Rugby Union: England running low on reserve

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England A 29

Ireland A 14

ENGLAND have dug deep into their resources during an injury-afflicted season and they have to hope they do not have to dig any deeper. Yesterday's A-team hors d'oeuvre to today's main course suggested most of the second string are not ready to make the final step, writes Steve Bale.

This was all about eking out a victory rather than running free, as for instance the As did the last time Ireland A were at Richmond two years ago. They did score tries, which is more than England have been

doing lately, but disappointingly their creation owed much more to bludgeon than rapier.

Daniel Gillet, the French referee, evidently knew what he was doing when he hobbled off after five minutes. Once England found they could progress through the rolling maul they stuck with it to the point of

obsession. It worked to the extent that it brought first-half tries by

Anthony Diprose and Dean Ryan but England's forwards were so physically superior that there would have been something wrong if it had not.

Indeed even when the ball made its weary way away from close quarters its delivery was so slow that it was more or less bound to become bogged down in midfield, and the players there compounded the problem by their constant unwillingness to spin it wider. Given how much possession England won, Adedayo Adebayo and Nick Beal were ludicrously redundant on the wings.

Matthew Dawson scored the third try in the second half, finally taking England beyond the Irish range. The closeness of the score until then was something of an embarrassment, though it could have been worse. Ireland had had many more chances than they took.

The lid was put on Paul Challinor's miserable first half when his defensive kick was charged down by Kevin McKee, who followed up for a try, but otherwise Ireland were

restricted to kicks by David Humphreys and after the interval, unlike England, they failed to add to their score.

England: Tries Diprose, Ryan, Dawson; Conversion Challinor; Penalties Challinor 3; Drop goal Challinor. Ireland: Try McKee; Penalties Humphreys 2; Drop goal Humphreys.

ENGLAND A: P Hull (Bristol); A Adebayo (Bath), S Potter (Leicester), D Hopley (Wasps), N Beal (Northampton); P Challinor (Harlequins), M Dawson (Northampton); C Clark (Bath), K Dunn (Wasps), J

Mallett, N Redman (Bath), A Blackmore (Bristol), A Diprose (Saracens), D Ryan (Wasps, capt), R Jenkins (London Irish).

IRELAND A: J Staples (London Irish); T Howe (Dungannon), B Walsh (Constitution), M McCall (Bangor), N Woods (Blackrock College); D Humphreys (Queen's University), A Rolland (Blackrock College); P Soden (Constitution), J McDonald (Malone, capt), P Millar (Ballymena), J Etheridge (Blackrock College), D Tweed (Ballymena), P Hogan (Garryowen), R Wilson, K McKee (Instonians). Replacement: V Costello (St Mary's College) for Tweed, 73.

Referee: D Gillet (France; D Sainsbury, London, 6).