Six Nations 2016: England beat Ireland to go top of table

By Tom FordyceChief sports writer at Twickenham
RBS Six Nations
England (6) 21
Tries: Watson, Brown Cons: Farrell Pens: Farrell 3
Ireland (3) 10
Tries: Murray Cons: Sexton Pens: Sexton

Eddie Jones's perfect start as England coach continues as his new side made it three Six Nations wins from three with a battling victory over Ireland.

Conor Murray's try had given the visitors a narrow lead early in the second half after England had dominated territory and possession but failed to convert it into points.

But two tries in five minutes from Anthony Watson and Mike Brown snatched back control of what had been a tight, error-strewn match.

And ferocious, often last-ditch defence then kept waves of Irish attacks at bay and left Jones's men top of the championship table.

Ireland have now failed to win any of their opening three matches and, with Wales next to visit Twickenham in a fortnight, talk will turn to a possible Grand Slam for the men in white.

It is premature - England must also visit France on the last weekend - but the ebullient Jones will be delighted with the way they came through the sternest test of his young regime.

Six Nations table

Vunipola leads England charge

An open first quarter saw Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell exchange penalties, both sides ceding promising positions with sloppy errors from cold fingers on a freezing late afternoon.

Ireland were running it from deep, England looking to use the power and bulk of Maro Itoje and the impressive Billy Vunipola to smash holes in the green-shirted wall.

The hosts camped out in the opposition 22 as the half wore on and several times spurned space and numbers out wide, the imprecision that of a team new to each other rather than as familiar as this one should be.

Ireland were giving them a regular helping hand, their half-backs repeatedly failing to clear their lines, and Farrell put his team in front with his second penalty after Murray's pass put Devin Toner in trouble.

Watson and Brown strike

Mike Brown and Anthony Watson
Brown and Watson both scored their ninth tries for England

Murray was to have his revenge. After James Haskell was sin-binned for a late and high tackle on him, the scrum-half burrowed over from a close-range ruck, Sexton stroking over the conversion from the touchline for a 10-6 lead.

Farrell narrowed it to a one-point match after Toner was penalised for blocking him off, and the 14 men in white held firm until Haskell returned and the momentum swung again.

England went wide right through Nowell, the forwards battered towards the line and, with Irish defenders sucked in, Chris Robshaw's long pass found Watson all alone on the left for the simplest try of the winger's international career.

Five minutes later they struck again. Once again it was Vunipola who crashed through the initial tackles, Watson taking it on and huge gaps appearing on the right for Farrell to send the lurking Brown into the corner.

Eddie Jones' England moving in the right direction
"No coach, no matter how long in the tooth or wise of thought, can rapidly transform a nation who have won just one Grand Slam in two decades.
"What will give Jones hope that over the next few years he might succeed where others have failed is the emergence of the sort of player that successful teams can be built around."
Read chief sports writer Tom Fordyce's analysis

Only a desperate last-gasp tackle from Jack Nowell denied Robbie Henshaw a try in the corner, and replacement Danny Care then became England's second man to be yellow-carded for not rolling away as Ireland pressed again.

It left the hosts without a recognised scrum-half for the last nine minutes, and as debutant Josh van der Flier drove for the right-hand corner with the defence stretched to breaking it took another new cap, replacement centre Elliot Daly, to somehow hold him up.

Man of the match

Billy Vunipola
Billy Vunipola was immense, the number eight making more metres with ball in hand than the entire Ireland team in the first half and maintaining that mighty impact throughout the second


England coach Eddie Jones: "I think our performances have stepped up. We were facing a better team today.

"We probably left 10 to 15 points out there, as we couldn't always convert our attacking pressure. We weren't quite sharp enough and we were letting them get a hand in at crucial times.

"Vunipola was great. He just loves playing rugby. He loves the team environment and loves playing for England."

Six Nations 2016: More to come from England - Eddie Jones


England: Mike Brown, Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, Owen Farrell, Jack Nowell, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Joe Marler, Dylan Hartley (captain), Dan Cole, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Chris Robshaw, James Haskell, Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: Jamie George, Mako Vunipola, Paul Hill, Courtney Lawes, Jack Clifford, Danny Care, Elliot Daly, Alex Goode.

Ireland: Rob Kearney, Andrew Trimble, Robbie Henshaw, Stuart McCloskey, Keith Earls, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Jack McGrath, Rory Best, Mike Ross, Donnacha Ryan, Devin Toner, CJ Stander, Josh van der Flier, Jamie Heaslip (captain).

Replacements: Richardt Strauss, Cian Healy, Nathan White, Ultan Dillane, Rhys Ruddock, Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan, Simon Zebo.

Referee: Romain Poite (FFR)

Touch judges: Nigel Owens (WRU) & Alexandre Ruiz (FFR)

TMO: Shaun Veldsman (SARU)

Match stats
5 (0)Scrums won (lost)8 (1)
6 (1)Line-outs won (lost)8 (3)
12Pens conceded10
84 (3)Rucks won (lost)106 (4)
5Mauls won4
23Kicks from hand26
147 (23)Tackles made (missed)136 (19)
420Metres made408
4Line breaks5