England 18-7 Ireland
The score no doubt flattered Ireland, as two Jonny May’s tries led the way for England’s 18-7 victory over Ireland.
Despite May’s excellent tries, the 2nd being a 90m wonder try and no doubt one of the best seen at Twickenham, the victory should be equally attributed to England’s impenetrable defence over the 80 minutes. England collectively made 246 tackles against Ireland, compared to Ireland’s tally of 73.
Couple England’s dominant tackling statistics with the fact they had just 38% possession and this just shows how comfortable England are without the ball.
Supremely confident in their forward pack to make dominant tackle after dominant tackle, and their world class back row duo of Tom Curry and Sam Underhill to control the breakdown, and finally the halfback pairing of Ben Youngs and Owen Farrell to control the game with their kicking.
The build up to May’s opening try was typical of the way England play the game. Farrell kicked high to Keith Earls who was met by an aggressive chase from Jonathan Joseph and Billy Vunipola, forcing a knock on. England then force a penalty at the subsequent scrum, kicking for a lineout in Ireland’s 22.
Ireland conceded a penalty at the first ruck after the lineout and with just under 16 minutes gone, England decide against an easy 3 points, and kick for touch again. Winning the ensuing lineout and forcing a penalty advantage at the following rucks, Farrell kicks across field for May, who beats Hugo Keenan to the ball and touches down for his first.
Their second score came just four minutes later. An over-thrown lineout from Ronan Kelleher in the England 22 was snapped up by the English, and shifted wide to May who raced past Chris Farrell before chipping ahead, nudging the ball on and regathering for his second try.
England’s aggression, pressure and ascendancy at the set piece are the best in Europe, Ireland were no match for them.
Ireland will be frustrated that their own shortcomings contributed to the loss. The early kicking from Ireland was decent, but things quickly turned worrisome for Andy Farrell’s side when England’s dominance at the set piece started to show.
Despite being familiar as teammates at Leinster, the halfback pairing of Ross Byrne and Jamison Gibson-Park are inexperienced at test level, even more so in contrast to England’s duo of Farrell and Youngs.
Gibson-Park showed some good moments such as his offload for Earl’s break in the first half, which was stopped just short of the line, but neither him nor Byrne could have a major impact in the game. But the two were never going to have a chance when the Irish lineout kept faltering.
The lineout was clearly without unity, being run by 24-year-old James Ryan, who was captain in place of the injured Johnny Sexton, and the inexperience showed. Some poor calls in conjunction with Kelleher’s substandard throwing, and Ireland’s malfunctioning lineout proved key in defeat.
The only silver lining for Ireland came in the 73rd minute, when replacement fly-half Billy Burns put a deft chip in behind the English defence for fellow replacement Jacob Stockdale to gather and race over for a try undisturbed.
The try was a mere consolation for Ireland, and in no way detracts from England’s dominant performance.