Ireland 20-32 England: Six Nations defending champions beaten by Eddie Jones' men
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 04/02/19 10:48am
A terrifically confrontational and physical England got their 2019 Six Nations campaign off to the perfect start with a 32-20 bonus-point win over defending champions Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.
The visitors made a rapid start to the contest at the Aviva Stadium, scoring a try after just 90 seconds through wing Jonny May in the corner.
Ireland responded with a Johnny Sexton penalty and Cian Healy try to lead, but England soon edged in front again following an Elliot Daly score.
Mako Vunipola had a potential first-half try ruled out by the TMO, before Owen Farrell and Sexton traded further penalties each.
But England would break the Test open and clinch a superb victory inside the final quarter when centre Henry Slade raced after a May kick ahead to ground the ball.
A Farrell penalty from distance and then a second Slade try via an intercept in the closing stages - which also secured the bonus-point - added gloss to the scoreline, before John Cooney got a late consolation try for the hosts.
Eddie Jones' men host France at Twickenham next Sunday, while Ireland make the trip to face Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday.
England began the Test playing at a tremendous pace, and demonstrating their physical edge in spades.
A quick lineout throw over the top from hooker Jamie George to centre Manu Tuilagi proved the genesis of their first score, with several phases eventually culminating in a Farrell miss-pass down the England left for Daly to offload and May to finish.
On 10 minutes, Ireland earned their first points of the evening when England prop Kyle Sinckler was penalised for failing to roll away just outside his own 22. Sexton stood up to make it 7-3 as the home side belatedly looked to settle into the contest.
Three minutes after that, England flanker Tom Curry was sin-binned on his Six Nations debut for a late, high tackle on Earls as the away side's promising start looked like faltering away.
But the England defence was strong for the 10 minutes Curry was absent, with Ireland eventually tuning down the chance to kick for further points in favour of a kick to the corner as the Sale Shark back-row returned to the fray.
It proved the right decision from skipper Rory Best and co as loosehead Healy scored from close range, diving under and beyond opposite number Vunipola. When Sexton drilled over a fabulous conversion, the lead was three.
England responded almost immediately, however, when Ireland full-back Robbie Henshaw sliced a left-footed kick straight into touch, handing the visitors territory in the Ireland 22, and minutes later Daly scored when Jacob Stockdale was guilty of a major error in-goal.
Daly dabbed a perfectly-weighted grubber kick in behind the Ireland defence, causing the Ulster wing to carry the ball back over his own tryline after a wicked bounce, before then dropping it under pressure from the chasing Jack Nowell. Daly, who did well to get up in chase also, was on hand to dive on the loose ball and ground it.
In the final two minutes of the half things could have got even better for England when a Best lineout throw was adjudged not straight, giving England a five-metre lineout opportunity.
Prop Vunipola looked to be over for a try after several close range phases but, on review with the TMO, referee Jerome Garces ruled out the score for a double movement.
England had been playing on a penalty advantage for offside, however, and with the clock in the red, Farrell stepped up to push the away side's lead out to seven at the break.
The next score in the Test did not arrive until the 55th minute as both sides struggled to break down oppressively physical defences.
As it was, Sexton was next to trouble the scoreboard when he kicked a penalty from close range after a Sinckler high tackle on Ringrose, reducing the deficit to four points.
England need not have worried as Slade's try on 65 minutes - which survived a TMO review during which the Exeter Chief was ruled just to be behind May's kick and onside - left Ireland the proverbial mountain to climb.
They failed to build any sustained pressure on England's steely defensive line, and it was Farrell who would next add points with a long range penalty inside the final 10 minutes.
With Joe Schmidt's charges desperately playing from anywhere late on, Slade picked up his second try of the evening when he intercepted a Sexton pass in the Ireland 22 to dive over. The score was highly significant as it handed England a bonus-point and the full five-point haul available.
Replacement Ireland scrum-half Cooney did have the final say with a try after a Sean Cronin break, but it mattered little as Ireland finished the contest with no competition points and recording a first home defeat in the Six Nations since being beaten by England in 2013.