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Irish Wolfhounds 9 - 18 England Saxons: Roaming Saxons conquer poor Irish

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

Like all auditions, last night's final trial contained a mixture of nerves, frayed performances and some individuals standing out.

What follows is a nervous wait to see what Joe Schmidt made of it all. Some will return with reputations enhanced, others will be cut loose for the rest of spring.

The result, a deserved and ultimately comprehensive win for an England side who controlled the game better and scored the only try through their impressive young out-half Henry Slade, was largely irrelevant. What mattered here was who was putting their hands up for senior selection when the Six Nations gets under way in Rome next Saturday.

Those who emerged with credit were the excellent Iain Henderson and Dominic Ryan who can hope for bench spots at least next week after powerful displays while Sean O'Brien made an impressive return to action.

Up front, Mike Ross may have done enough for Schmidt to keep the faith, while Jack McGrath was quiet as he got a run after his three-week suspension.

But in the backs there was less to marvel for the coach as Kieran Marmion and Ian Madigan - the likely starting out-half against Italy - failed to control the game while Gordon D'Arcy was poor. Alongside him, Keith Earls got through a decent 80 minutes.

Ireland were dealt a blow before arriving at Munster's second home when Luke Fitzgerald's stomach bug caused him to cry off and forced a re-shuffle that saw Craig Gilroy come into the team.

Within 13 minutes, they were forced into another change to their back-three as Fergus McFadden left the field with a rib injury.

A fired-up O'Brien was making a nuisance of himself on his return to action, while Ryan welcomed Sam Burgess to competitive rugby union with a crunching tackle.

Earls and Henderson were looking lively in the loose, while Ross, McGrath and the excellent Richardt Strauss appeared to have the upper hand in the scrum.

However, there was a lack of fluency in the backline whenever the home side established good attacking position and D'Arcy was guilty of forcing the issue on a number of occasions.

That allowed the Saxons to ride out the early storm and Jon Callard's side grew into the half.

Their No 8 Thomas Waldrom did well to break from a rapidly wheeling scrum and surged into Irish territory, before a well-worked Burgess cut-out to Slade set the home defence scrambling.

Smelling blood, they switched the play right where Elliot Daly stayed on his feet well before recycling quickly and Slade crashed over from close range.

He pulled his conversion left, but made amends with a penalty minutes later when Madigan was penalised for holding on.

There was plenty at stake for the Leinster out-half who was having a mixed night, but he made his only attempt at goal after the English back-row cleared the way for a Chris Ashton breakout illegally.

Slade then nailed his kick after a sloppy Mike McCarthy no-arms tackle on Dave Ewers, making it 11-3 at the break.

Things might have gotten worse after play resumed as a poor Marmion kick allowed the Saxons to counter and Daly skinned his opposite number Earls on the outside but his chip eluded Marland Yarde.

Ireland narrowed the lead through Madigan's boot and the same man soon reduced the deficit to two points from a penalty attempt, however, his knock on brought Ireland's best hope of a try to an end just as the crowd were beginning to get excited.

However, it was the Saxons who finished the night on the front-foot and they got their second try on the final play when they capitalised on a scrum penalty by establishing good field position and then patiently went through the phases and eventually worked it around to put Christian Wade over.

Slade converted to give his side a double-score win that probably reflected his side's dominance

IRELAND WOLFHOUNDS: F Jones (capt) (C Gilroy 78); F McFadden (A Conway 13), K Earls, G D'Arcy, C Gilroy (N Reid 73); I Madigan, K Marmion (I Boss 55) J McGrath (M Bent 59), R Strauss (E McKeon 52), M Ross (N White 53); I Henderson, M McCarthy (R Diack 40); Dominic Ryan, S O'Brien (E McKeon 52), J Conan.

ENGLAND SAXONS: C Pennell; C Ashton, E Daly, S Burgess (O Devoto 73), M Yarde (C Wade 50); H Slade, L Dickson (J Simpson 64); M Mullan (A Waller 50), R Webber (L Cowan-Dickie 50), H Thomas; M Garvey ( (C Fearns 74), J Gaskell (M Itoje 16); D Ewers, M Kvesic, T Waldrom.

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