Guinness Six Nations
Ireland 32-18 England
Jack Conan scored one try and made another as 14-man Ireland overpowered England to beat them for the first time in three years.
The No.8 set up Keith Earls mid-way through the first half, patting down a lineout to the winger who then picked a brilliant line, broke through England’s defence and sprinted to score.
Conan then grabbed one himself by burrowing his way over with a pick-and-go following a brilliant spell of Ireland possession inside England’s 22.
The hosts were in command for much of the game but were made to sweat at the end, as Bundee Aki was sent off for a dangerous tackle on Billy Vunipola in the 64th minute.
Ben Youngs crossed for England a minute later but Ireland quickly re-grouped and saw the game out, with Johnny Sexton adding two penalties.
The fly-half finished with 22 points from a flawless kicking performance, the most in his Ireland career, while Jonny May scored a late consolation try for England at the end.
The result marked a perfect send-off for Ireland’s CJ Stander, who is retiring from rugby this summer.
England were hit with a blow just before kick off as full-back Max Malins failed a late fitness test and was replaced by centre Ollie Lawrence – with Elliot Daly moving to full-back.
Daly’s first involvement saw him kick the ball out of play on the full but England settled quicker than their hosts and scored the first points of the game through an Owen Farrell penalty.
Jacob Stockdale, back in the Ireland team after injury, was then turned over inside his own 22 after chasing a deep kick back towards his own line, but England could not take advantage in the right corner.
A smart lineout routine almost brought a try, with the ball just about held up over the line, but England then gave away a penalty at the following scrum by pushing too soon.
Ireland then levelled the score in the 17th minute as a perfect up-and-under kick from fly-half Sexton and kick-chase from Robbie Henshaw drew a penalty from Daly, allowing Sexton to land his first kick of the day.
In a tight game, chances to get hands on the ball inside the opponent’s half were few and far between but Ireland still carved out an excellent try mid-way through the half.
Rob Herring’s lineout on halfway found Conan at the back and he knocked it down to Earls, who ran straight through a gap and waltzed his way to the line.
Sexton nailed the conversion and he and Farrell then exchanged penalties to leave Ireland 13-6 to the good after 30 minutes.
Ireland stretched that even further shortly before half-time as another Sexton spiral kick caused problems for Daly. Hugo Keenan beat him to the ball, and from there Ireland moved left where Conan was on hand to drive over the line.
The team leading at half-time has gone on to win each of the last 27 meetings between these two sides but England, keen to snap that streak, came out firing at the beginning of the second half.
But Ireland were sharper and continued to prey on England’s mistakes. They almost scored a third try in the 49th minute when Sexton’s cross-field kick was dotted down brilliantly by Earls – only for the TMO to spot a knock-on earlier in the move.
England were bullied at the breakdown and the scrum, gifting Sexton two more penalties as the hosts gradually edged out of sight.
However, the momentum shifted in the 64th minute when Aki was sent off after his shoulder made direct contact with Vunipola’s head while making a tackle.
England capitalised immediately, kicking to the corner, completing a lineout and scoring a try off the first phase as Jamie George broke free down the blindside and slipped in Youngs to dot down.
However, two more Sexton penalties calmed the nerves and put them out of sight once more, even though Conor Murray was sent to the sin-bin with three minutes left.
Ireland were down to 13 men when May scored a try in the corner, but England were too far behind to stage a comeback.