Autumn Nations Cup
England 18-7 Ireland
Ireland suffered a fourth consecutive comprehensive loss to England with defeat in the second round of the Autumn Nations Cup at Twickenham.
Jonny May scored two first-half tries for the Six Nations champions as Andy Farrell’s side struggled to impose any sort of game plan in the face of a dominant England defence.
Ireland were missing injured captain Johnny Sexton and Farrell had selected a relatively inexperienced side that once again failed to trouble the World Cup finalists in any real sense.
Jacob Stockdale grabbed a consolation try with six minutes left but the result had been long decided at that point.
Farrell had targetted some improvement on recent performances against Eddie Jones’ side but will have to look hard to find any positives from the game.
Ireland actually finished the game with superior possession and territory stats, but for all that never looked like cutting through an aggressive England defensive line.
Too many times the set piece failed to provide a platform for the visitors and having spoken about the importance of achieving parity in those areas during the build-up, it served only to encourage the hosts.
Ronan Kelleher struggled to find his target and Ireland lost three lineouts in promising positions in the opening half.
England, with 43% of the ball and just 36% territory in the half, made their possession count.
It was May who did the damage for the Red Rose, the winger first outjumping Hugo Keenan to a tidy Owen Farrell cross-kick for the opening try in the 17th minute before a length-of-the-field effort four minutes later.
It came initially from an Ireland overthrow inside England’s 22.
The ball came to May and he skipped far too easily past Chris Farrell before making his way up to halfway.
The Gloucester wing chipped ahead and outpaced Jamison Gibson-Park to dot down with Farrell converting.
Ireland, who conceded eight first-half penalties, were somewhat lucky not to be further behind before the break, Gibson-Park taking a risk running the ball close to his line but Sam Underhill was adjudged to have played the ball on the ground before touching down.
The lively Keith Earls had Ireland’s best chance off the half, the Munster wing cut down close to the line before England won the breakdown.
It left Ireland 12-0 down at the break and with a mountain to climb.
A 12-phase move at the start of the second half hinted at better to come, but England’s ruck economy meant Farrell’s side, much like the defeat in February, were constantly running into a white brick wall.
A lack of conviction when kicking and the concession of two needless penalties, by Quinn Roux and James Ryan, allowed the England captain to kick six more points and England were three scores clear by the 51st minute.
The lack of imagination or incision was killing Ireland with England comfortably mopping up all the visitors had to offer, Maro Itoje showing his class by snuffing out an attack close to the line.
Ross Byrne, who was making his second start in place of Sexton, almost set up Chris Farrell for a try but the Munster centre couldn’t ground the ball having picked up the out-half’s grubber.
Replacement Stockdale collected Billy Burns’ chip late on to run in for a converted try but the score will fail to gloss over anything other than another disappointing outing against England.
England: Elliot Daly; Jonathan Joseph, Ollie Lawrence, Henry Slade, Jonny May; Owen Farrell (capt), Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Joe Launchbury, Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola.
Replacements: Tom Dunn, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Jonny Hill, Ben Earl, Dan Robson, George Ford, Max Malins.
Ireland: Hugo Keenan, Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Bundee Aki, James Lowe, Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Cian Healy, Ronan Kelleher, Andrew Porter, Quinn Roux, James Ryan (capt), CJ Stander, Peter O’Mahony, Caelan Doris.
Replacements: Rob Herring, Finlay Bealham, John Ryan, Iain Henderson, Will Connors, Conor Murray, Billy Burns, Jacob Stockdale.
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)