Ireland beat England in Six Nations to stay on course for Grand Slam
Last Updated: 01/03/15 9:52pm
Ireland moved a step closer to retaining their Six Nations title and completing a Grand Slam with a 19-9 win over England at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Sunday.
The half-back pairing of Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton were in superb form and were the key difference between the two teams.
Sexton was excellent with the boot and kicked four penalties as well as converting Robbie Henshaw's try – delivered by a sublime chip from Murray.
England were valiant in defeat but only really started to make inroads when Sexton went off with an apparent hamstring injury. They thought they had scored in the final minute but Billy Twelvetrees' pass to Jack Nowell was judged forward and they had to settle for two penalties and a drop-goal from George Ford.
Ireland's win ended a run of four successive defeats to the English, whose own hopes of the Grand Slam disappeared with this reverse.
Sexton landed a penalty in the third minute to give the hosts early momentum. The Ireland fly-half tested the English defence immediately afterwards with a delightful cross kick into the far corner and earned the Irish a scrum five metres out.
Hooker Rory Best looked to have gone over the line under the posts but he was held up and from the subsequent scrum the hosts went close to the line again through Rob Kearney, but as consolation earned a penalty which Sexton converted.
England steadied the ship as Ford reduced the deficit with a drop-goal in the 12th minute.
However, he missed a chance to draw his side level when a penalty drifted wide of the post after Jordi Murphy went off his feet at the breakdown.
England won another penalty but captain Chris Robshaw opted not to go for goal despite it being within a kickable distance and paid the price as Devin Toner won the resulting lineout, allowing the Irish to clear the danger.
The visitors regained possession but Ireland somehow managed to turn the ball over despite temporarily being down to 14 as Sean O'Brien's injury woes continued when he went off after a trademark carry down the No 10 channel.
Sexton won Ireland a penalty with a crunching tackle on Luther Burrell which earned him a pat on the shoulder from captain Paul O'Connell. The fly-half duly slotted it over to make it 9-3 after 30 minutes.
Sexton was like a man possessed as he put in another extraordinary tackle on Ford and Anthony Watson conceded a penalty for picking up the ball yards offside. Sexton, though, sent his penalty just wide for Ireland's first miss of the championship in 16 attempts.
He made no mistake when called upon the next time as he extended Ireland's lead to 12-3 in the 48th minute.
The roar that greeted those points was nothing compared to those when Henshaw outjumped Alex Goode to touch down from Murray's astute box kick, Sexton converting beautifully from the sideline for 19-3.
However, that was Sexton's last action as he had to go off with an apparent hamstring problem and was replaced by Ian Madigan.
Ford got England's first points of the second half on the board as the hour mark approached with his penalty making it 19-6, and added another three points as the game neared the final 10 minutes.
Nowell thought he was over on the last play of the game but the pass from Twelvetrees was forward and Ireland recorded their 10th win in a row.