England keep their hopes of a Grand Slam alive with a 21-10 win against Ireland
Two Owen Farrell penalties gave Eddie Jones’ men a narrow 6-3 lead at the break
Conor Murray opened the try-scoring to give Ireland the lead after the restart
Tries from Anthony Watson and Mike Brown gave the men in white the crucial win
Jones’ side take on Wales at Twickenham on March 12 before final match against France on March 19
Second-half tries from Anthony Watson and Mike Brown sealed a come-from-behind victory for England that keeps alive their chance of a Grand Slam in their first Six Nations under Eddie Jones.
They had No 8 Billy Vunipola largely to thank for a win they will take much heart from, despite the sometimes stop-start nature of a game which saw England lose James Haskell and Danny Care to the sin-bin in the second half
England also had to overcome the concession of a Conor Murray try shortly after half-time, but the hosts would eventually pull clear to set up a potential Championship decider against unbeaten Wales at Twickenham in two weeks time.
The evening in South-West London had begun with Jonny Sexton slotting a penalty, but it would be England who were the far more dominant side during the opening 40.
Owen Farrell levelled for Eddie Jones’ men after 13 minutes before the hosts started to take complete control.
However, they only held a narrow 6-3 lead at the break due to Ireland’s phenomenal defence, which denied the men in white time after time with Billy Vunipola, Dylan Hartley and James Haskell all being halted inches from the try-line.
The second half started with Ireland rejuvenated and within four minutes of the restart their pressure paid off as England were reduced to 14 men after Haskell was shown yellow for a dangerous tackle on scrum-half Conor Murray.
Murray took the full benefit of the man advantage as one minute later he sniped over for the game’s opening try, which was the first Jones’ men had conceded in this year’s competition. Sexton then added the difficult touchline conversion to give the visitors a four-point lead, 6-10.
Farrell replied from the tee to reduce the deficit to a single point after 50 minutes before the home side recaptured the lead through Anthony Watson just shy of the hour.
The winger, who turned 22 on Friday, dived over unobstructedly following after England moved the ball quickly from rightly to left after a spectacular initial break from Jack Nowell. Farrell though could not add the tricky conversion, 14-10.
Five minutes later England took a commanding lead as Mike Brown dotted down after the men in white quickly recycle and pass the ball across the pitch, where fullback has the simple task of diving across for the score. This time, Farrell converted, which mean there was for the first time daylight between the sides as the hosts held an 11-point lead.
Ireland almost replied instantly, but Henshaw lost control as he attempted to ground the ball, but he was in touch first. The last-gasp tackle was great defence by Nowell, but the visitors butchered what was a golden scoring opportunity.
Replacement scrum-half Danny Care was then sent to the bin for not rolling away after the referee another look at the big screen. A minute later Josh Van der Flier thought he’d got Ireland’s second try but the TMO ruled he did not ground the ball.
MAN OF THE MATCH
England: Billy Vunipola
Vunipola produced a carrying display of such brutal, destructive force it sometimes seemed the 23-year-old No 8 was playing Ireland on his own. The vice-captain has without doubt been England’s best player so far this year.
England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Anthony Watson, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 James Haskell, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 Jack Clifford, 21 Danny Care, 22 Elliot Daly, 23 Alex Goode
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 CJ Stander, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Jack McGrath
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Nathan White, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Simon Zebo
Date: Saturday, February 27
Kick-off: 16:50 GMT
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Alexandre Ruiz (France)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)