England rain on Ireland's St Patrick's Day parade
Ireland were overpowered at Twickenham as England coped with the conditions much the better to grind out a 30-9 victory.
When we went to France (the first time anyway) the story was the weather and once again the elements hampered Ireland on their travels. This time the torrential rain meant that Ireland’s more finesse game (than England’s anyway) never got going and whichever team made the last errors was going to take it. From early on it was clear that was the men in white.
The signs weren’t good when the very first scrum of the game collapsed and England were awarded a penalty, duly dispatched by Owen Farrell. The scrum would be a problem all day, with England nicking two against the head in the first half alone.
The highlight for Ireland in the opening exchanges was an audacious and oh-so-close monster drop goal attempt from Rob Kearney close to the half-way line. Sadly, the Leinster man hit the post. Jonny Sexton levelled it after 16 minutes and it quickly became apparent that the men taking the kicks could well decide this one.
Another penalty from an Irish scrum allowed Farrell to put England back in front. The few forays Ireland managed came to naught via knock-on or missed passes or very strange choices like D’Arcy’s attempt at a drop goal.
The half ended on a high for Ireland as England botched the ending and allowed Ireland to steal and win a late, late penalty which Sexton converted. It gave us hope, misplaced as it turned out.
Early in the second half Tom Croft burst away and looked nailed on to score the game’s first try but the slippery ball fell from his grasp but from the resultant scrum, England earned another penalty, allowing Farrell to double England’s advantage once again. It forced Declan Kidney to make his changes very early, so after just 47 minutes the arrival of Ronan O’Gara and Tomas O’Leary saw D’Arcy and Eoin Reddan depart.
But even after the switches, like at Cheltenham, Ireland were doing just about okay but it was looking like the locals had the upper hand. That impression as further confirmed when the scrum once again yielded English points. After a series of five-metre scrums Nigel Owens eventually awarded a penalty try, even if it was a little harsh, the English dominance probably merited a 10-point lead. The enforced departure of Mike Ross was leaving the Irish crum critically underpowered.
Yet another Farrell penalty added three more. Hopes were raised when Keith Earls made a break that brought Ireland into a rare tacking position but it yielded no points.
The final 15 was just more of the same. Mistakes led to England getting a foothold and some quick thinking by Ben Youngs saw him tap and go and score to put 18 between the sides with five to go. It would eventually stretch to 21 with yet another Farrell penalty.
Ireland never got into gear and the conditions played perfectly to England's strengths but a defeat like that, to the old enemy, on March 17, certainly smarts. The scrum was obliterated and we haven't seen a defeat like that in quite a while.
Of course, earlier in the day, Scotland ended up with the wooden spoon after going down to Italy while Wales wrapped up the Grand Slam thanks to a 16-9 win over a fairly rubbish France, bringing a strangely unsatisfying Six Nations to a close. A very grim close for Ireland.