Rugby Union: Fitness tells for relieved England

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The Independent Online
England A 40 Ireland A 30.

Tennis it was not, despite the scoreline, but it was a precious win for England, their only one of what has been a miserable season for the second-string squad.

They outscored Ireland A by six tries to three at a chilly Richmond, but there was not quite that much of a gulf between the two teams. Up front there was little to choose early on, only as the game wore on did the Irish begin to run out of steam.

Out wide they had, perhaps, the edge. The Richmond wing Spencer Brown was particularly impressive, not only because of his well taken try, but also because of his awareness around the field.

England raced into a 15-point lead before the Irish had got their bearings. Brown hacking on a Josh Lewsey chip, then beating full-back Stan McDowell to the touchdown. Three minutes later the Saracens No 8 Ben Sturnham had rumbled through. Stimpson converted that to add to his earlier penalty.

But Ireland managed a rapid one-two as well, with tries from their dangerous centre Mervyn Murphy and John McWeeney in the space of four minutes.

The try of the match, and the one which probably settled the game, came midway through the second half when Peter Mensah intercepted Kieron Dawson's pass and raced 55 yards to the line. That was followed by all-Richmond affair when Craig Gillies finished off some dazzling work by Brown and Dominic Chapman. Lewsey got in on the act as well, but Ireland always remained in touch, Barry Everitt scoring their third try and Niall Woods ending with 15 points.

England Under-21s' hopes of pulling off a Grand Slam were dashed by a superior Ireland pack in the curtain-raiser to the A international. Three penalties by Ireland's outside-half Ronan Ogara were just good enough to give them a 9-7 victory.

England A: Tries Brown, Sturnham, Fidler, Mensah, Gillies, Lewsey; Conversions Stimpson 2; Penalties Stimpson 2. Ireland A: Tries Murphy, McWeeney, Everitt; Conversions Woods 3; Penalties Woods 3.

ENGLAND A: T Stimpson (Newcastle); S Brown (Richmond); P Mensah (Harlequins), S Ravenscroft (Saracens), D Chapman (Richmond); J Lewsey (Bristol), P Richards (London Irish); D Barnes (Newcastle), P Greening (Gloucester), J Mallett (Bath), R Fidler (Gloucester), C Gillies (Richmond), R Jenkins (Harlequins; capt), B Sturnham (Saracens), R Hutton (Richmond). Replacements: M Cornwell (Gloucester) for Gillies, 65; W Green (Wasps) for Mallett, 69; A Bennett (Saracens) for Jenkins, 69; A King (Wasps) for Stimpson, 76; G Chuter (Saracens) for Greening, 77; M Allen (Northampton) for Hutton, 78.

IRELAND A: S McDowell (Ballymena); J McWeeney (St Mary's Coll), M Murphy, P Duignan (Galwegians), N Woods (London Irish); B Everitt, S McIvor (Garryown); J Fitzpatrick (London Irish), B Jackman (Clontarf), G Walsh (Garryowen), G Fulcher (London Irish; capt), D Erskine (Sale), T Brennan (St Mary's Coll), D O'Cuinneagain (Sale), K Dawson (London Irish). Replacements: M McDermott (Shannon) for Jackman, 27; A Foley (Shannon) for Dawson, 68; D Crotty (Garryowen) for McWeeney, 70; S Leahy (Garryowen) for Fulcher, 78.

Referee: G Morandin (Italy).