England make fantastic start in Six Nations with big Ireland win
PUBLISHED: 20:41 02 February 2019
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Owen Farrell captained England to a stunning 32-20 win over Ireland in Dublin – their first victory across the Irish Sea in six years.
The Harpenden St George’s man was one of three from the Sun Lane school in the England squad, Maro Itoje and George Ford being the others, with Welwyn Garden City’s Jamie George also included.
But it was two tries from Henry Slade inside the final 15 minutes that secured the bonus-point success over the reigning Guinness Six Nations
England led 17-13 in an epic opening-weekend showdown when they engineered the decisive moment in the 66th minute, Slade combining brilliantly with Jonny May from a scrum.
Farrell then thumped over a long-distance penalty to put the game beyond Ireland’s reach before Slade plundered his second try, snaffling an interception to scramble over the line.
That brought up the bonus point with Ireland leaving with nothing despite a try from replacement John Cooney in the final seconds.
Head coach Eddie Jones’ decision to retain Elliot Daly at full-back rather than revert to the security provided by Mike Brown was partially vindicated by his involvement in both first-half tries, the second of which he finished by pouncing on an error by Jacob Stockdale.
England bristled with intent when in possession and benefited from the return of Saracens forwards Mako and Billy Vunipola and Leicester centre Manu Tuilagi, the bulldozing trio starting together for the first time due to injury.
After years spent in the treatment room rehabilitating serious groin, chest and knee injuries, Tuilagi’s first Six Nations start since 2013 was especially welcome and his duel with opposite number Bundee Aki was thunderous.
An enthralling victory took a savage toll, however, as Itoje and Kyle Sinckler limped off in the second half.
The speed of England’s ball, combined with a line-out thrown straight to Tuilagi, enabled the Irish whitewash to be breached after only 92 seconds through May.
Tuilagi was repeatedly involved in the early onslaught but it also took an injection of pace and a well-timed pass from Daly to send May over for England’s first try in Dublin since 2011.
Tom Curry was sent to the sin-bin for a late tackle on Keith Earls shortly after Johnny Sexton landed a penalty and Ireland’s slow start was now a distant memory as the green shirts poured forward.
The hapless Earls was then clattered heavily by Itoje as he lined up a catch, incurring another penalty to dent English momentum.
Ireland were showing trademark mastery of keeping possession and this in turn caused ripples of panic in their opponents as the game’s frenzied pace continued.
Cian Healy burrowed over for a try from a line-out that rewarded the bold decision to opt for touch in instead of the posts, but England were back in front on the half hour mark when Daly touched down his own kick following a fumble by Stockdale.
And it was Jones’ men who finished the half stronger, pounding away at the whitewash before winning a penalty which was successfully kicked by Farrell.
England began to suffocate Ireland by using kicks and their big pack to keep them pinned in their own half and when the opportunity presented itself they attacked with precision.
One assault broke down, however, when Farrell was on the receiving end of a hard tackle by Ringrose and suddenly they were defending in their own 22.
It proved to be a costly passage of play as Sexton slotted a penalty to narrow the lead to 17-13 before Itoje limped off - soon to be joined by Sinckler.
But England wrestled back control brilliantly to steal a march in the race for the championship title.