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England 18-7 Ireland
by David Nicholson
ENGLAND took an expected victory against ailing Ireland in the Autumn Nations Cup on Saturday while rarely displaying their full attacking intent.
Maro Itoje had an immense game for the hosts and the deserved man of the match warned future opponents: “Our next step will be putting bigger scores on teams when we are dominant.”
Bucking the usual trend for the dominant side, England tackled over three times more than Ireland — 255 tackles to 84.
And for most of the game it looked as though the home side would deny the men in green a single point.
Such was the dominance of England’s defensive effort, with two-men gang-tackles repeatedly rocking Ireland backwards, that the visitors were invariably forced to move the ball away from the gain line.
Eddie Jones credited coach John Mitchell for organising the defence.
“John has done a great job,” the England boss said. “But what is good is he does it in conjunction with the players and you can see how they enjoy it.”
That joy was apparent when Itoje ripped a turnover from Ireland on one of their rare excursions to England’s try line, after which winger Jonny May celebrated harder than when he scored his second wonder-try in the first half.
Those two moments of sublime skill and magic took May into joint second place on England’s all-time try-scorers list, alongside Ben Cohen and Will Greenwood on 31.
May’s second try after 20 minutes was a team effort despite the individual brilliance to finish it off.
Ireland’s attacking line-out was spoilt and Itoje, first to the ball, shipped it to Ollie Lawrence, who moved the ball to Henry Slade.
The midfielder slipped the ball to May who had the whole pitch in front of him.
After a jinking run and a kick ahead through the Irish defence, nobody was going to catch the English speedster.
But he still had to control the ball with his boot before catching the bouncing ball and touching it down for a sensational score.
That try deserved to be met with a wall of noise from fans in the stadium, but for all those who saw it on television it will live long in the memory.
Jones predicted that the best was yet to come from his winger, saying: “When you consider he is 30 and he is still improving every aspect of his game, I think his best will come in the next three years.”
That was really the match done and dusted as the English forwards dominated the scrum and line-out.
With crunching tackles from Mako Vunipola and the kamikaze kids Tom Curry and Sam Underhill, there was no way back into the game for Ireland.
But with seven minutes remaining, Ireland perhaps found a chink in the English defence.
The visitors managed to score a consolation try after Billy Burns chipped over England’s defensive line into the space behind for Jacob Stockdale to score.
Ireland coach Andy Farrell took some consolation when considering the state of each side’s development.
“They have been together for 10 years, while we are just starting. It’s completely different sides of the spectrum and we’ll learn a lot from that,” Farrell said.
England move on to face Wales at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday, while Ireland face Group A whipping boys Georgia on Sunday.
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