Cole-fired pack drive England past tiring Irish
England 30 Ireland 9: Scrummage yields penalty try and points for Farrell as young team round off a hugely encouraging campaign
The set-piece domination was reminiscent of indignities suffered at England's hands by woeful Australian sides of recent memory but very rarely by opponents closer to home. When Ireland have lost at Twickenham in the Six Nations it has never been done by halves: 50 points shipped in 2000, 45 in 2002, 33 in 2008. But green has been the dominant colour; this was England's second win in the last nine championship meetings, home and away. Lacking their injured talisman, Brian O'Driscoll, and Paul O'Connell, and playing a fourth match in four weekends due to their rescheduled trip to Paris, the Irish, but for a run by Keith Earls here or there , were not a force.
Stuart Lancaster, England's interim coach, will give the media a debrief here on Tuesday, with any possible final interview for him and another candidate or candidates to follow before the announcement of a permanent head coach. It may be noted that the vilified coaching team under Martin Johnson won this championship last year with four wins from five, but a concluding defeat in Ireland that exposed endemic problems carried over into a dire World Cup. In this Six Nations there have been nine new caps and no one fielded who will not make the 2015 World Cup. There has been a coherent plan, and Lancaster has taken responsibility for it.
Even if the two months Twickenham has spent as the House of Lancaster last no longer, his has been a finger in the dyke to stem dissipating confidence, with new blood brought in. It fits the RFU job he has done for five years: head of eliteplayer development.
The challenges of Test-match play are many times more complicated. Under grey, rainy skies this was no St Patrick's Day parade; more a case of Ireland stumbling into a scrummaging road-crash. The visitors set out with greater proficiency at crossing the gainline. England's tyro fly-half, Owen Farrell, mostlyfavoured the punt in the greasy conditions, mindful perhaps that Brad Barritt is not a second playmaker, despite Lancaster saying before the tournament that was what he preferred. Lancaster had also professed faith in a fast, fetcher openside, and he did not pick one of those either.
That the scrummage went so well was good for the claims of the forwards coach, Graham Rowntree, to continue for the tour to South Africa and beyond. Farrell kicked a penalty against Ireland's scrum in the second minute, there were couple of sliced clearances by his scrum-half, Lee Dickson, and Jonny Sexton levelled after 13 minutes. By half-time England were 9-6 up, with two more penalties by Farrell to one by Sexton.
There had been a huge, beautifully struck drop-goal attempt by Ireland's full-back, Rob Kearney, that hit a post. England hammered away in the scrum; on one occasion the set-piece broke up with the Irish flanker Stephen Ferris asking for treatment to his hand and apparent complaints of foul play by England, possibly a bite. Significantly, when one of the three or four scrum penalties England won was kicked to touch and the line-out was secured, the white jerseys failed to breach the gainline despite the efforts of Manu Tuilagi and Ben Morgan. Only in broken field did Morgan, the No 8, show his considerable talent for busting through and around opponents.
Five minutes into the second half a comic episode unfolded on England's left wing. Tom Croft, the leggy flanker who ran in the third try in Paris a week before, got clear. He galloped 30 metres then, when glancing inside at Chris Ashton, fumbled the ball. A schoolboy error. Never mind – the scrum on Ireland's put-in yieldeda penalty. Tuilagi raced 30 metres to hug Dan Cole, the tighthead, and Farrell's kick made it 12-6.
Sexton chipped over a penalty but the English forwards knew they were on to a good thing. A drive finished with the Welsh referee, Nigel Owens, blowing for a penalty just before Tom Palmer grounded the ball for a try. Having told the Irish he could not penalise what he had not seen, Owens this time apologised to England.
No matter, the ensuing scrummage was one-way traffic, Sean O'Brien and others broke off and Owens awarded England a penalty try, Farrell converting for 19-9 with 22 minutes remaining.
Farrell's penalty after a scrum made it 22-9 and when Dickson's replacement, Ben Youngs, tapped and scored from yet another scrum and penalty the collective hugging reached new heights. Though Farrell missed the conversion he kicked a 78th-minute penalty to finish with seven out of eight, 20 points and a deserved part in England's ecstasy.
England: B Foden; C Ashton (both Northampton), M Tuilagi(Leicester), B Barritt, D Strettle; O Farrell (all Saracens), L Dickson (Northampton); A Corbisiero (London Irish), D Hartley (Northampton), D Cole (Leicester), M Botha (Saracens), G Parling, T Croft (both Leicester), B Morgan (Scarlets), C Robshaw (Harlequins, capt). Replacements: B Youngs (Leicester) for Dickson, 48; T Palmer (Stade Français) for Botha, 55; M Brown (Harlequins) for Foden, 70; P Dowson (Northampton) for Morgan, 75; M Stevens (Saracens) for Corbisiero, 75; L Mears (Bath) for Hartley (Northampton), 75.
Ireland: R Kearney (Leinster); T Bowe (Ospreys), K Earls (Munster), G D'Arcy (Leinster), A Trimble (Ulster); J Sexton, E Reddan; C Healy (all Leinster), R Best (Ulster, capt), M Ross (Leinster), D O'Callaghan, D Ryan (both Munster), S Ferris (Ulster), J Heaslip, S O'Brien (both Leinster). Replacements: T Court (Ulster) for Ross, 36; T O'Leary (Munster) for Reddan, 47; R O'Gara (Munster) for D'Arcy, 47; M McCarthy (Connacht) for O'Callaghan, 66;P O'Mahony (Munster) for O'Brien, 69; F McFadden (Leinster) for Trimble, 74; S Cronin (Leinster) for Best, 78.
Referee: N Owens (Wales).
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