Eddie Jones defining night in Dublin

The greatest defensive performance in decades of international rugby sealed a historic victory for England in Dublin, shattering the Irish stranglehold on Northern Hemisphere rugby, and emphatically halting the hosts twelve game home winning streak.

By Morgan Lowrie
4th February 2019
By Morgan Lowrie
4th February 2019

One of the greatest defensive performance in the last decade of international rugby sealed a historic victory for England in Dublin, shattering the Irish stranglehold on Northern Hemisphere rugby, and emphatically halting the hosts twelve-game home winning streak.

If there was ever an example of test match rugby, this was it. A game that was supposed to be a nose-on-nose battle of power and tactical kicking clearly didn’t follow the script, as England set out their stall early, attacking with wonderful freedom and deadly accuracy.

In the opening minutes, England were on the board. As Farrell orchestrated two delicate moves result in Manu Tuilagi powering into willing Irish defenders. That resulted in the Irish defensive line to tighten their spacing, in attempting to absorb the gain line breaking chargers, England found space out wide, as Elliot Daly expertly guided an explosive break to the capable hands of Jonny May in the corner. The visitors' first try on Irish soil in eight years.

Ireland’s first possession was a microcosm of what was to come. Several attempts to play were thwarted by a powerful, rigid English defence. As Farrell received possession from an Irish penalty, a chasing Tom Curry was yellow carded for mistiming his tackle on Irish wing Keith Earles.

England managed the ten minute deficit expertly well, defending in a twenty metre channel, up and out, Ireland weren’t allowed to exploit the overlaps, as England made any spaces sharply disappear. Cover tackling was needed, an the ever reliable Mark Wilson was on hand to snuff out any straddling Irish legs escaping through the white blockade.

The first, and only real spell of Irish pressure would finally tell. As Curry returned from the bin, Cian Healy was on hand to scurry over the line after an efficient maul from a penalty for accidental offside. TMO raised the question of it being held up, but referee Jerome Garces, frustrating England fans, ignored the call to take a second look, as Ireland took the lead.

A game of nip and tuck was being handled well by England, despite being in a losing position, when Farrell spotted Henshaw isolated and with little room to react, a deft grubber through to his left forced the Irishman to slice his kick and give England a line out in the Irish red zone. Wilson leaped and secured lineout ball, which would go on to be a theme of the day, as Eliot Daly dinked an unexpected bobbling ball through which Jacob Stockdale failed to control, as the Irish crowd inhaled simultaneously as time seemed to stop, Daly got on the end of his own kick to dot down and convert at the business end. From that point on, England never looked like they were in danger of defeat.

Mako Vunipola looked to have secured England’s third try of the half, only to be ruled out by the man in the middle. Farrell took the three and England headed into the half with a commanding seven-point lead.

Ireland emerged from their half-time oranges without injured starting right winger Keith Earls, with exciting hotstepper Jordan Larmour, an enforced substitution that had the potential to ignite some elusiveness. England picked up where they left off and looked sure to convert again until a fantastic hit by Garry Ringrose dislodged the ball from Farrell, Slade was unable to gather the turnover ball from Sexton's deft boot cleanly, and the Irish all of a sudden had possession in the England 22.

With Sexton popping over a chip-shot three, the Irish looked to turn the tide in the face of adversity. England weren’t feeling so charitable. Jonny May had enjoyed quite possibly one of his best performances in an England shirt, and his partnership and understanding working with Eliott Daly seemed to mature ten years over the eighty minute display in Ireland. After linking up for the first try, it was May’s time to turn creator. A delightful kick off his weaker left foot, Henry Slade raced away to chalk up another score. Unable to achieve the extra two, after a disappointing penalty miss minutes earlier, Farrell and England still weren’t home dry.

An unusual day from the tee wasn’t to last. After a penalty on halfway for not releasing, Farrell made no mistake with the kick to extend the English lead to 12 with 10 minutes to go. Swing Low soon echoed around the Aviva, and with it, the symbolic shift to England once again being the poster boys on northern hemisphere rugby. Style, power and dominance, a stark reminder to the four to face them, 2019 will not be a repeat of last year.

As the game was starting to slip away, Sexton was forced to play from his own 22, his sloppy pass telegraphed, Henry Slade making amends from the last time he was on the end of a Sexton dispatch, intercepting the loose pass, controlling expertly and securing a monumental bonus point score and victory for England in their closest rivals backyard.

With the win in the books, Eddie Jones introduced Chris Ashton, Luke Cown-Dickie, Ellis Genge and George Ford from the bench, the host of changes unsettling the defiant English defence, as Ireland ended the game with the final say. Reserve hooker Sean Cronin darted around the side of a poor England ruck defence and putting fellow substitute John Cooney through for some gloss on what was an apathetic display from the team ranked second in the world rankingst.

Rank outsiders written off, England; more than motivated to heal the scars of a shambolic 2018 campaign, they did it in such emphatic style. The victory all the more impressive when considering England had to play with a number 8 in the row for over one quarter of the entire match.  This was the most complete England performance in decades.  

A defined style of play, ruthless in attacked, relentless and powerful in defence. A fully fit Manu Tuilagi, Maro Itoje and the coming of age of the Slade-Farrell combination, the Vunipola brothers back firing again and a plethora of talented youngsters and proficient internationals, England have blossomed into everything they could hoped to have been this Six Nations.

Eddie Jones could not hide his beaming excitement post-match, the mask slipping for split seconds of his victory interview. England had the toughest task of all teams heading into the opening week, and whilst most had expected the 2016/2017 back-to-back Champions to come away with nothing but a bruised ego, they emerged resounding victors, favourites to win the competition and once again revered worldwide.

Despite the monumental and season defining victory, Ireland are still a force of tactical nous and physical power, but as November 17th erupted to Irish euphoria of explosions of noise and dancing in the streets, this night, Dubin belonged to England.

The Rugby Magazine

Filed under: International, Six Nations, England, Ireland
Written by: Morgan Lowrie
Follow: @MorganLowrie · @therugbymag

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