Ceithreann Murray examines Sunday’s 12-6 defeat
Inaccuracy, healing poor kicking, sovaldi sale and a series of errors, find caused by superb English line speed, ultimately cost Ireland in horrible wet conditions in Dublin. While the home side’s physicality was never in question, and they really did give it everything with notable performances from O’Brien and Best, they were simply bossed at crucial moments in the game by a more disciplined, more focused England.
In a game where the margin is 6 points, obviously it’s easy to talk of discipline simply in the context of penalties, but in such difficult conditions, the parameters of discipline extend to execution at the set piece, control of the ball in contact, and accuracy in the contact zone, among other things.
It was England who started the better. Their controlled, slow phase play eventually invited an infringement from Irish captain Jamie Heaslip, with Owen Farrell taking the 3 points on offer giving the old enemy the lead after 3 minutes. England would dominate the opening fifteen minutes, controlling the ball and turning the Irish with some excellent positional kicks from Farrell, Youngs, and Goode in particular. England’s kicking strategy was simple; isolating Craig Gilroy, who isn’t known for his kicking game and this worked in tandem with Farrell consistently placing the ball in areas where Kearney would struggle to get an angle for his left boot.
However the outstanding feature of the English play was their line speed in defence. The eagerness and physicality of their three-quarters to get off the gainline and close down the space, forced numerous Irish handling errors, whereas England on the other hand really valued the ball in contact.
The Irish cause was not helped by first half injuries to both Simon Zebo and Jonny Sexton, and while Zebo’s replacement Keith Earls was responsible for Ireland’s only major chance in the first half, following a sublime O’Driscoll skip pass, his kicking out of hand was generally poor.
The loss of Sexton to a suspected hamstring injury was detrimental to the Irish cause, as his replacement Ronan O’Gara, on the occasion of his 127th cap, was really not at the races.
The second half finished on a sour note for Ireland, while after an English lineout, Heaslip was adjudged to have entered the resulting maul from the side, and Farrell made it 0-6 to the visitors in the 28th minute. The score remained as such until the second half.
Ireland reappeared more invigorated in the second half and brought a greater degree of accuracy and cohesion at the set piece where their scrum and lineout eventually began to get on top, prompting English coach Stuart Lancaster to make three instant changes to the tight five, with Lawes, Vunipola and Hartley introduced early on. Persistent Irish pressure led to Ireland’s first kickable penalty in the 51st minute and O’Gara reduced the deficit to 3.
Ireland were thrown a serious life line in the 58th minute when England’s James Haskell was sinbinned for deliberately kicking the ball out of a ruck while he was on the ground, and the game was leveled.
However rather than kick on from this numerically advantageous position, aimless Irish tactical kicking meant that the team failed to establish any field position.
Their opponents on the on the other hand kicked the ball well, and chose when to compete for the ball on the deck. Mike Brown won a penalty after a crunching Lawes tackle on Kearney. This and a further penalty made the final score 6-12 to England.
The most frustrating aspect of this result from an Irish perspective is that in a game where conditions are as bad as they were on Sunday, it’s nearly impossible for the physically smaller team to win.
No pace can be injected into the game as passing is so difficult, so the bigger team simply needs to trust its defensive system and make its tackles. However that’s not to ignore the fact that England were the more accurate, clinical team on the day, as Jamie Heaslip put it: ‘’It’s a wet ball for both teams.’’