By Phil James
Ireland 6 – 12 England
Owen Farrell kicked four penalties at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday to give England their first 6-Nations win in Dublin for ten years.
The heavy rain meant that forward play and handling was vital and Farrell’s four scores, from six attempts, was enough to win it for England as the match finished without a try.
Ireland had named and unchanged line-up from last week’s win over Wales while England brought in James Haskell in for the injured Ben Morgan.
Ireland had the majority of possession in a tense first half but could not breach the English defence and repeated handling errors cost them dear.
They handed the ever reliable Farrell a chance to kick at goal in the first two minutes and he duly put England 3-0 up.
The fly-half was then lucky not to be yellow carded for a cynical off-the-ball tackle on Conor Murray, and he then added to Ireland’s woes making it 6-0 on the half hour, as Ireland were penalised for coming in at the side.
The poor weather conditions and England pressure forced further Irish handling errors, with seven in the first half hour, coming at crucial areas of the pitch.
Only a rare Farrell miss avoided a 9-0 half-time score, after a poor Gordon D’Arcy pass left Ronan O’Gara unable to clear and penalised for holding onto the ball.
But Ireland turned the tables in the second half, playing a territorial game with good kicking and pressure which yielded the first penalties England had conceded in their own half.
O’Gara, a first half replacement for Jonathan Sexton, took advantage of ill-discipline from Dan Cole and Haskell in turn to kick two penalties making it 6-6 by the three quarter mark.
Haskell was judged to have interfered at the breakdown and was yellow carded but his stint in the sin bin seemed to galvanise England who had been under the cosh in the second half.
Almost immediately, a Farrell kick to the corner put the pressure on and though Robert Kearney recovered the ball he was forced to concede a lineout at the five metre line.
From there a Ben Youngs kick created the best try-scoring opportunity of the match with Manu Tuilagi tantalizingly close to collecting for the score.
However a penalty had already been given against Ireland and Farrell kicked his easiest chance of the match to put England back in front and within soon the lead was back to six.
A good kick and chase from Mike Brown resulted in a crunching tackle by Courtney Lawes on Kearney who subsequently held on to the ball and Farrell made it six points in two minutes despite England being a man-down.
With ten minutes left, O’Gara had a penalty kick to reduce the lead but missed from almost an identical spot to where he had already converted twice.
With that the Irish team and crowd seemed to sense it was not going to be their day and England played out most of the remaining minutes in the Irish half, Farrell even missing a penalty to extend the lead.
Though Captain Chris Robshaw won man of the match, it was an excellent team performance with crucial roles played by Farrell, Youngs and Goode as well as the forwards.
England were the more composed side, making less mistakes and turning their pressure and opportunities into points.