6N: England humbles unbeaten Ireland to stay in title hunt

LONDON (AP) — England finally turned up in the Six Nations and denied Ireland at least the triple crown and grand slam in an impressive 24-12 victory at Twickenham on Sunday.

Hyping itself before the tournament to become the greatest rugby team ever, England was humbled by France and then barely subdued Scotland, but sought a statement win in its first appearance at home and delivered.

England so utterly dominated that the scoreline flattered Ireland. The outcome was as good as certain by halftime, when England led 17-0. England finished with three tries to two but was tactically and technically in another class.

The result meant England remained in the title hunt, as did Ireland, which came to Twickenham with high hopes after beating Scotland and Wales.

England will have a triple crown chance, instead, with Wales next followed by Italy.

Ireland still has to face Italy and France, which was the only unbeaten team after three rounds and favored to win the Six Nations for the first time in 10 years.

England suffocated Ireland by dominating the gainline, its line speed making Ireland backpedal and forcing errors. England pressure in the air initially, then on the ground, stressed the Irish to the point they broke and halftime came as a relief.

Tadhg Furlong, rated the world's best tighthead, conceded a scrum penalty to England's Joe Marler, propping for the absent Mako Vunipola.

Without a platform from their pack, veteran halves Conor Murray and captain Jonathan Sexton struggled merely to be ordinary.

Murray, so accurate in the first two rounds, made two aimless box kicks and had a third charged down. It was no surprise when he was the first Irish player to be an unforced substitution. Sexton always had white shirts in his face, his kicking was awful, and he conceded a try and penalty to England.

The first half couldn't have gone any better for the home side, and it was no surprise England scored first, second and third.

But Ireland would have been angered that both tries conceded were soft. Both came from kicks that Ireland appeared to have safely covered.

An expert grubber by scrumhalf Ben Youngs from a ruck on the Ireland 22 bounced wickedly, Sexton bobbled it, and the chasing George Ford only had to press it down.

Then a Ford chip was allowed to bounce in the in-goal by Jacob Stockdale, and Elliot Daly shoved him aside to reach the ball first.

With Owen Farrell's conversions, England was 14-0 up after 25 minutes.

Sexton's penalty conceded just before the break was slotted by Farrell and England was in total control.

Ireland's failure to get going was evident by how it spent only 31 seconds in the England 22.

Ireland coach Andy Farrell didn't make any changes at halftime, trusting his side to show some pride. They did, using a penalty against Farrell to continue an attack which finished with center Robbie Henshaw burrowing over between Farrell and Tom Curry.

But England quickly regained the upper hand, destroyed an Ireland scrum to regain possession, and used it to set up a lineout maul from which replacement hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie was carried over.

Coach Eddie Jones was confident enough to go to the field with 10 minutes to go and shake the hands of the starters he'd replaced.

Ireland finished with a converted try for replacement prop Andrew Porter, his first in test rugby, in injury time, but it was no consolation.


More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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