Six Nations 2012: England scrum engineers victory over Ireland
England produce a dominant forward display to steamroller Ireland and secure a second place finish in the Six Nations
England secured second place in the 2012 Six Nations as a dominant performance from their scrum laid the platform for victory over Ireland.
Both sides struggled to get to grips with the slippery conditions but England simply dismantled the Ireland front row which resulted in a second-half penalty try.
Fly-half Owen Farrell helped himself to 20 points but it was only once Ireland prop Mike Ross departed that England were able to turn the screw up front.
A closely-fought 9-6 first half gave way to a one-sided second 40 minutes with the Twickenham crowd baying for blood at every scrum.
Replacement Ben Youngs put the gloss on the scoreline with a 74th minute try from a quickly-taken tap penalty as interim head coach Stuart Lancaster finished his first RBS 6 Nations with a credible four wins.
By the time the teams ran out for the anthems, England knew their 2011 Six Nations title had been wrested off them by Wales’ Grand Slam triumph.
In an ominous sign of things to come, England won a penalty from the first scrum in the second minute allowing Farrell to open his account.
It was Ireland who threatened first through Keith Earls’ break down the left but he was brilliantly hauled down by Ben Foden before being turned over.
In another Ireland attack down the same flank, Lee Dickson made a mess of a bouncing ball and when England did clear the lines, full-back Rob Kearney gathered and saw his audacious drop goal came off the back of the post.
But shortly afterwards Foden spilt a high ball and centre Brad Barritt was caught offside allowing Jonathan Sexton to draw Ireland level.
England continued to rely on their set piece to do the damage and forced Ireland to concede two further penalties at the scrum, the second of which Farrell used to restore his lead.
With both sides’ defences coming out on top, it was little surprise that the next score came from another England scrum on 36 minutes as Farrell made it 9-3.
The final say in the half went to his opposite number as Sexton capitalised on Donnacha Ryan’s good work to leave the visitors three points adrift at the interval.
The pattern of the first half of knock-ons and English scrum dominance was repeated in the second as flanker Tom Croft got clear of the Irish defence only to butcher his pass at the crucial moment.
From the knock-on, Ireland’s scrum disintegrated bringing the inevitable infringement allowing Farrell to knock over his fourth penalty but Sexton immediately responded when the otherwise impressive Ben Morgan was caught in possession.
But as long as England’s front row continued to dominate their opponents, the hosts always had a formidable weapon they could rely on and there was a sense of inevitability that they would eventually be awarded a penalty try.
That duly materialised in the 58th minute as the green pack were sent shuntering backwards – Farrell adding the conversion to make it 19-9.
Ireland seemed demoralised by their inferiority up front as they coughed up another penalty on 65 minutes reversing at a rate of knots allowing Farrell to apply further punishment with the boot.
But the visitors showed they were not spent as an attacking force as Earls led a surge downfield but Tomas O’Leary’s crossfield kick was just out of the reach of Jamie Heaslip.
Irish heads were already dropping by the time England made sure of the victory with six minutes to go. Again Ireland were penalised at the scrum but as opposed to resetting or going for the posts, Youngs opted to take a tap and Ireland couldn’t react quick enough to stop him going over.
Farrell blotted his copybook somewhat with a missed conversion but he rounded off England’s day with a 78th minute penalty to give the RFU plenty to ponder as they consider whether Lancaster should remain as permanent head coach.