Jack Conan scores Ireland's third try late in the second half PIC: Sportsfile
Ireland withstood a serious 14-man effort from England to prevail on a 32-15 scoreline at Twickenham on Saturday afternoon, March 12.
The home team fought bravely to overcome the red card shown to Charlie Ewels just seconds into the compelling Guinness Six Nations title but ran out of steam as Ireland tagged on two late tries to seal a win that looked in doubt for long spells.
Ewels became the fastest sending-off in the history of the tournament for a head-led tackle on James Ryan that also lacked any attempt to wrap his arms in a challenge that ended the concussed Leinster second row’s afternoon.
What followed was a remarkable act of defiance from England and despite their numerical disadvantage, the scrum emerged as their greatest weapon, producing six penalties on a traumatising afternoon for the Irish set-piece and enabling Marcus Smith to keep his side in contention from the kicking tee.
After their tumultuous start, England conceded a sixth-minute try when an undermanned England blindside was expertly exploited by Josh van der Flier and Dan Sheehan, with the pace of James Lowe doing the rest.
A second Ireland try was chalked off because of a knock-on and even as England celebrated winning a scrum penalty close to their line, their joy quickly turned to despair as Curry injured his hamstring while running.
Alex Dombrandt had been limited to one training session all week due to Covid but he now found himself in the back row that was swimming against the tide.
Ireland were pummelled at the scrum once more, however, and this time the penalty was in Smith’s range so the fly-half duly obliged to get his side off the mark.
Until Jamie George knocked on at the back of a dangerously-positioned maul, the home side had defied the odds to seize control with their pack making an impact in all departments.
A thrilling raid by Ireland ended with a third scrum penalty and they just could not escape Raynal’s whistle as Smith found the target once more.
But when given the opportunity to accelerate the tempo they were irrepressible and even in the face of heroic home defence, a second try was added as Jamison Gibson-Park took a quick tap and sent Hugo Keenan over.
The first half finished with Smith splitting the posts and the second began with the rivals trading blows in attack, Sam Simmonds flattening Tadhg Furlong one highlight.
Smith kicked another three points as England continued to win key moments, but the most profitable platform remained the scrum and when Raynal raised his hand for the sixth time Harlequins’ fly-half levelled the score.
Johnny Sexton nudged Ireland back in front, however, and as pressure built again on the home line, Conan was able to stride through a big gap before Bealham secured the bonus point with Ireland's fourth try of the afternoon.
Ireland now go into the last weekend of the Six Nations with an outside chance of winning the title. Favourites and unbeaten France must face England next Saturday night, hours after Ireland play Scotland at the Aviva. Ireland needs the French to slip up there to have any chance of winning the tournament. A triple crown will be the least Ireland settle for against the Scots, a game they will start as favourites.
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