LONDON (AP) — England gave Ireland another comprehensive hiding to the tune of 18-7 at Twickenham on Saturday and took charge of their group in the Autumn Nations Cup.
Winger Jonny May scored two first-half tries and Owen Farrell slotted three of four goalkicks as England deservedly led 12-0 at halftime and 18-0 late. They threatened to blank Ireland for the first time in 30 years but Billy Burns conjured a try for fellow Irish replacement Jacob Stockdale with six minutes left and converted it.
They were the first scores England conceded in more than 3 1/2 hours of rugby across its last three games including Italy and Georgia.
As good as May’s tries were, England’s defense was suffocatingly brilliant. The white shirts were quick off the line and physical, holding up Irish ball-carriers so that the visitors were not able to clear a single ruck within three seconds.
England didn’t miss its first 90 tackles and ended up making an incredible 246, missing only nine.
The Irish needed to make only 73 tackles but all that ball and territory made no difference as they were smothered.
“They’re pretty good at contestable kicks, smashing that ruck on the floor, and the next ruck,” Ireland coach Andy Farrell said. “When you’re playing off slow ball, the last thing you can keep doing is going back 20 meters. So therefore you’re sending forwards into a brick wall.”
The defense invariably slowed down Ireland’s few sustained attacks and was more ferocious the closer it got to England’s tryline. England earned seven turnovers.
Add bonus try-saving tackles by May and Henry Slade, and the bullied Irish suffered a fourth straight loss to England, which looks set to qualify for a home final in two weeks.
A week after crushing Wales, “we found out about our place,” Andy Farrell added.
A makeshift Ireland side, vastly inexperienced compared to England’s team, started well but became prone to costly errors.
A penalty conceded in a scrum launched England’s first try. A lineout maul in the left corner was stopped but Farrell crosskicked to the right wing where May jumped and plucked the ball from Hugo Keenan’s grasp and scored.
Ireland replied by setting up an attacking lineout, but the set-piece misfired again as the throw-in missed the target. England countered and it was all May.
Ten meters out from his own line, May beat Chris Farrell, slipped Bundee Aki, and chipped over Keenan toward the posts. May then dribbled ahead of Jamison Gibson-Park and dotted down into a huge embrace from the England reserves.
His 31st try tied him on the England list with 2003 Rugby World Cup winners Will Greenwood and Ben Cohen, with only Rory Underwood ahead on 49.
May added a try-saving tackle on Keith Earls. Ireland stayed on attack, going 16 phases, but the ball was nicked by Tom Curry.
The Irish put pressure back on themselves with loose lineout ball on their own line. Gibson-Park couldn’t escape and appeared to concede a try to his tackler Sam Underhill, but the Englishman was penalized for playing the ball on the floor.
By halftime, Ireland was barely hanging on and England was bossing the game yet again.
After halftime, Owen Farrell added penalty kicks for offenses by Ireland locks Quinn Roux and captain James Ryan.
Irish pride dictated a try but Chris Farrell was turned over by Maro Itoje, and soon after held up counterpart Slade, who rolled Farrell over from behind.
Finally, Ireland had a converted try from Stockdale running on to a Burns chip but it was hardly consolation.
“We went in there with certain things we wanted to take away from them and certain things we wanted to impose, and for the best part of the game we did that,” England coach Eddie Jones said.
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