Six Nations 2014: Care sees defiant England edge past Ireland
Six Nations 2014: Danny Care scores the decisive try as England are 13-10 winners against Ireland at Twickenham
Danny Care’s breakaway try saw England clinch a nail-biting 13-10 victory over Ireland at Twickenham and assert their Six Nations title credentials.
Trailing 10-3 thanks a fine score from Rob Kearney, England stormed back and when Care raced under the posts, and Owen Farrell converted, the Red Rose had a lead they would not relinquish.
Whereas against France in their opening Championship game – and New Zealand the last time they were at Twickenham – England fought their way back and into the lead only to let it
slip, this time they held firm.
Ireland poured forward in the closing stages and employed their effective driving maul but England’s defence would not fold and Stuart Lancaster’s men chalked up their second win of the Championship and will bid for the Triple Crown in two weeks’ time against Wales.
And it means that England join France, Ireland and Wales on four points from their opening three matches while Joe Schmidt’s men’s Grand Slam hopes were ended, although they remain top of the table on points difference.
The pace was frenetic from the outside and inside the first minute, Ireland struck an early blow when they were awarded a penalty from a scrum straight from the kick-off.
The first half was punctuated by flashes of brilliance from Brian O’Driscoll, winning his 139th cap and pulling level with the all-time record holder George Gregan, and the first of those came in the opening minutes.
O’Driscoll beat Billy Twelvetrees before scrambled defence from opposite number Luther Burrell brought him down.
In direct contrast to their victory over Wales, Ireland rarely chipped over the top but on one of the rare occasions they did through Jonathan Sexton, O’Driscoll then kicked ahead again and England appeared to be in trouble until the onrushing Mike Brown superbly caught the ball on the dive.
Brown was to the fore for England and it was his elusive run through the middle that almost brought about the first try.
Following Brown’s break, the hosts went through no less than 17 phases and England, who had appeared to waste the overlap, thought they had scored through Jonny May in the right-hand corner on six minutes.
On closer inspection however, the covering Andrew Trimble and Conor Murray forced the England winger to spill the ball with the line beckoning.
After displaying their defensive discipline it was Ireland who then showed their attacking armoury and a fine crossfield kick from Sexton almost put Trimble clear.
He cut back inside just a few metres short of the line and fed the impressive Rob Kearney but he could not force his over.
England, just as Ireland had been, were resolute in defence while both sides, as impressive as their build-up play was, were found wanting when a clinical finish was needed.
Indeed, Trimble again found himself just short after the ball had been worked to the left and then back to the right.
After a breathless opening 20 minutes, England began testing Rob Kearney under the high ball but the Ireland full-back had the answer and an absorbing encounter remained scoreless.
The first points of the match arrived on 23 minutes from a lineout when Courtney Lawes was taken out in the air and Farrell struck a superb long-range penalty for 3-0.
Ten minutes later however he hit the upright after England has won a penalty at a scrum and while the hosts, who lost bullocking No.8 Billy Vunipola to an ankle injury, continued to probe up until half-time, Ireland’s try-line was rarely threatened.
Ireland flew out of the blocks after the break and after a low-scoring opening half, the visitors has the first try of the match just two minutes into the second.
After a lineout in English territory, Murray fizzed a pass left to Jamie Heaslip who found Rob Kearney surging through on the inside and he streaked clear under the posts.
Sexton added the simplest of conversions but after Twelvetrees fielded the restart, May also found himself clear in the left corner but after a moment’s hesitation, the chance was gone.
Ireland kept coming and worked their way towards the right corner with their driving maul and when Courtney Lawes was penalised, Sexton kicked Ireland into a 10-3 lead.
Back came England however and again, they appeared certain to score their first trey after Care’s quick tap, following an infringement from Paul O’Connell.
Burrell barged his way through the middle and while England had the overlap on the right, they instead went left, only for referee Craig Joubert to award England the penalty for an earlier infringement.
Farrell made no mistake from in front of the posts and England were ahead on 56 minutes.
The initial error came from Sexton, kicking the ball out on the full, and the hosts saw Brown scythe through the middle before releasing Harlequins teammate Care, who scampered clear.
Farrell added the extras to hand England a 13-10 lead and began about digging in to protect their lead.
Ireland mounted pressure but England had been defiant in defence throughout and forced Ireland into handling errors, keeping Ireland at bay.
Ireland threw everything at England, including their driving maul but they could find no way through and while Dave Kearney’s break down the left late on threatened, a turnover from Burrell typified the hosts’ resilience.