Ireland fall short in Twickenham as England keep their Grand Slam hopes alive

Eddie Jones' men proved too good for Ireland

Ireland fall short in Twickenham as England keep their Grand Slam hopes alive

David Davies / PA Wire/Press Association Images

England 21

Ireland 10

Ireland's wait for a 2016 Six Nations win continues as they fell short against England in a thrilling encounter at Twickenham this evening.

Conor Murray's second try of the tournament handed Ireland the initiative early in the second half but a resilient English side refused to fall in front of their home crowd.

Anthony Watson and Mike Brown strikes and the boot of Owen Farrell was enough to see off the Irish challenge and keep the momentum building for their Grand Slam challenge under Eddie Jones.

Joe Schmidt's men were much improved from their outing against France, but Billy Vunipola inspired England to victory.

The Number 8 carried for 100 yards throughout the 80 minutes, and proved to be a primary attacking weapon for the home side. 

Ireland started brightly, with Johnny Sexton converting a penalty into points following an English infringement at the scrum, rewarding them for their positive start. 

However, that was as good as it really got for Ireland in the opening 40, as England began to turn the screw and take control. 

Owen Farrell leveled the game in the 12th minute after CJ Stander was penalised for not rolling away at the scrum, before he narrowly missed a kick that would have put England ahead in the 17th minute. 

The star of the first half was undoubtedly Vunipola, as his robust and dynamic ball carrying kept Ireland on the backfoot for the opening half, and he nearly grabbed the game's opening try.

Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie

The Saracens number 8 saw a blindside opening from the back of a maul and raced clear down the touchline, steamrolling over Andrew Trimble on his way before finally being pushed into touch short of the line.  

Momentum was firmly in England's favour at this point and it  only seemed a matter of time before they crossed the whitewash, but Ireland managed to hold out despite the best efforts of Dylan Hartley.

The English captain thought he had touched down over the line in the 25th minute but following the TMO's review, he was adjudged to have done so illegally.

Ireland withstood a number of assaults on their line and were fortunate to only trail 6-3 at the break, with Farrell kicking his second penalty following some good work at the breakdown by James Haskell. 

The tempo of the second half was lifted considerably from the restart, with Ireland going in search of an equalising score. 

They were helped in their quest as James Haskell was sent to the bin for a dangerous tackle on Conor Murray, and Ireland soon reaped the rewards of their endeavour by scoring the game's opening try. 

Turning down the chance for three, Sexton put a penalty into the corner and Ireland set up camp on the English line before going through the phases.

From victim to hero, it was Murray who dived over after peeling around the corner and getting inside of Ben Youngs, and with Sexton's excellent conversion, Ireland took a 10-6 lead that looked highly unlikely prior to the break. 

Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie

The home side weren't going to roll over and responded immediately, with Farrell landing his third three pointer of the day, although they were somewhat fortunate to be awarded the penalty after Dan Cole's off the ball hit on Devin Toner after the whistle. 

After a tepid first half affair, the game had truly burst into life, and England pushed themselves back in front with Watson running in just before the hour mark after Ireland's scramble defence failed to deal with pace of the English attack.  

It got worse for Ireland as Brown extended the lead four minutes later. He received a looped pass from Farrell, before touching down in the opposite corner after the Irish defence was once again stretched. 

Image: ©INPHO/Andrew Fosker

Farrell converted and the score stood at 21-10, but to their credit, Ireland kept fighting and were unlucky not to get themselves back into the game. 

First, Robbie Henshaw was dragged into touch as he stretched with a Shane Horgan-esque dive for the line after a scintillating Sexton line break set him racing free. 

Then another debutante, Ultan Dillane, made an impressive line break and combined well with Josh Van der Flier before the back row was caught short of the line by Danny Care, with the replacement scrum half then shown a yellow for cynically slowing down the ball. 

Even with the yellow card, Irish fans still felt aggrieved as Mike Brown remained on the pitch despite reckless use of his boot in an earlier phase, making contact with Conor Murray's head on the floor. 

Referee Roman Poite deemed tit was accidental and unworthy of punishment, but the citing commissioner may well take another look at the incident. 

With the man advantage, Ireland pummelled the English line, and finally looked to have made a breakthrough when Van der Flier crashed over. However, Ireland were denied again after Elliot Daly was deemed to have held up the Leinster flanker. 

Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie

That was as close as Ireland would come to launching an unlikely comeback, as England seized control of the ball and expertly saw the game out. 

The Grand Slam dream remains intact for England, but it's back to the drawing board for Ireland as they still await a win in this year's championship.

Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan