Ireland 20 England 32
Ireland’s defence of their Grand Slam ended at the first hurdle as they succumbed to four-try bonus-point England at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening.
In a game where the visitors were dominant in almost every aspect of the game, uncharacteristically inaccurate Irish passing made the task easier for Eddie Jones’ team.
Johnny May provided England with the prefect start to their Guinness Six Nations campaign, touching down inside the opening two minutes of the game. Owen Farrell then dissected the posts from a difficult kick out on the touchline for a 7-0 lead.
In the 9th minute when Ireland were awarded a penalty for England slowing down the ball, Sexton immediately kicked for the posts to reduce the deficit to 3-7 with 11 minutes on the clock.
English flanker Tom Curry was sin-binned in the 12th minute for a high tackle on Keith Earls, who was targetted thoughout much of the opening 40 minutes. Curry was late and used plenty shoulder on the Limerick native who was attempting to clear Ireland’s lines.
The reigning Six Nations Champions showed their patience when prevented on a number of occassions from crossing the try scoring line, before prop Cian Healy touched down for his 5th International try to put the home side into the lead for the first time in the game. Sexton made it a seven-pointer when successfully scoring from a difficult conversion kick to put Schmidt’s men 10-7 ahead.
From an Elliot Daly grubber kick, Jacob Stockdale attempted to control the ball, but the Irish winger knocked the ball on only for the England fullback to get his hand on it to touchdown, before Farrell scored his second conversion for 14-10 to the visitors.
Eddie Jones’ side scored their third five-pointer of the evening on the stroke of half time when Mako Vunipola drove for the line off the back of a ruck. When he consulted his TMO, French referee Jerome Garces decided the England prop had used his knee to push himself over the line. As the official had been playing advantage for the visitors, Farrell kicked his third successful effort at goal, leaving Ireland 10-17 behind at the interval.
The opening score of the second half saw Jonathan Sexton bring Ireland within 4 points of the eventual winners, the nearest they got to them in the second period, when slotting over a penalty in the 55th minute for a Kyle Sinckler high tackle.
When Sexton played the ball when off his feet shortly afterward, England captain Owen Farrell immediately decided to kick for the posts, but fortunately for the Irish No. 10 his opposite number failed to score this time.
Henry Slade scored England’s third try of the evening, the first of a pair for him, in the 66th minute but a second missed kick at the posts by Farrell, who had earlier sent a penalty attempt wide, meant Ireland were 9 points in arrears heading into the final 12 minutes.
Farrell soon got back on target with his kicking as he sent a penalty from 47m out over the crossbar, meaning Ireland were 12 points behind with only 10 to play on the clock.
A loose pass from Sexton deep in Irish territory was intercepted by Slade to bring up his brace of five-pointers to give Jones’ England a four-try bonus point. With Farrell converting the English score moved up to 32 points.
Conor Murray’s replacement John Cooney touched down for a try in the dying minutes of the game to add some sort of respectability to the Irish end of the scoreboard, before Sexton drop-kicked the conversion for a final score of Ireland 20 England 32.
Ireland have a quick turnaround in this season’s Guinness Six Nations Championship as they travel to Scotland in Round 2 next weekend.