It was certainly a day that Irish fans and players alike will want to forget.
England’s record 57-15 victory over Ireland at Twickenham saw the home side get their World Cup preparations back on track after their disappointing loss to Wales in Cardiff.
England took an early lead thanks to an Owen Farrell penalty with the Ireland forwards unable to keep the scrum up. Ireland did edge in front in the game thanks to a Jacob Stockdale chip and chase before you he ball bounced out of Manu Tuilagi’s path for Jordan Larmour to pounce on.
Ross Byrne added the extra points to edge Joe Schmidt’s team ahead further.
It didn’t take long for England to begin amassing a large lead. They pinned Ireland in after a strong scrum before quickly moving the ball to the opposite end of the field for Joe Cokanasiga to score relatively unchallenged. Owen Farrell’s resulting conversion was unsuccessful, but the ease that the English scored with must have been unsettling for the travelling support.
Ireland took the lead again 26 minutes in, awarded a penalty by Nigel Owens after England held on at the ruck. Byrne kicked the penalty from near halfway, but after this, England began to choke out any Irish threat from the game.
The second English try was as attractive as the first. England got through the phases in the Irish 22 with Billy Vunipola carrying effectively for his side.
Outnumbering Ireland in the corner, England quickly switched play leading to Elliot Daly sliding over the whitewash thanks to Tom Curry’s pass in contact.
England asserted their control further as following a scrum in front of the posts, Manu Tuilagi received the ball from Ben Youngs Becker drifting past Jacob Stockdale and with an Irish player on his back. the Leicester Tiger dove to score the try. Farrell added two further points, giving England a 22-10 lead going into half time.
England’s second half was much of the same. Five minutes after the interval, Maro Itoje ran a brilliant line to evade the likes of Tadhg Furlong and replacement loosehead prop Jack McGrath. Going in under the posts, Farrell’s conversion was a simple one.
It was crash ball that resulted in George Kruis’ score. After Johnny May’s break on the left wing went stagnant, a carry from Curry put England on the try line. Kruis carried alone to place the ball down, despite the attention of two Irish forwards. The score was checked by the TMO, but nothing was deemed to be wrong, with Farrell adding the extras.
A raft of changes from both teams would be the next order of the day which was hardly surprising as it was well over 30 degrees in West London. The changes didn’t effect England in the slightest. Sam Underhill combined with Tom Curry to put the Sale Sharks man over for a score, the pair playing magnificently together.
Mako Vunipola made his long-awaited return from injury too. Trading places with Joe Marler at around the 60-minute mark, his arrival was welcomed with applause from all fans in Twickenham.
Cokanasiga benefitted from a set piece that was of his making. Forcing Stockdale to knock on in contact, the resulting scrum ended in a thing of beauty. Willi Heinz and George Ford combined before Farrell found Cokanasiga. The Bath wing then sailed past Andrew Conway and Jordan Larmour, celebrating before sliding over. Not bad for a player with just one full year of Premiership rugby under his belt.
Not long after man of the match Manu Tuilagi was substituted, Bundee Aki scored the epitome of a consolation try for Ireland. The New Zealand-born centre benefitted from Ireland retaining the ball for longer than four phases and the Connacht man arced his run and evaded Elliot Daly in the process.
Mako Vunipola worryingly had to leave the field, fortunately he was unaided, but it is unsure of the state of his injury.
Luke Cowan-Dickie’s try finished the score-fest at Twickenham for the day. A carbon copy of his score against Wales two weeks earlier, Sean Cronin overthrew at the lineout, with the Chiefs hooker pouncing to register the try. George Ford converted putting the icing on the cake of England’s performance.
England’s performance can only be described as dominant. Outplaying Ireland in every facet of the game, England’s record victory over their fierce rivals was thoroughly deserved and more than worthy of all the praise it has received.
Let’s start with the forwards. The stand-outs were easily Billy Vunipola, Sam Underhill, Tom Curry, Maro Itoje and Kyle Sinckler. Each of these players was a major component in England’s attack, offloading in contact to keep the English going forward. As we saw during the last Lions tour, Kyle Sinckler’s distribution is invaluable when the likes of George Ford and Owen Farrell are otherwise engaged.
Described as the ‘kamikaze kids’ by Eddie Jones prior to the game, the selection of Curry and Underhill was the first time that Jones has ever played two opensides at the same time. The pair seemed to gel perfectly, with them combining for Tom Curry’s score in the second half. Each seemed to be involved in every ruck in both attack and defence.
Billy Vunipola was often at the front of an England attack too. So difficult to tackle to the ground, Vunipola was one of many names that could have been named man of the match if it weren’t for Manu Tuilagi’s performance.
Speaking of Tuilagi. The Leicester centre looked unbeatable back at outside centre. Carrying effectively every time the ball went into his mitts, Tuilagi scored a try, as well as playing an instrumental part in several of England’s other scores and a huge hit on Leinster’s Jordan Larmour too.
Listed as 114kg, Tuilagi looks set to play a major part in England’s World Cup campaign and he has been a delight to watch.
Owen Farrell, back in a 12 shirt, played the role of a more regular inside centre whilst George Ford operated at fly-half Elliot Daly had perhaps his best game at fullback for England, but with that said, he went virtually unchallenged for the entire game, not facing a high ball once. Added to this, the former Wasps man kicked well to challenge the Irish. Surely a positive sign given how so many are sceptical about him at fullback.
There was one worrying aspect of England’s summer delight. Mako Vunipola couldn’t make it 20 minutes before being hauled off with what looked like an ankle injury. As of right now it is unclear what this means for Vunipola’s World Cup hopes, but another ball player in the front row couldn’t hurt.
Well, there weren’t many positives that Ireland can take from this match. None of Joe Schmidt’s players covered themselves in glory at Twickenham, seeming passive in defence at times. Andy Farrell’s stock as a defensive genius is dramatically falling.
For virtually all of England’s tries, the Ireland defence struggled when their opposition moved the ball from one touchline to the other. This was clearly something that England had recognised in their preparation for the game and used this defensive frailty to their own advantage extremely well.
In comparison to England’s backrow players, Ireland’s had little to no effect on the match whatsoever. Josh van der Flier had no impact on the game in either attack or defence and the same can be said for CJ Stander, who in comparison to his opposite number Billy Vunipola, may as well not have laced his boots on Saturday afternoon.
Analysis of Ireland's very poor defensive performance against England.— Murray Kinsella (@Murray_Kinsella) August 26, 2019
So many issues across the pitch. All of them fixable but lots of work for Andy Farrell and the players to do. https://t.co/QFrOyeOLHs
Another man that had a difficult day in London was Ross Byrne. Making his first start in an Ireland shirt, Byrne did have good moments, but overall it wasn’t a particularly good day for the Leinster backup.
Undoubtedly a talent, Byrne was too static in attack when compared to his opposite number George Ford. For example, Byrne would virtually stop before passing the ball, slowing play dramatically. Ford would do the opposite, passing when still moving, the ball going flat for his teammates to attack at full speed.
Doing the same when kicking the ball too, it wasn’t a particularly good show for the former Ireland Sevens player. Targeted by the likes of Tuilagi and Vunipola, possibly due to his slight frame, Byrne did stand up well in the tackle, regularly bringing the players he was tackling to ground.