Six Nations: Coach Andy Farrell salutes young England side's 'masterclass' on occasion made for the experienced campaigners

England beat Ireland 12-6 in Dublin

The third quarter of a tight Test match is traditionally the time when the eventual winners make their pitch: down the decades, the All Blacks have made it their business to put opponents to the sword in the 20 minutes after half-time and keep twisting the blade until the blood runs cold. Yesterday, a pumped-up Ireland chose this precise moment to go after England – but were repulsed.

No one in the vicinity of Lansdowne Road was more impressed than Andy Farrell, the red-rose backs coach, who "majors" on defence. "That was the turning point," said the great rugby league player, whose contribution to the union game in England may, in the final reckoning, be seen as every bit as considerable.

"In that third quarter we were making back-to-back errors. But the way we came through it was a masterclass. For a young side to do that against opponents who had been there and done it so many times was outstanding, because an occasion like that was made for the likes of Brian O'Driscoll and Ronan O'Gara, who really know how to get through these games. It was a credit to everyone involved."

Farrell was just about the perfect man to talk about the abstractions and immeasurables of a contest in which precise technical skills and clever tactical ruses were, if far from irrelevant, even further from the whole story. England's first Six Nations victory in Dublin for a decade was hammered out on a different anvil in a different forge: the one where guts and soul and spirit are the principal products.

At times, there were players dotted all over the field, being treated by medical teams forced to split up into small units as a means of sharing the workload. If the Irish came off worst in the body count – the wing Simon Zebo, so thrillingly inventive in the opening weekend victory over Wales in Cardiff, broke a bone in his foot and will miss the rest of the championship; Jonathan Sexton, the best outside-half in Europe, was helped from the field with a nasty hamstring injury – there was a significant spillage of blood in both camps.

In such an environment, then, it was asking a great deal of an England pack with only two members in the 20-cap category to quieten and quell such seasoned and accomplished forwards as Rory Best, Sean O'Brien and the reigning Lions No 8 Jamie Heaslip. It was asking even more of a freshly-minted midfield axis to square up to Sexton and those two magisterial centres of the modern Irish era, Gordon D'Arcy and Brian O'Driscoll.

Yet the England eight finished ahead of the game, despite finding themselves on the wrong end of a green-shirted resurgence at the start of the second half. "It defines you as a group, winning a game like this away from home," said a straight-faced forwards coach Graham Rowntree, who, like the former head coach Andy Robinson before him, has a habit of appearing really miserable when he is in fact very happy.

As for the midfielders, they over-achieved to a spectacular degree. Owen Farrell's appetite for what the tennis professionals call the "clutch points" in a match has been well established for a while, but even he played above and beyond expectation here.

When the England team gathered in a circle to await the appearance of the home side, it was the Saracens player who did all the talking. When he was hurt in the opening exchanges after being clattered in the act of sending up a high kick for Chris Ashton to chase, he did not for a second wonder whether he was in the right condition to kick for goal when a penalty was awarded moments later. Disguising a limp, he hit the "middle of the middle", to borrow a phrase from the former England coach Dave Alred, and set the scoreboard rolling.

Outside him, Billy Twelvetrees and Brad Barritt squared up to their illustrious opponents on the gain line and refused to concede ground. D'Arcy was in one of his more frenzied moods – at one point, he ran 40 metres to tell the England front-rowers that they had just been outscrummaged, as if they didn't already know – while O'Driscoll, who celebrated the birth of daughter Sadie just before kick-off, was in full warpaint. Yet neither Irishman could make a significant impact on proceedings.

For Mike Catt, the England attacking skills coach, the enjoyment was counter-intuitive: there were precious few silk-woven skills on display, give or take the odd flash of class from the outstanding Alex Goode. Did Catt care? Did he hell. "That," he said, "was a massive learning curve for us. To win in these circumstances, under those challenges? At international level, that's what it's all about."

Suggested Topics
Sport
Brazilian fans watch the match for third place between Brazil and Netherlands
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: Dutch pile on the misery in third place playoff
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?