Rugby: England recover from early shock

Ireland A 30 England A 44
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The Independent Online
Irish teams had a glorious tradition of putting the fear of God into opponents in the first 20 minutes of a rugby match, but this was ridiculous. England A, by some distance the strongest second-string in the European game, were taken so comprehensively to the cleaners in the early stages at Donnybrook yesterday that they must have wondered whether someone had substituted the All Blacks for the black stuff.

Killian Keane, Conor O'Shea and Gavin Walsh all crossed for tries in the opening flurry of fire and brimstone and England, 19 points in the red inside 12 minutes, were looking at humiliation on a grand scale.

Thankfully from their point of view, the Irish storm blew itself out and once the calmer waters arrived, Tony Diprose was able to mastermind a full recovery.

The No 8 and pack leader was in the most inspired form, repeatedly making acres of ground from the base of the set-piece. His distribution was also of the highest class - he would not look out of place at inside centre - and if the senior English side still considers itself short of a cultured ball-carrier, it could do much worse than take a chance on the Saracens captain.

Diprose played a decisive role in launching the fightback, feeding Adedayo Adebayo with a scoring pass after the Bath wing had cleverly switched flanks as Dan Luger made a long diagonal run from right to left. When he then piled over near the Irish posts after a series of tapped penalties, his side were back at the races come the interval, just a converted try adrift at 15-22.

Four minutes into the second half, Scott Benton capitalised on another strong run from Luger to square it. The Irish were in a state of shock that almost bordered on depression; not only had they lost what should have been a decisive lead, but also their outside-half, Paul Burke, who had looked capable of running England ragged in the 19 minutes he was on the field. Sadly, the Bristol playmaker had been led off suffering from a suspected broken jaw.

Even though Keane restored a three-point lead to the Irish with a 49th- minute penalty, tries from Nick Greenstock, Neil Back and Mark Mapletoft put the tin lid on matters. It was hardly a vintage display by the English - Richard Hill, their coach, had anticipated a comfortable victory, not a seat-of-the-pants job - but if they are going to be this difficult to beat, their heart is obviously in the right place.

Ireland A: Tries Keane, O'Shea, Walsh, Malone; Conversions Burke 2; Penalties Keane 2. England A: Tries Adebayo, Diprose, Benton, Greenstock, Back, Mapletoft; Conversions Mapletoft 4; Penalties Mapletoft 2.

IRELAND A: C O'Shea (London Irish, capt); D Crotty (Garryowen), K McQuilkin (Lansdowne), K Keane (Garryowen), N Woods (London Irish); P Burke (Bristol), S McIvor (Garryowen); H Hurley (Moseley), M McDermott (Lansdowne), G Walsh (Northampton), S Jameson (St Mary's), B Cusack (Bath), S Duncan (Malone), B Cronin (Garryowen), K Dawson (London Irish). Replacements: N Malone (Leicester) for Burke, 19; A McKeen (Lansdowne) for Walsh, 76; M Lynch (Young Munster) for Keane, 76.

ENGLAND A: N Beal (Northampton); D Luger (Harlequins), N Greenstock (Wasps), W Greenwood (Leicester, capt), A Adebayo (Bath); M Mapletoft (Gloucester), S Benton (Gloucester); R Hardwick (Coventry), D West (Leicester), J Mallett (Bath), G Archer (Newcastle), J Fowler (Sale), M Corry (Bristol), A Diprose (Saracens), N Back (Leicester). Replacement: S Ojomoh (Bath) for Corry, 61.

Referee: P Adams (Wales).