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English Saxons come, control and conquer

By the Editor

(Pictured, Ireland coach Joe Schmidt)

Ireland Wolfhounds 9, England Saxons 18:
AFTER some serious days of bonding and training and listening to coaches and plans and everything else that goes with the modern preparations for the Six Nations, Ireland’s Wolfhounds were well and truly beaten by what was described as a weak Saxons’ side tonight in Cork.
It was a terrible game to watch with more stoppages than flowing rugby and one wonders just how many minutes of actual action were recorded in the match day stats.
Seldom have we seen so many poor decisions, continuous errors and lack of creativity at this level. The scrums were a disaster for the English for threequarters of the game, they also a number of their own lineout throws and there were times when the ball was stuck motionless in the centre of a scrum with neither hooker able to strike it in their side’s direction. It was crazy stuff.
Trailing 11-3 at half time the Irish got back into the game with an Ian Madigan penalty on 49 minutes to make it 6-11 but too often the Irish attack was held up by the Saxons from go-forward ball. Penalised again at a scrum, the Saxons presented Madigan with his third successful kick from three attempts and at 9-11 it was nice placed for the Irish to go to win this game.
On 72 minutes you would have put a mortgage repayment on them going into the lead. Good and patient progress from deep in their own half saw them get within a few metres of the visitors’ line only to knock the ball forward. Chris Ashton broke and kicked clear and the Saxons’ were now inside the home 22.
A few phases and many more delays later England got a penalty at a scrum to set up a try for winger Christian Wade who skipped past Ireland defenders with ease and Henry Slade kicked the conversion for a 9-18 win for the visitors.
There was not much in the first half to send Irish coach Joe Schmidt’s heart racing. Apart from a fine break from Keith Earls almost from the start and a few half-hearted attacks from the pack, with Sean O’Brien promiment at times, the Wolfhounds looked very moderate.
All they had to show as they trooped into the new-look dressingrooms in Independent Park in Cork tonight was a three-pointer from a close-in penalty from Ian Madigan who again looked an unlikely starter against the Italians next week.
England made ground from almost every attack through the pack and were full value for a try after 22 minutes scored by out-half Henry Slade. That showed the difference in commitment between the two teams with the Saxons certainly more prepared to add that extra pace and drive going forward.
A mistake by the Irish out-half gifted the English visitors a penalty on 25 minutes and Slade obliged to put his side 8-0 in front but when there was obstruction by a Saxons’ forward as Christ Ashton took off on a trademarki counter-attack, Madigan landed the easy kick to bring the score to 8-3 with 34 minutes played.
The visitors missed a long-distance penalty from inside their own half but they went in at the break 11-3 in front. With the clock in the red at 40+ minutes, Mike McCarthy made a kamikazee tackle from which he suffered a head injury and had to be replaced. It also resulted in a penalty for a dangerous tackle and Henry Slade’s accurate left boot gave the S`axons an 8-point lead that they fully deserved.
Any positives from the game?: Keith Earls had his moments with a few breaks, Felix Jones was also prominent in attack and for 45 minutes Sean O’Brien looked to have recovered well after his long lay-off. Apart from that there was little to cheer about for the Irish coach who is faced with a difficult week ahead as he plots the downfall of the Italians in a week’s time.
15. Felix Jones (Shannon/Munster) captain
14. Fergus McFadden (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
13. Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster)
12. Gordon D’Arcy (Lansdowne/Leinster)
11. Craig Gilroy (Ulster)
10. Ian Madigan (Blackrock College/Leinster)
9. Kieran Marmion (Corinthians/Connacht)
8. Jack Conan (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
7. Sean O’Brien (UCD/Leinster)
6. Dominic Ryan (Lansdowne/Leinster)
5. Mike McCarthy (Leinster)
4. Iain Henderson (Ballynahinch/Ulster)
3. Mike Ross (Clontarf/Leinster)
2. Richardt Strauss (Old Wesley/Leinster)
1. Jack McGrath (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
16. Rob Herring (Ballynahinch/Ulster)
17. Michael Bent (Leinster)
18. Nathan White (Galwegians/Connacht)
19. Robbie Diack (Malone/Ulster)
20. Eoin McKeon (Corinthians/Connacht)
21. Isaac Boss (Terenure/Leinster)
22. Noel Reid (Clontarf/Leinster)
23. Andrew Conway (Munster)

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