England vs Ireland match report: Anthony Watson and Mike Brown tries see dogged hosts keep Grand Slam hopes alive

England 21 Ireland 10: Eddie Jones’s red-rose team make it three wins from three and keep on course for a first clean sweep since the Class of 2003   

Mike Brown evades Robbie Henshaw to score England’s second try
Mike Brown evades Robbie Henshaw to score England’s second try

England’s post-World Cup revival gathered pace with a pair of second-half tries in the space of six minutes by Anthony Watson and Mike Brown to beat the Six Nations champions of the past two seasons. The next match here with Wales on Saturday week will shape the destiny of this year’s title.

There were errors aplenty from England before half-time, and they trailed 10-6 after 45 minutes when James Haskell was sent to the sin-bin for a high tackle, and the Irish scrum-half Conor Murray scored a try converted by Johnny Sexton.

But Watson’s ninth try in 18 Tests, followed swiftly by Brown’s finish in oodles of space on the end of a sweeping move after Watson had gone close, helped continue the wining start to Eddie Jones’s tenure as head coach. The Australian had won one and lost two in matches in charge of the Wallabies at Twickenham.

So he evened his personal score but much more importantly his new-old England team remained on the path to a first Grand Slam since 2003, and second Six Nations Championship title in that time. “I’m still trying to work out what a Grand Slam means,” said Jones, oddly. “All we want to do is beat Wales in two weeks.”

In the far-from-flawless wins over Scotland, Italy and Ireland, Jones has successfully introduced young talent to the team, including Maro Itoje, Jack Clifford and, here, the Wasps centre Elliot Daly off the bench. With pep talks and cuddles, he has eked a series of irresistible performances from the barrel- chested Saracens No 8 Billy Vunipola, who kept charging despite a nasty bang on the wrist early on.

And with a brilliant saving tackle by Jack Nowell to prevent a try by Robbie Henshaw on 65 minutes, and preserve the 21-10 lead achieved through the Watson and Brown tries in the preceding eight minutes, England showed they had the heart to avert possible disaster. When Danny Care in the 72nd minute collected England’s second yellow card of the second half, there was still danger, but the home team held out.

In midweek Jones had suggested Johnny Sexton’s parents would be concerned by the fly-half taking part after a recent whiplash injury. In the event, Sexton played beautifully and could have done no more to drive and cajole his team, with sashaying breaks and outstanding leadership of an injury-ravaged team that contained two debutants in Josh van der Flier and Stuart McCloskey.

Ireland set out like a non-league team through to the later rounds of the FA Cup who daren’t mount an all-out attack in case their better opponents pick off a disorganised defence. England mounted plenty of attacks – six very good ones in the first half alone, and five of those in or near the so-called red zone in the Ireland 22. Trouble was, they all went unfinished.

Replacement Billy Vunipola was a handful at all times and confirmed his status as force of nature

The two penalty goals kicked by Owen Farrell in the 11th and 35th minutes for a 6-3 lead were won at the breakdown; Sexton’s opener after four minutes was awarded against Dan Cole folding inwards in an England scrum.

In the first 40 minutes we saw Jonathan Joseph hack downfield when he might have run, and Rob Kearney got back well to tidy up; James Haskell lost the ball in contact with a huge overlap looming; Billy Vunipola and George Kruis did well to batter towards the line only for Dylan Hartley, the captain, to make a double movement in overstretching for the goal-line; a three-man overlap went begging when George Ford was shut down before he could pass; Ford and Joseph failed to combine with a sharp link between the Bath club colleagues; and finally Mike Brown’s tip-on pass to Joseph went forward with another fine position in the offing.

Did England’s hapless half-dozen feed into the voguish idea of the Six Nations Championship being a poor second-best in quality compared with the World Cup, whose final between New Zealand and Australia we witnessed on this ground less than four months ago? Maybe in this world of instant analysis, of watch-pause-rewind-repeat ad infinitum, both great play and mistakes are magnified disproportionately. Even so, until England can work out how to make use of the space their build-up play creates, they will remain among the global also-rans.

Fortunately for their title ambitions and the blood pressure of an ever-supportive Twickenham throng, the overlaps eventually paid off.

Strangely eschewing kicks at goal, Ireland secured a line-out through Devin Toner and Murray followed up CJ Stander’s barge to score.

Farrell kicked a penalty in reply, to trim Ireland’s game to 10-9, before Chris Robshaw’s long pass after Ben Youngs had almost overplayed the hand put Watson in at the left corner.

Farrell missed the conversion but the pugnacious fly-half being deployed by Jones at inside-centre was able to fling the long scoring pass for Brown, with Nowell a happy spectator even further outside the outflanked Irish defence, and Farrell added the conversion.

Brown cut Murray’s face by hacking for the ball on the ground; Van der Flier appeared extremely unlucky to have a try ruled out when Daly tackled him and the TMO could not spy any grounding.

It left Jones a mostly satisfied man. “We left 10 to 15 points out there in the first half and if we’d won 30-10 we’d have been talking about one of the most impressive performances of all time. We’ll get those points in the future. In terms of the Six Nations this was a pretty decent step up. Billy Vunipola is enjoying being vice-captain, he’s not a great talker but he leads by example.”

He added that England are likely to add Manu Tuilagi to the midfield mix in training if the huge centre comes through his match for Leicester against London Irish on Sunday.

CJ Stander had a huge work rate, at line-out and about field

England M Brown (Harlequins); J Nowell (Exeter), J Joseph (Bath), O Farrell (Saracens; E Daly, Wasps, 66), A Watson (Bath); G Ford (Bath), B Youngs (Leicester; D Care, Harlequins, 59; sin-bin, 72); J Marler (Harlequins; M Vunipola, Saracens, 60), D Hartley (capt, Northampton; J George, Saracens, 71), D Cole (Leicester), M Itoje (Saracens), G Kruis (Saracens), C Robshaw (Harlequins; J Clifford, Harlequins, 71), J Haskell (Wasps; sin-bin, 45-55; C Lawes, Northampton, 77), B Vunipola (Saracens).

Ireland R Kearney (Leinster); A Trimble (Ulster); R Henshaw (Connacht), S McCloskey (Ulster; S Zebo, Munster, 63), K Earls (Munster); J Sexton (Leinster; I Madigan, Leinster, 76), C Murray (Munster; E Reddan, Leinster, 71); J McGrath (Leinster; C Healy, Leinster, 60), R Best (capt, Ulster; R Strauss, Leinster, 71), M Ross (Leinster; N White, Connacht, 60), D Ryan (Munster; U Dillane, Connacht, 66), D Toner (Leinster), CJ Stander (Munster; R Ruddock, Leinster, 66), Josh van der Flier (Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster).

Referee: R Pointe (France).

Attendance 81,826

England

Tries: Watson, Brown

Con: Farrell

Pens: Farrell 3

Ireland

Try: Murray

Con: Sexton

Pen: Sexton

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in