England's ever-improving May shows his class
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By Mitch Phillips
LONDON - Jet-heeled winger Jonny May moved joint second on the all-time England tryscorers' list on Saturday, bagging two, including one sensational 90-metre effort, as England beat Ireland 18-7 in the Nations Cup at Twickenham.
May had gone five games since his last score against France in February but he ended that dry spell after 17 minutes when he jumped high in the corner to catch an Owen Farrell kick and put England ahead.
He soon got his second, a try that displayed not only his scorching pace but also his game intelligence.
Ireland overthrew a lineout inside the England 22 and the backs moved the ball across to May 10 metres in front of the home tryline.
He zipped past Chris Farrell, kicked ahead and turned on the after-burners to reach the ball first, maintaining his composure to kick it further over the line where he leapt on it before jumping into the arms of the celebrating England replacements.
That took May to 31 tries, alongside Ben Cohen and Will Greenwood though still well adrift of the 49 scored by Rory Underwood.
Asked to evaluate the winger's contribution, coach Eddie Jones was effusive.
"He's right up there – if you consider he’s 30 and he’s still improving every aspect of his game," the Australian said.
"He's such a dedicated trainer and is obsessed about getting better. He's a great role model for all the players in all teams."
May was certainly far from the finished article when he arrived on the international scene in 2013.
He went seven games before bagging his first try against New Zealand in 2014 and was more noted for his sideways movement than the incisive lines he now finds.
Determined to crack the highest level of the sport, he set up personalised sprint training and worked on his aerial game to the point where he is now England's best player under the high ball.
He scored a brilliant hat-trick in the 2019 Six Nations win over France and marked a career high with two tries in the World Cup quarter-final victory over Australia later that year.
"I remember watching him in the 2015 World Cup and at one stage he was going to end up in Row K. Now he's a serious finisher," Jones said.
May played down his contribution on a day when England's all-round defensive effort was outstanding.
"I love scoring tries, but they come or go and every week I have to make sure I defend well, my basics have to be brilliant and that is what I need to work at," he said.
"The first one was with a penalty advantage and you have a shot to nothing. I had exactly the same against Georgia and I didn't get it and was annoyed with myself. I practised this week and ended up getting it this time.
"The other one was just a turnover and everything happened really quickly - just instinct - I don't have enough time to think about it when it is like that off quick turnover ball.
"There are just so many feelings and emotions when you score a try for your country but you have to quickly get back to the job and see the game out."
As for his chances of overhauling Underwood, he added: "You don't start rugby to achieve those sort of things, those are the things that you reflect on when you are done playing. So it's just head down and keep working hard and see where I can take my game."