England stay on track for 6N title by ending Ireland's reign
LONDON (AP) — England remained unbeaten and on course to a first Six Nations rugby title in five years by ending the reign of a feisty Ireland 21-10 at Twickenham on Saturday.
The only team with three wins from three rounds, England will host a Wales side that's also unbeaten but with a draw, in two weeks in a likely championship decider.
Ireland, the champion for the last two years but winless this year, overcame a first-half battering to score the first try and lead while England flanker James Haskell was in the sin-bin.
But returned to full strength, England impressively regathered its focus, turned the heat back on Ireland, and scored two tries in five minutes to put breathing space in the scoreline going into the last intense quarter.
Then, England showed off the best defense in the tournament.
England winger Jack Nowell made a try-saving tackle on Ireland center Robbie Henshaw in the right corner. Ireland stayed on attack, and a second England man was yellow-carded, replacement scrumhaf Danny Care, with more than eight minutes to go. Irish flanker Josh Van der Flier, on debut, appeared to touch down despite Elliot Daly, but the grounding was unsighted.
Ireland's 10-minute siege on England didn't end until it conceded a scrum penalty, and England ran out the clock relieved, also, for the two-week break.
Ireland, severely depleted by injuries, had only a very slim chance of staying in title contention but wasn't prepared to give up the championship without a fight.
The first half finished 6-3 in favor of England, which dominated all over the field except at getting over the Irish tryline. Ireland had to make twice as many tackles, the biggest of the half by debutant center Stu McCloskey and scrumhalf Conor Murray, who prevented England captain Dylan Hartley scoring between the posts.
Moments before, Murray and CJ Stander took out Billy Vunipola in the left corner.
The fatigue from having to defend so much would catch up with Ireland, but not before Haskell was sin-binned and Ireland passed over a goalkick for an attacking lineout instead. Murray ended up going over, the first try England conceded in 205 minutes to start the championship, the second best mark since 2000.
But England didn't cower, and back to full complement near the hour it set up tries for winger Anthony Watson and fullback Mike Brown. Nowell broke through on the right, and the ball was fed quickly to the left where Watson had a gaping overlap. Moments later, the relentless Vunipola scattered Irishmen down the left touch, and quick ball out right gave Brown an overlap and easy run in.
England looked set to canter home with 18 minutes left, but Ireland remarkably still had 10 more minutes of energy that England just managed to contain.