Dramatic late victory for Ireland over England

England 16 Ireland

By Alex Lowe,Pa
Saturday 27 February 2010 20:15

Tommy Bowe scored the decisive try as Ireland resurrected their RBS 6 Nations title ambitions with a dramatic late victory over England.

The Irish arrived at Twickenham desperate to atone for a comprehensive 33-10 defeat to France which wrecked their dreams of successive Grand Slam triumphs.

Bowe put them ahead after four minutes and when Keith Earls slid over early in the second half, Ireland had opened a 13-6 lead and were in control.

But England mounted a comeback with a debut Test try from Leicester prop Dan Cole and took the lead for the first time in the game after 71 minutes with a Jonny Wilkinson drop goal.

Wilkinson's right boot has won England some big games down the years - not least the 2003 World Cup final - but Bowe ensured this was not to be another.

The Lions winger sliced through Wilkinson's tackle and scored the match-winning try as Ireland completed a sixth victory in seven years over England.

With England unbeaten after two rounds, this was always poised to be a key match in the championship.

Both England and Ireland can still win the title but France, as the only unbeaten team, remain strong favourites to seal a Grand Slam.

Munster prop John Hayes became rugby's latest Test centurion in an Ireland team featuring four changes from Paris, including Jonathan Sexton in place of Ronan O'Gara at fly-half.

England manager Martin Johnson had issued a firm vote of confidence in the side that under-performed against Italy by naming an unchanged team for the first time in a year.

Wilkinson bore the brunt of the criticism for England's one-dimensional performance in Rome and endured a mixed evening, which began with a fluffed kick-off and featured four missed kicks at goal.

England had spoken all week of playing with greater attacking ambition and sure enough they ran their first possession from the 22.

But a bright opening quickly turned dark for England when Wilkinson found himself isolated on halfway, Ireland snatched the turnover and scored from a perfectly-executed counter-attack.

Jamie Heaslip delayed his pass for Sexton, who stabbed a grubber kick in behind Lewis Moody and Bowe raced onto it to put Ireland ahead.

To make matters worse, England lock Simon Shaw left the field gingerly holding his wrist and was replaced by Louis Deacon.

Wilkinson missed with a 40-metre drop-goal as advantage was played and then hit the post with his penalty attempt.

England piled forward and a barnstorming run and offload from Nick Easter sent Dylan Hartley to within a metre of the line.

Wilkinson lofted a deft chip into the Ireland in-goal area intended for Delon Armitage but the England full-back's run was impeded - fairly according to referee Mark Lawrence - by Earls.

Wilkinson got England on the board with a simple penalty after 15 minutes before the heavens opened and, with a period of torrential rain, the game became a physical tussle.

Ireland's forwards adapted better. Their driving game was superior and England's lineout began to malfunction, as it did in the second half against Italy.

Earls sliced dangerously through the England midfield before Sexton, having seen one 50-metre effort fall just short, exchanged penalties with Wilkinson. Ireland took an 8-6 lead into the interval.

Sexton and Wilkinson both missed shots at goal after the restart but Ireland's forwards retained the edge, both in the set-piece and at the breakdown.

The margins were fine and England's discipline, as it did in the corresponding game last season, let them down at a key moment.

The England scrum had won a penalty but referee Lawrence reversed it after Care hauled Tomas O'Leary to the ground.

Sexton found touch, Paul O'Connell claimed the lineout, Ireland set a platform in midfield and they swung the ball left for Earls to race over in the corner.

England needed an immediate response and produced it, drawing level with a maiden Test try from Cole after a lengthy deliberation from the Italian television official Carlo Damasco.

Wilkinson used the unlikely figure of Mathew Tait on the crash ball but the England centre held on powerfully and England flooded in support.

Cole drove into Donnacha O'Callaghan and over the line. It was a tight decision but England were level and the momentum had shifted.

O'Driscoll was carried off on a stretcher after taking a heavy blow to the head from the knee of team-mate O'Connell and the momentum had shifted.

Wilkinson could not capitalise immediately, missing a third penalty attempt, but with nine minutes remaining he stepped onto his right foot and drilled a drop-goal.

England led for the first time in the match but it lasted just two minutes.

Ireland crafted a brilliant response, winning clean lineout ball for Bowe to slice through England's defence for his second try of the game.

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