Six Nations 2014: England 13-10 Ireland

By Tom FordyceChief sports writer at Twickenham
Highlights: England 13-10 Ireland

England ended Ireland's Triple Crown ambitions and blew the Six Nations title race wide open as they fought back to edge one of the great Twickenham battles.

Rob Kearney's beautifully worked try had given Ireland a seven-point lead early in the second half before Danny Care replied with a thrilling score of his own to steal it back.

Owen Farrell, who had earlier notched two penalties, then landed the conversion before a titanic final quarter saw both sides reduced to stumbling exhaustion by the relentless pace.

With both teams attacking in waves against remorseless defences, Ireland could not work the break nor penalty they needed as the seconds ran out.

It meant there would be no happy ending for the peerless Brian O'Driscoll - in his record-equalling 139th Test - on his last appearance at this stadium, and no second Grand Slam with which to garland his final season.

But for England - beaten at the death by France a month ago - there would be no repeat of those late agonies, and the reaction from players and coaches at the end spoke of the significance of this win to an inexperienced but increasingly impressive outfit.

The big four of England, Ireland, France and reigning champions Wales have now all won two and lost one in this wide-open championship, setting the remaining two weekends in enticing context.

It was an electric start to a hugely anticipated contest, Ireland mangling England's first scrum but the home side then hammering at the Irish line with pace and power.

After battering carries from Billy Vunipola and snipes from Care, Jonny May stepped inside the cover out wide on the 17th breathless phase only for Conor Murray to knock the ball from the winger's grasp as he dived over the try line.

If that was an escape, there was no let-up in the intensity. Jonny Sexton kicked out to the right wing where Andrew Trimble was scragged with the line a stride away, and it took fierce defence to keep the marauding green shirts at bay.

Farrell was lucky not to be sin-binned for a shoulder charge on Murray as England pressed again, and he cashed in with a dead-eyed penalty from the limits of his range in the 24th minute to nudge his side ahead.

O'Driscoll's ageless eyes and conjuror's hands were stretching England when Ireland sought to attack with width, and when Vunipola was taken off injured as Farrell hit the post with a second penalty chance, the visitors looked to capitalise.

Trimble nearly burst through after soaring to gather a Sexton garryowen, and then May looped round to scythe deep into Irish territory.

Rob Kearney touches down for Ireland
Rob Kearney's try put Ireland in control

Moments before the break Farrell opted to kick a third long-range penalty to the corner, but England were unable to reap points from the subsequent possession - and within two minutes of the re-start Ireland made them pay.

Kearney hit a rapid line inside Jamie Heaslip from a line-out that England's defence totally failed to read, and the full-back cut straight past Joe Launchbury and David Wilson to canter unopposed under the posts as the big Irish support celebrated wildly.

With Sexton's conversion making it 3-7, Billy Twelvetrees climbed high to steal the re-start only for May to be turned over in the corner.

All the momentum was suddenly with Ireland. They shoved England off their own scrum ball, kicked deep to the corner and won a penalty from the subsequent line-out drive which Sexton drilled over for 3-10.

Rory Best stole another prime slice of England possession but England came again, Care running a penalty to set up a series of drives with the Irish line in sight only for the lack of ruthlessness to emerge again as a clear overlap was ignored in favour of injudicious burrows.

Farrell reduced the deficit to four from in front of the posts after 54 minutes, and from nowhere it was Ireland who were reeling.

Sexton put the re-start straight into touch, Jack Nowell side-stepped and sprinted to half-way and from the next phase Mike Brown appeared on captain Chris Robshaw's inside shoulder to slice through, Care hurtling up in support to take the full-back's pass and dive over.

Twickenham, so often politely reserved, was alive, Farrell's conversion edging England 13-10 in front.

It took brilliant defence from Sexton to turn over Nowell with England threatening again, both sides throwing on fresh forwards as the final frantic 15 minutes began, and then the relentless Courtney Lawes fumbled a hospital pass from another good position.

Nowell, under pressure, put a clearing kick out on the full, and Ireland sniffed a chance.

Under extreme pressure the English forwards stood firm, first in two brutal scrum squeezes and then in a driving maul, before Brown's huge clearing kick finally pushed the men in green back.

It means England have now won four on the bounce against the Irish, and with Wales at home - when England can seal the Triple Crown themselves - and then winless Italy to come on the final weekend, they will fancy their chances of ending a campaign that began so disappointingly in contrasting style.

England: 15-Brown, 14-Nowell, 13-Burrell, 12-Twelvetrees, 11-May, 10-Farrell, 9-Care; 1- Marler, 2-Hartley, 3-Wilson, 4-Launchbury, 5-Lawes, 6-Wood, 7-Robshaw (captain), 8- B Vunipola

Replacements: 16-T Youngs (for Hartley, 75), 17-M Vunipola (for Marler, 64), 18-Thomas (for Wilson, 70), 19-Attwood (for Wood, 70), 20-Morgan (for B Vunipola, 36), 21-Dickson, 22-Ford, 23-Goode

Ireland: 15-Kearney, 14-Trimble, 13-O'Driscoll, 12-D'Arcy, 11-Kearney, 10-Sexton, 9-Murray; 1-Healy, 2-Best, 3-Ross, 4-Toner, 5-O'Connell (captain), 6-O'Mahony, 7-Henry, 8-Heaslip.

Replacements: 16-Cronin (for Best, 74), 17-McGrath (for McGrath, 72), 18-Moore (for Ross, 62), 19-Henderson (for O'Mahony, 70), 20-Murphy (for Henry, 74), 21-Boss (for Murray, 80), 22-Jackson (for O'Driscoll, 80), 23-McFadden (for Trimble, 66).


Referee: Craig Joubert

Touch judges: Romain Poite and Leighton Hodges

TV: Jim Yuille