Match Centre: Six Nations: England 23-22 Ireland

Marcus Smith's drop goal made the difference for England
Marcus Smith's drop goal made the difference for England
©RFU Collection via Getty

England 23-22 Ireland, Twickenham Stadium

Marcus Smith kicked the decisive drop goal as England edged out Ireland 23-22 to claim a stunning victory at Twickenham.

The result has ended Ireland's chances of winning their second successive Grand Slam but they can still retain the trophy with a win over Scotland in the final round. As for England, they are back up to second place and could still lift the championship themselves.

An early offside infringement from England allowed Ireland to open their account through a penalty kick from Jack Crowley in the third minute to make it 0-3 but Steve Borthwick's troops responded immediately as Tommy Freeman bounced off a tackle to set up Ollie Lawrence, who dived in the corner for the opening try.

George Ford missed out on the conversion and shortly after the try, Ireland winger Calvin Nash left the field for a Head Injury Assessment with Ciaran Frawley taking his place and Hugo Keenan shifting to wing.

The end of the opening quarter saw Ford and Crowley trade penalties as England held a slender 8-6 lead.

Around the half-hour mark, Bundee Aki strayed offside earning England a penalty chance but Ford was off target. The hosts' indiscipline was letting Ireland off the hook and Crowley kicked two more penalties to ensure Andy Farrell's men went into the break with an 8-12 lead.

After the interval, Ireland looked to stamp their authority on the game as James Lowe dived in the corner for their first try but Crowley missed the conversion as the lead remained at nine points.

England then sparked back into life and their front-foot display saw George Martin and Maro Itoje create the space for George Furbank's try. Ford missed the conversion as the scoreline became 13-17.

Ireland suffered another injury setback as Frawley also left the field for a Head Injury Assessment in the 51st minute forcing the influential Gibson-Park to move to wing with Conor Murray slotting in at scrum-half.

Farrell's side were then reduced to 14 men when skipper Peter O'Mahony was sin-binned for cynically diving over a ruck and England pressed on the accelerator as man of the match Ben Earl powered over.

Smith, who replaced Ford, kicked the conversion as England stretched their lead to 20-17 as Danny Care came onto the field for his 100th cap.

The start of the final 10 minutes saw Furbank penalised for holding on as Gibson-Park sent a perfect offload for Lowe to complete his second try. Crowley missed a crucial conversion as Ireland's lead was limited to two points.

Just when Ireland thought they were still on course for a second successive Grand Slam, Smith produced a brilliant drop goal to snatch the one-point victory, the best win of the Borthwick era.

England will require a bonus-point win against France in Lyon next Saturday and will also need Scotland to deny Ireland any points if they are to sensationally win their first Six Nations title since 2020.


England: 15. George Furbank, 14. Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, 13. Henry Slade, 12. Ollie Lawrence, 11. Tommy Freeman, 10. George Ford, 9. Alex Mitchell, 1. Ellis Genge, 2. Jamie George (C), 3. Dan Cole 4. Maro Itoje, 5. George Martin, 6. Ollie Chessum, 7. Sam Underhill, 8. Ben Earl

Replacements: 16. Theo Dan, 17. Joe Marler, 18. Will Stuart, 19. Chandler Cunningham-South, 20. Alex Dombrandt, 21. Danny Care, 22. Marcus Smith, 23. Elliot Daly

Ireland: 15. Hugo Keenan, 14. Calvin Nash, 13. Robbie Henshaw, 12. Bundee Aki, 11. James Lowe, 10. Jack Crowley, 9. Jamison Gibson-Park, 1. Andrew Porter, 2. Dan Sheehan, 3. Tadhg Furlong, 4. Joe McCarthy, 5. Tadhg Beirne, 6. Peter O’Mahony (C), 7. Josh van der Flier, 8. Caelan Doris

Replacements: 16. Ronan Kelleher, 17. Cian Healy, 18. Finlay Bealham, 19. Iain Henderson, 20. Ryan Baird, 21. Jack Conan, 22. Conor Murray, 23. Ciaran Frawley