DUBLIN – Two tries by Henry Slade helped England to a deserved 32-20 victory over Six Nations champions Ireland in Dublin on Saturday, ending the hosts’ hopes of back-to-back Grand Slams.
The visitors ran in four tries in a gripping and absorbing contest, with England always seeming the most likely victors.
England’s win ended a run of two successive defeats at the hands of the Irish.
For Ireland, who are ranked two in the world on the back of 18 wins in their preceding 19 Tests, the defeat brought to an end a record run of 12 successive home victories.
England rocked the Irish within two minutes, Jonny May going over in the corner after a superb long pass by Owen Farrell picked out Elliot Daly coming into the line.
The England fullback offloaded to May who ran in unopposed, and Farrell converted brilliantly from the touchline for 7-0.
Johnny Sexton reduced the deficit with a sweetly struck penalty from in front of the posts.
The hosts received a further boost when Jerome Garces did not hesitate to send England flanker Tom Curry – making his Six Nations debut – to the sin-bin for a high tackle on Keith Earls.
Jack Nowell, who Eddie Jones had suggested could play at flank, for the scrums at least moved from the wing to replace Curry in his absence.
Jones had promised his side would bring brutality to Dublin, and the unfortunate Earls was victim to it again when Maro Itoje went in high on him without any intent to take the ball.
Ireland skipper Rory Best argued to Garces that it was worse than the Curry incident, but the French referee just awarded just a penalty.
Ireland sneaked ahead with 15 minutes remaining of the first period, veteran prop Cian Healy pushed over by his teammates for his fifth try in 85 Tests, after Sexton had gone for the corner instead of kicking at goal when the English conceded another penalty.
Sexton added a sublime conversion from the touchline for 10-7.
However, the English hit straight back almost immediately, Nowell harrying Jacob Stockdale into a handling error inside the Irish try area and Daly – whose grubber kick had forced the Ireland wing to scurry back – touched down.
Farrell converted superbly from the touchline to make it 14-10.
The Irish went in 17-10 down at halftime after Farrell slotted over a penalty on the stroke of the break, but Ireland had been relieved after Mako Vunipola had touched down over the line, but it was adjudged to be a double movement.
The two sides traded blows early in the second half, with the Irish relieving their 22 after sustained English pressure, when Garry Ringrose’s clattering tackle on Farrell.
Ireland came away with a Sexton penalty to leave them trailing by four points. England lost key lock Itoje after he went off injured, although that balanced out as giant Irish second rower Devin Toner limped off.
Ireland’s discipline had held really well through the pressure, and when they conceded a rare penalty, Farrell was unable to make them pay, sending a relatively easy penalty wide of the posts.
However, the English produced the killer blow with 14 minutes remaining as May’s kick ahead was gathered by Slade, who touched down for 22-13 – Farrell missing the conversion.
Farrell made no mistake, though, with a long-range penalty attempt with 10 minutes remaining, pumping his fist in delight as he stretched the visitors’ lead to 25-13.
Another brilliant piece of handling by Slade extended their lead, and Farrell converted before the well-beaten Irish ran in a late consolation try.
Ireland 20 – Tries: Cian Healy, John Cooney. Conversions: Johnny Sexton (2). Penalties: Sexton (2).
England 32 – Tries: Johnny May, Elliot Daly, Henry Slade (2). Conversions: Owen Farrell (3). Penalties: Farrell (2).AFP