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Opportunities knocked but there was little reply from gritty Ireland

IRELAND came to Twickenham today facing a difficult fixture but although they were outpointed on the scoreboard, their performance provided some optimism for the future. The stats showed that they had the bulk of possession over the 80 minutes and the English had to make far more tackles, but the finish was not there for Andy Farrell’s side. Two first half tries from England winger Jonny May turned the game in the home side’s favour and the half time lead of 12-0 had to be hard earned. Ireland took their task very seriously and although the physicality of the home pack reaped rich reward for the English, the fact that the visitors can look back on a better second half, which they shaded 7-6 was encouraging.

Ireland could not be faulted for effort in the opening half but a number of errors saw them fail to put a score on the board after earning good territory. England used their physicality to protect their try line on the few occasions that the green jerseys threatened and the nearest the Irish got to a score in the opening 40 minutes came from a brilliant break by Keith Earls. Reviewing the game this coming week will not make comfortable viewing for the Irish. There will be regrets for butchering good opportunities, mostly at the lineouts, but in fairness, there were a lot of positives. Peter O’Mahony had a massive game, Chris Farrell (pictured) put another stamp on his 12 shirt with a superb outing and when Conor Murray was called in from the bench, the pace of the attack improved.

The opening 15 minutes were evenly contested but when Owen Farrell put a crossfield kicking into the path of Jonny May, the winger got in for the first score of the game, Farrell missing the conversion. The next score will fill ‘counter attack highlights’ for some time. Ireland looked dangerous in the England 22 but they lost a lineout. Winger May hacked the ball forward and when it seemed as if Ireland would tidy up the loose ball, May’s boot allowed him to touch down at the other end of the field and Owen Farrell kicked the extra two points for a 12-0 lead. The second half saw the Irish continue to put together some promising attacks but when it looked as if all their efforts would be in vain, they got a consolation try from Jacob Stockdale, who impressed when he came on late in the game. Fellow replacement Billy Burms created the score with a deft prodded ball through the English defence and the Ulster player added the conversion. Chris Farrell went close to a try minutes earlier, but TMO Nigel Owens ruled out the score

England again showed how difficult they are to beat on their home soil but this performance asked some questions about their true quality. To the man, Ireland stood up to their highly rated pack and apart from the pace and quick thinking of Jonny May, the result of today’s game could well have been closer.

England: Elliot Daly (Saracens); Jonathan Joseph (Bath), Ollie Lawrence (Worcester Warriors), Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs), Jonny May (Gloucester); Owen Farrell (Saracens) (capt), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Jamie George (Saracens), Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears), Maro Itoje (Saracens), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Tom Curry (Sale Sharks), Sam Underhill (Bath), Billy Vunipola (Saracens.
Replacements: Tom Dunn (Bath), Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers), Will Stuart (Bath), Jonny Hill (Exeter Chiefs), Ben Earl (Bristol Bears), Dan Robson (Wasps), George Ford (Leicester Tigers), Max Malins (Bristol Bears).
Ireland: Hugo Keehanan (UCD/Leinster); Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster), Chris Farrell (Young Munster/Munster), Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht), James Lowe (Leinster); Ross Byrne (UCD/Leinster), Jamison Gibson-Park (Leinster); Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster), Ronan Kelleher (Lansdowne/Leinster), Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster), Quinn Roux (Galwegians/Connacht), James Ryan (UCD/Leinster) (capt), CJ Stander (Shannon/Munster), Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster), Caelan Doris (St. Mary’s College/Leinster).
Replacements: Rob Herring, John Ryan (Munster), Finlay Bealham (Buccaneers/Connacht), Iain Henderson (Academy/Ulster), Will Connors (UCD/Leinster), Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster), Billy Burns (UIster), Jacob Stockdale (Lurgan/Ulster).
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Assistant Referees: Mathieu Raynal, Alexandre Ruiz (both France)
Television Match Official: Nigel Owens (Wales)

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