Saxons avenge Cup defeat
England Saxons avenged last year's Churchill Cup loss with a 17-13 victory over Ireland 'A' at the Rec on Sunday.
By Simon Dilger
Last Updated: 31/01/10 5:26pm
England Saxons avenged last year's 49-22 Churchill Cup final defeat with a deserved 17-13 victory over Ireland 'A' at the Rec on Sunday.
In doing so England ended an eight-game winning run stretching back to the summer of 2008 for the Irish.
Tries from David Strettle and Shane Geraghty, plus a further seven points from Geraghty's boot, marked a first half largely dominated by England's attacking play.
Ireland responded after the break but, despite leaking a try in the 64th minute, the home side's well-organised defence stood firm to maintain their lead.
The Irish quickly found themselves defending deep inside their own territory after Sean O'Brien fumbled Geraghty's kick in the opening minute.
But they survived the early scare and two minutes later Paddy Wallace put the first points on the board with a well-struck penalty from just outside the 22.
The Saxons answered in the 14th minute after Andy Saull got up to grab possession at a lineout and the pack pounced to drive the Irish backwards.
Scrum-half Ben Youngs peeled off right from the back of the resulting ruck onto the Irish blindside, before feeding Strettle with a delayed pass, the winger then easily outpacing Ireland's scrambling defence to slide over.
Geraghty added the extras with a superb touchline conversion to open up a 7-3 lead.
After 22 minutes Wallace pulled three back for Ireland, slotting between the sticks with another sweetly struck penalty from wide on the right.
But a second Saxons try wasn't long in coming, as the backs combined with some excellent passing to tear open Ireland's defence.
Noah Cato, receiving the ball on the left wing, skipped past Wallace before passing back inside to Brad Barritt, who was brought down close to the line.
He kept the ball alive, though, feeding Geraghty who raced in to touch down under the posts before adding the conversion to put England 14-6 ahead.
Three minutes before half-time Wallace missed the chance to keep his side in touch before the break, sending a 37-metre penalty attempt wide.
Ireland did get a try themselves, though not until 25 minutes of the second half had passed. Awarded a penalty well within range, they instead boldly elected to go for maximum points.
Replacement scrum-half Isaac Boss, picked the ball up from a scrum and set up Chris Henry for a score next to the posts. Wallace added the extras to close the gap to just a single point.
Ireland pushed hard for the win for the remaining 15 minutes but they could not penetrate a determined defensive line.
England eventually sealed a well-earned victory with the last kick of the game when they were awarded a penalty within range. Geraghty stepped up to slot it over as the clock ran out on Irish hopes.