England vs Ireland match report: Jonny May and Anthony Watson score as Red Rose win hard-fought clash in final World Cup warm-up

England 21 Ireland 13

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The Independent Online

Speedsters Jonny May and Anthony Watson revved England closer to World Cup gear with first-half tries that proved enough to overwhelm Ireland 21-13 at Twickenham.

Stuart Lancaster's men hit the gas in an improved showing, desperate to avoid facing their World Cup opener against Fiji in two weeks off the back of two straight defeats.

Ireland paid the price for an error-strewn first-half, with scrum-half Conor Murray suffering a potentially worrying head injury.

England blasted out of the blocks, hassling Simon Zebo into a hurried clearance and seizing on the territory for the first try.

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Anthony Watson scored a brilliant try after a cross-field kick

 

Courtney Lawes and Tom Youngs offered neat contributions before Ben Youngs' floated pass teed up Jonny May.

The Gloucester wing bumped off the poorly-positioned Tommy Bowe, and scampered in for his fifth England try. George Ford's touchline conversion just had the legs to extend England's immediate lead to 7-0.

England's analysis paid dividends, Stuart Lancaster's men spoiling Ireland's line-clearing plans, then capitalising on that hard-won possession.

Ireland cut the deficit with Johnny Sexton's penalty bouncing on the bar and over, but England stole a second try within the first quarter.

After Ireland struggled to contain England's rolling maul Ford fired a crossfield bomb, catching makeshift full-back Zebo out of position.

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Paul O'Connell got a try back for the Irish early in the second-half

 

Anthony Watson stole in behind Zebo, out-jumped the Munster flyer, and wrestled the ball before dotting down England's second score.

Eoin Reddan temporarily replaced Conor Murray, Ireland's scrum-half sent for a concussion check after a heavy bang to the head.

Scrum-half Murray did not return to action after his 10-minute head injury assessment, raising an immediate World Cup concern for boss Schmidt.

Schmidt gambled on selecting just two scrum-halves in his final World Cup squad, with fly-half Ian Madigan a potential makeshift understudy.

Should Murray's problem prove any lasting concern then Ireland could be forced to look again at calling back either Isaac Boss or Kieran Marmion.

England botched the chance to heap more misery on Ireland, Jonny May denied a second try thanks to a forward pass from Tom Youngs.

Ireland's attempted rally at the death of the half fell flat when Sean O'Brien knocked on in contact.

England drew first blood in the second half thanks to Ford's penalty which, like Sexton's in the first half, bounced on the bar and then over.

Sexton responded from the tee to leave England leading 15-6, but Ireland's pack pulled a well-worked score out of the hat.

Captain Paul O'Connell ground his way over the line after a smart lineout ploy, with Sexton's conversion pulling Ireland within two points of the hosts.

Ireland botched a counter-attack when Robbie Henshaw threw a speculative forward pass, wasting a fine chance to relieve yet more England pressure.

Sam Burgess joined the fray to much acclaim but squandered a potential try with a forward pass, then knocked on poorly in contact.

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England coach Stuart Lancaster watches the action at Twickenham

 

Johnny Sexton was forced to play through the pain of cramp with his kicking limited, until Dave Kearney returned from the blood-bin to allow him to leave the fray.

Simon Zebo pulled up several times with cramp too as the high-octane pace took its toll, Ireland out of backline replacements and forced to soldier on.

Ireland eventually sent prop Tadhg Furlong into action in Zebo's place, with Chris Henry forced to slot in as an emergency wing.

Replacement Owen Farrell botched a four-man overlap by throwing a speculative miss-three pass.

Richard Wigglesworth thought he had scored from the resulting ruck, but the try was ruled out by video replay after Tom Wood was deemed to be offside at a ruck.

England continued to waste territory and possession but Farrell landed a penalty to move the hosts 18-13 ahead.

Farrell slotted his second penalty as England closed out a victory showing far more poise than in their frustrating loss to France in Paris.

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