Sunday, February 10, 2013


Ireland 6-12 England

Ireland defeated

Ireland lost to England 6-12 at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday.

In wet, uncomfortable conditions, turnovers and penalties were always going to be key and Stuart Lancaster's men always looked the more disciplined outlet, despite losing James Haskell for 10 minutes in the second half.

Owen Farrell kicked four penalties for England - two in each half – while Ireland could only respond with two second half efforts from substitute Ronan O'Gara, who came on midway through the first half for the injured Jonathan Sexton.
England looked a well-oiled machine who could now challenge for the Grand Slam - but Ireland were the authors of their own misfortune as they produced a disjointed, error-strewn performance. 
With the rain spitting down in Dublin, conditions were poor and the first-half was a scrappy war of attrition.
Ireland had the bulk of possession but were constantly giving the ball back with errors and penalties – their handling being particularly disappointing as they committed an unacceptable nine handling errors in the opening 40 minutes.
England played unspectacular rugby, with their backs barely involved outside of defensive work, but their more disciplined approach paid dividends as they went in at the break with a 6-0 lead.
Farrell fired over two penalties in the third and 29th minutes from similar positions near the Irish 10m line and to the right, although he missed a third opportunity with the last kick of the half. 
For all their possession, some of which was in dangerous areas, Ireland did not even have a kick on goal in the first half. Their efforts were also hampered by injuries that saw them lose winger Simon Zebo and fly-half Sexton, though they had experienced replacements on hand in the shape of Munster duo Keith Earls and O'Gara.

There was a nasty streak to the game too: Cian Healy stamped brutally on an English ankle that admittedly was on the wrong side of a ruck, while Farrell might have been sin-binned on another day for a cynical tug back on Conor Murray.
There were encouraging signs for Ireland in the early stages of the second half as their front-row seemed to be getting a handle on proceedings. 
Two penalties from O'Gara levelled the match, the second of which came in the 58th minute after Haskell was sin-binned for kicking a ball on the ground.
The home fans were really into the match at that stage as they smelt blood, but the 14 men of England kept their cool in the hostile environment and actually enjoyed arguably their best spell of the match while short-handed.

Farrell kicked them back in front in the 64th minute after England had almost scored a try while advantage was being played: Ben Youngs's clever kick just didn't quite bounce up for substitute Manu Tuilagi as he dashed into the try area, but England regained the lead in any case from Farrell's kick.
Another substitute, Courtney Lawes, then won another penalty for England just two minutes later as his superb tackle brought down Rob Kearney in an isolated area. With no help around him, the Leinster full-back was forced to hang on and Farrell again profited to the tune of three points.
When O'Gara then missed a kickable penalty nine minutes from time Ireland knew that they had to hunt a try, but that never looked likely against an English side that regained control of the pack in the latter stages of the match and cleverly ran down the clock.

It wasn't pretty from England, but they got their tactics just right given the conditions and were winners once the 80 minutes were up. 
Ireland looked battered and beaten by the end, ensuring it would be a mixed day for Brian O'Driscoll who had hoped for a win to celebrate the birth of his daughter just a few hours before the match.

Instead it is England who remain the sole team with a chance of winning the Grand Slam. Home matches against France and Italy come next before they travel to Cardiff for their final match.

It emerged that Simon Zebo is out of action for ten weeks with a broken foot, while Johnny Sexton has a suspected hamstring tear which is an eight-week recovery, minimum.

So a bad day all-round for Ireland.

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