Ireland suffer record defeat to England as World Cup warm-up turns sour at Twickenham
England 57-15 Ireland
Ireland look so far off being on top of the world it seems incredible they were 80 minutes away from going to the top of the world rankings this morning.
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They return to Dublin tonight having dropped from third to fourth place, but that’s the least of Joe Schmidt’s worries after his team slumped to the heaviest defeat of his era and a record loss in the history of this old fixture.
They have less than a month’s worth of training and 160 minutes against Wales to fix the myriad of problems exposed by a powerful, quick England side.
The coach has real headaches ahead of the World Cup.
Despite England choosing not to pick a lineout forward in their back-row, Rory Best’s throw collapsed, while the defensive line lacked its customary aggression against a team laced with ball carrying menace.
For most of the players, it was the first game of the season. They trained hard in the heat in Portugal and played in 30 degree heat, but they won’t look for excuses. This was well below what they expect from themselves.
Ross Byrne played well for the first 20 minutes, but as Ireland wilted in the heat the out-half wasn’t immune from the melt-down.
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And then there was the ankle injury suffered by Cian Healy who, once again, was a diamond in a rough, rough day at the office.
Ireland made a very poor start and England looked to make them pay for their repeated errors and exploit their lack of match practice by playing at huge pace from the word go and they went ahead through Owen Farrell’s boot when Cian Healy was punished for collapsing a scrum.
The break appeared to settle Ireland and after clever hands from Rob Kearney got the team on the front-foot.
Jean Kleyn brilliantly stole the ball from an English maul, Bundee Aki carried hard and then they moved the ball wide through Ross Byrne and Kearney for Jacob Stockdale. His trade-mark chip evaded his own chase and several others, but it bounced up nicely for Jordan Larmour to score.
Byrne settled his own nerves with a superb touch-line conversion but England hit back almost instantly, cashing in a Kearney knock-on by sucking in Aki and moving the ball wide to Joe Cokanasiga who beat Larmour on the outside to score.
Both sides spurned prime attacking opportunities as the game settled into a pattern, but England looked the more dangerous team in open play.
Still, Iain Henderson forced a penalty and Byrne stepped up from 45m and delivered a superb effort to nudge his side in front.
But the lead didn’t last and the home side’s second try came at a cost for Ireland as Murray picked up his head injury as he caught Jonny May’s shoulder as the England wing stepped inside him.
As the scrum-half received attention, the defence scrambled to no avail as again England found space on the wing for Elliot Daly to saunter over unopposed.
This time, Farrell converted as Luke McGrath replaced Murray and Ireland coughed up another attacking opportunity when Maro Itoje picked off Rory Best’s throw to the tail.
And the captain’s day got worse when George Ford kicked in behind and forced him to find his own man on his own 5m line. He didn’t.
Perhaps the tail was a bad option, but the throw faded long before it was within Peter O’Mahony’s grasp and George Kruis happily accepted the gift. Ireland nearly forced a poach through O’Mahony, but a knock-on handed England a 5m scrum and Manu Tuilagi exploited some shocking Irish defending to score.
Ireland then lost Healy to an ankle injury and England went for the jugular before half-time, attacking off their lineout but Josh van der Flier snuffed them out with a brilliant ruck poach and the visitors trailed by 10 at the break.
Having returned him to the fray for the last two minutes of the half, Murray was withdrawn at the break as the team started the second-half sloppily and another botched lineout led to Itoje stepping through a gap between Jack McGrath and Tadhg Furlong to score.
It was a shocking concession, one out of character with this team. Byrne’s first-half composure deserted him, but he was far from alone as green shoulders slumped and English chests puffed themselves out.
Kearney denied May on the line, but Luke McGrath and Henderson couldn’t stop Kruis crashing over for his side’s fifth try.
And the introduction of almost every Ireland replacement couldn’t stem the flow as Ireland slumped further. Tuilagi levelled Larmour and within a minute Kyle Sinckler and Sam Underhill combined to put Tom Curry over for a try.
The seventh arrived with 16 minutes to go as Jacob Stockdale knocked on and again the defence was marked absent as Cokanasiga got his second and Farrell made it 50.
Aki put a sheen on the scoreline with a fine solo effort with seven minutes remaining, but another malfunctioning lineout handed Luke Cowan-Dickie the easiest try he’ll ever score.
It summed up a dreadful day at the office.
ENGLAND – E Daly; J Cokanasiga, M Tuilagi (J Marchant 78), O Farrell (capt) (P Francis 71), J May; G Ford, B Youngs (W Heinz 54); J Marler (M Vunipola 61-79), J George (L Cowan-Dickie ), K Sinckler (D Cole 60); M Itoje, G Kruis; T Curry (C Lawes 58), S Underhill (M Wilson 59), B Vunipola.
IRELAND – R Kearney (A Conway 53); J Larmour, G Ringrose, B Aki, J Stockdale; R Byrne (J Carty 55), C Murray (L McGrath 31-38), h-t); C Healy (J McGrath 39), R Best (capt) (S Cronin 54), T Furlong (A Porter 54); I Henderson (T Beirne 61), J Kleyn (D Toner 54); P O’Mahony, J van der Flier, CJ Stander.