tom Youngs put May skipping into the left corner for his second try of the game.
TMO Shaun Veldsman wanted another look, though, as Ford lined up his conversion attempt, and referee Nigel Owens agreed the last pass had been forward and the score was chalked off to the disappointment of the majority in the stands.
Ireland looked to make the most of the reprieve and turned an England scrum on the 22, before Jamie Heaslip almost slipped Bowe through.
But England turned the ball over at a ruck and were able to clear downfield, with May putting in a good chase to force a mistake from Eoin Reddan to win a lineout on the Irish 22.
A big tackle on Ford by Dave Kearney allowed the Irish to win possession and eventually kick a penalty to the left corner.
But Parling pawed down Rory Best’s lineout throw to great cheers and number eight Ben Morgan eventually kicked into the Irish half.
May appeared to be taken out as he gathered his own high kick – Owens ruled the challenge fair as the boos rang out – but England moved the ball quickly left and Watson’s dart into the 22 had the fans roaring again.
Ireland were deep in England’s 22 as the half ended, but the home side were well worth their nine-point lead.
The visitors needed a response and enjoyed some early possession after the restart, but were going nowhere fast as England’s defence stood firm, before Ben Youngs kicked over halfway and Parling, still bleeding from his earlier injury, was replaced by Joe Launchbury.
England then opened the second-half scoring when Ford sent a long-range penalty bouncing off the top of the crossbar and through the posts to put his side a dozen points clear.
But the Irish hit straight back when England’s Marler and Tom Wood were caught offside in front of their own posts and Sexton slotted the simple kick to make it 15-6.
Ford got back well to collect Jared Payne’s grubber kick under pressure and his pass allowed May to find touch. But Ireland won the lineout ball and Paul O’Connell got the ball over the line, just, before Sexton’s conversion closed the gap to just two points.
Lancaster sent Saracens brothers Billy and Mako Vunipola on for Morgan and Marler and England started making thrusts in the Irish 22 again, with the crowd rediscovering their voices.
And another trio of Sarries in Jamie George, Richard Wigglesworth and Owen Farrell were then thrown into the fray on the hour for brothers Tom and Ben Youngs and Ford, as clubmate Brad Barritt made way for Sam Burgess.
The match was in the balance heading into the final quarter of an hour, though, and the Twickenham faithful seemed a little bit tense until Jonathan Joseph ripped the ball from Irish hands in a tackle and launched an attack, which led to Wigglesworth wriggling over.
The TMO spotted an infringement in the build-up to rule out the try, however, and England had to settle for a Farrell penalty which put them 18-13 up with just over six minutes left.
But when Ireland were punished again for holding on with three minutes on the clock, Farrell stepped up again to send an angled kick through the posts and seal a pleasing victory over the Six Nations champions.
Next up, Fiji. A ‘real’ World Cup match on Friday, September 18.
England: Mike Brown (Harlequins); Anthony Watson (Bath), Jonathan Joseph (Bath), Brad Barritt (Saracens), Jonny May (Gloucester); George Ford (Bath), Ben Youngs (Leicester); Joe Marler (Harlequins), Tom Youngs (Leicester), Dan Cole (Leicester), Courtney Lawes (Northampton), Geoff Parling, Tom Wood (Northampton), Chris Robshaw (capt, Harlequins), Ben Morgan (Gloucester).
Replacements: Joe Launchbury (Wasps) for Parling, 44; Billy Vunipola (Saracens) for Morgan, 55; Mako Vunipola (Saracens) for Marler, 55; Jamie George (Saracens) for Tom Youngs, 60; Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens) for Ben Youngs, 60; Owen Farrell (Saracens) for Ford, 60; Sam Burgess (Bath) for Barritt, 60; Kieran Brookes (Northampton) for Cole, 62.
Ireland: Simon Zebo (Munster); Tommy Bowe (Ulster), Jared Payne (Ulster), Robbie Henshaw (Connacht), Dave Kearney (Leinster); Johnny Sexton (Leinster), Conor Murray (Munster); Jack McGrath (Leinster), Rory Best (Ulster), Mike Ross (Leinster); Devin Toner (Leinster), Paul O’Connell (Munster) capt; Peter O’Mahony (Munster), Sean O’Brien (Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster).
Replacements: Eoin Reddan (Leinster) for Murray; Nathan White (Connacht) for Ross; Ian Madigan (Leinster) for Henshaw; Richard Strauss (Leinster) for Best; Chris Henry (Ulster) for O’Brien; Donnacha Ryan (Munster) for O’Connell; Tadhg Furlong (Leinster) for Zebo; Darren Cave (Ulster) for Ross.