Ireland Wolfhounds edge past England Saxons ahead of Six Nations
Isaac Boss and Ian Madigan both scores tries to help Ireland Wolfhounds secure a 14-8 win over England Saxons
Ireland Wolfhounds survived a late charge from the England Saxons to earn a gritty 14-8 win at Gloucester.
First-half tries from Irish half-backs Isaac Boss and Ian Madigan were enough for a win as England stuttered in attack and struggled with heavy conditions and Freddie Burns’ nightmare season continued.
The Gloucester outside-half, already dropped from the England senior squad, saw his conversion attempt for Anthony Watson’s try hit the right post and a penalty attempt rebound off the left post in the first half.
And a miserable afternoon was capped when Burns crucially lost control of the ball into touch with the last phase of the match when attempting to dive over the tryline in the left corner.
The annual second-string clash pitted an experienced Wolfhounds team with 60 senior caps playing for inclusion in the Ireland senior squad against an inexperienced England team, with one eye on the 2015 and 2019 Rugby World Cups.
With senior coaches Stuart Lancaster (England) and Joe Schmidt (Ireland) watching on, both sets of players had the chance to impress, and former Leinster head coach Schmidt would have left Kingsholm the happier of the two after the Wolfhounds coped with difficult weather conditions and showed resilience to thwart England’s backline.
The visitors got off to the best possible start on five minutes when Boss stole through a gap between a maul and Burns to dive over.
England then spurned a chance to break straight back with an overlap available as Matt Hopper failed to feed Anthony Watson before turning down a kickable penalty by kicking to the corner, but the Irish defence held firm with captain Rhys Ruddock securing a turnover as hosts came back with another attack.
The Saxons were back in the match mid-way through the first half as Felix Jones’ attempted pass to Madigan was spilled into the hands of Watson and the Bath wing returned the gift 40 metres before Burns’ failed with the conversion.
Madigan and Robbie Henshaw both set up opportunities to extend the Wolfhounds’ lead before the second try came on 29 minutes.
England were penalised for bringing down a maul illegally and Madigan took a quick tap-penalty with the Saxons off guard and barrelled through Dave Ewers and Sam Hill to touch down.
With the score 14-5 at the break, both sides started a procession of replacements with the Saxons camped in Ireland territory for much of the second half.
When Ireland were penalised for collapsing the scrum 30 metres out, Burns again stepped up to kick, only to see it come back off the upright.
England began to make progress with the introduction of Northampton Saints No8 Sam Dickinson, who was involved in the lead up to the only score of the second half as Burns nailed a kick to give the Saxons a chance of victory with a converted try.
The Saxons continued to press the Ireland try-line in the closing stages.
With the clock red, Wasps full-back Elliot Daly was stopped short as Ireland’s scramble defence held out. Sensing the chance to win the match and redeem himself, Burns made a dive for the corner, but the ball sailed into touch to condemn the Saxons to their first loss to the Wolfhounds since 2011.
England Saxons: Elliot Daly (Wasps); Anthony Watson (Bath), Matt Hopper (Harlequins), Sam Hill (Exeter), Charlie Sharples (Gloucester); Freddie Burns (Gloucester), Joe Simpson (Wasps); Alex Waller (Northampton), Jamie George (Saracens), Tom Mercey (Northampton), Charlie Matthews (Harlequins), George Kruis (Saracens), Calum Clark (Northampton, captain), Luke Wallace (Harlequins), Dave Ewers (Exeter)
Replacements: Dave Ward (Harlequins), Nathan Catt (Bath), Scott Wilson (Newcastle), Elliott Stooke (Gloucester), Sam Dickinson (Northampton), Dave Lewis (Exeter), Henry Slade (Exeter), Rob Miller (Sale)
Ireland Wolfhounds: Felix Jones (Munster); Fergus McFadden (Leinster), Robbie Henshaw (Connacht), Darren Cave (Ulster), Craig Gilroy (Ulster); Ian Madigan (Leinster), Isaac Boss (Leinster); David Kilcoyne (Munster), Rob Herring (Ulster), Martin Moore (Leinster); Iain Henderson (Ulster), Dan Tuohy (Ulster); Rhys Ruddock (Leinster, captain), Tommy O’Donnell (Munster), Robin Copeland (Cardiff Blues).
Replacements: Richardt Strauss (Leinster), Jack McGrath (Leinster), Stephen Archer (Munster), Robbie Diack (Ulster), Jordi Murphy (Leinster), Kieran Marmion (Connacht), Ian Keatley (Munster), Simon Zebo (Munster)
Man of the Match: Isaac Boss (Ireland Wolfhounds)