TWICKENHAM, United Kingdom, Feb 23 – England ended Ireland’s hopes of the Grand Slam and the Triple Crown with an emphatic 24-12 victory in their Six Nations clash at Twickenham on Sunday.
AFP Sports picks out three key things from the match:
Sexton’s off-key display sets tone for Irish
Johnny Sexton, who scored all the points against the Scots in their edgy 19-12 opening win, set the tone for the overall poor display with a rare off-colour performance.
The 34-year-old fly-half did have a heavily strapped right thigh which may explain part of his performance.
However, a fumble for the first try, a cross-field kick that went sideways, a kickable penalty that went wide, and which would have brought them to 7-3, suggested it would not be Ireland’s day.
Slipping when passing and ending up on his backside and conceding the penalty right at the end of the first period, which gave England a 17-0 lead, summed up an atrocious half for both the captain and his team.
The second-half showed no upturn in his fortunes — missing the conversion for their try — and in the end he was venting his frustration at South African referee Jaco Peyper.
Daly service silences doubters
Both Elliot Daly and Jonathan Joseph dispelled any pre-match doubts. Daly handled the early high balls well — getting himself nicely into the match with an early excellent catch to beat his Irish rival from an up and under by George Ford — and capped the half with a try, out-muscling Jacob Stockdale to the ball.
Joseph starting for the first time on the wing in his 50th Test made some piercing forays infield but also produced one outstanding chase down his wing to recover the ball deep inside Irish territory.
The Irish were so lacking in offensive ideas that they rarely tested Daly under the high ball which will leave many scratching their heads in wonderment.
They did their chances of retaining those positions when England host Wales in a fortnight no harm at all.
England get their kicks out of Irish generosity
The Irish are renowned for being generous hosts but they also showed in the first-half they are equally generous guests and handed England points and the momentum they never lost.
Jordan Larmour’s natural instinct to always attack got them into trouble for the first try as instead of taking the mark he tried to run the ball out of his 22. The end result was Sexton’s fumble, handing the try to Ford after a superb grubber kick by Ben Youngs.
An unlucky bounce of the ball could be blamed by Sexton but Stockdale’s error was less forgiveable as he allowed Daly to out-muscle him and touch the ball down from Ford’s chip. There is little doubt about Stockdale’s ability in attack but this error re-enforces doubts over his defensive qualities.