Ireland’s winning run came to an end, losing 20 – 9 at Adams Park on Friday night against England.
The match was more one-sided than the score suggests as Ireland’s youngsters found it difficult to cope with the power and pace of their English counterparts, with the visitors losing the initiative, and effectively the game, in the opening minutes.
England (15) 20
TRY: Anthony Watson, Dan Robson, Marland Yarde
CON: Tom Heathcote
PEN: Tom Heathcote
Ireland (3) 9
PEN: Paddy Jackson (3)
While England out gunned their opponents in the physical stakes they looked as though they would struggle to cope under pressure. Unfortunately, Ireland let them off the hook in the opening minute, with some poor tackling allowing the English full back Anthony Watson to run through and score under the posts, Tom Heathcote converting.
England proceeded to enjoy the best of the opening twenty minutes with Ireland penalised at nearly every breakdown, but it was Ireland who were next on the score board with Patrick Jackson slotting over a penalty to take the score to 7 – 3.
England hit back with their second try when their scrum half Dan Robson sniped over to take the score to 12 – 3 and it looked as though the home side were going to cut loose. Despite turning down some kickable penalties they did manage to increase their lead, Heathcote slotting over a penalty when JJ Hanrahan took one for the team, taking the hit for a series of Irish offences.
Ireland managed to up their game despite being down to 14 men for the remainder of the half and they enjoyed one of their better periods with Jackson slotting over his second penalty to take the score to 15 – 6 at the break. Unfortunately the score was more reflective of England’s poor decision making rather than Irish resistance.
England ran in their third try through Marland Yarde shortly after the restart, taking the score to 20 – 6, but Ireland managed to pull themselves together and enjoyed their best period as the game slipped into the final third. An altercation between Iain Henderson and a few of the English pack appeared to act as a catalyst as Ireland finally upped their intensity.
Jackson nearly sent hooker Niall Scannell through after a clever chip over the rushing English defence and shortly after Jackson slotted over Ireland’s third penalty following some good work by Stuart Olding.
Ireland continued to push for a score but England held them out reasonably comfortably and the home side ended the game in the ascendancy with Irish wing Conor Finn binned in the closing minutes.
IRELAND: Shane Layden, Conor Finn, Chris Farrell, JJ Hanrahan, Foster Horan, Patrick Jackson, Luke McGrath, Des Merrey, Niall Scannell, Kyle McCall, Iain Henderson, Daniel Qualter, Conor Gilsenan, Aaron Conneely, Jack Conan. Replacements: James Rael, Peter Reilly, Jake Cawley, Tadhg Beirne, Jordan Coghlan, Kieron Marmion, Cathal Marsh, Stuart Olding.
Despite this loss Ireland this series will be viewed as a successful on by Ireland with the win against France an obvious highlight.
It has also been an encouraging series from an Ulster perspective. Jackson, despite coming in for special attention in most games, and young centre Chris Farrell have come through with their reputations enhanced and Henderson and Kyle McCall will be vying for Irish player of the tournament.
I was particularly impressed with McCall on Friday night’s showing with the Ballymena youngster looking good in the set piece and very good indeed in the loose, going through a huge amount of work during the game.
Henderson was a little slow to get into this one, but once he got himself riled up he was the pick of the pack though maybe a little lucky to stay on the pitch after sticking one to a niggling English pack.
Olding looked busy when he came on for the final twenty minutes, keen to get involved and showed some nice touches, adding a bit of impetus to Ireland’s back line play.