Eddie Jones targeted the media last week claiming it would poison the minds of his players. The England head coach can expect yet another attack of pins and needles after the defending champions ended an overwhelming campaign with another slow performance that saw only Italy on the table over Italy.
Their two attempts came after Irish center Bundee Aki had been sent off for a duel with Billy Vunipola when Ireland were 20 points ahead. Ireland had prevailed in the first four rounds, but here they quickly seized the opportunities and dominated the front and in the collapse their most impressive performance by far since 2018.
Jack Conan made his first start for Ireland since a warm-up game against Wales before the The 2019 World Cup and his contribution in the first half ensured that England would have had to overcome a 14-point deficit during the break to win had never made it. The brightness of their portrayal against France in the preliminary round faded in the darkness as they retreated into more familiar tactics of kicking and punching – and not responding when they got nowhere.
Ireland was as confrontational and aggressive as always, but they were held the ball in hand and used the width of the pitch. England started strong and took the lead with an Owen Farrell penalty after employing some innovative lineout routines to secure the moving ball. However, they had a feeling on the training ground and stuck to their game plan, even when Hugo Keenan as full-back caught everything that got in his way and Tadhg Beirne turned opposition mouths in Ireland scrums after his dominant performance against Scotland six days earlier .
So great was England’s first-half poverty and repetitive mistakes in indiscipline and inflexibility that Jones pulled two players at half time. Mako Vunipola received two penalties and a free kick when Tadhg Furlong won the Battle of the Lions and Luke Cowan-Dickie also paid for moments of indiscipline: the hooker took the penalty that enabled Johnny Sexton to kick the first of his six penalties by playing Jerk off your feet, the kind of unnecessary insult England undermined during this tournament.
England had a one-man advantage in the last 17 minutes but they were 20 points behind and had one at the time Scrum half, Dan Robson, in the outer half. George Ford was replaced after 50 minutes and Owen Farrell had his head examined by orders from the independent on-site doctor following a challenge to Iain Henderson.
It summed up their lack of orientation and what troubled them again was that the game was about to be closed Beginning of the game broke up, as it did from the end of the first quarter when Irish center-backs Conor Murray and Sexton dictated tactically and such as Beirne and The Center Robbie Henshaw dominated their areas of the pitch.
The tendency of England to Collecting 22 fines when attacking in or around the opponents was rather overlooked because they defeated France, but here it was noticed. When Mako Vunipola was punished for a neck roll, Ireland threw long on the lineout, with Conan knocking the ball back under pressure from Tom Curry for Keith Earls, who had fallen from the right wing.
It was a movement on the training ground , and Billy Vunipola was unable to close the gap in time. He watched the wing rush by and reached 22 where he circled Jonny May to score a goal. He was denied a second after the break when he was able to touch down after Sextons cross-kick, although he seemed to have neither space nor time. The attempt was ruled out due to Cian Healy’s build-up kick-off.
Farrell’s second penalty was quickly countered by Sexton after Vunipola dropped his knee in a scrum before a 23-phase game against Ireland ended and Conan after one Jerk scored a goal after Keenan climbed higher than Daly to get a six-tone high kick. It made it 20-6 to Ireland at break and while the changes Jones made gave England an extra boost at the start of the second period, there was no mental difference and two penalties in quick succession, the first given away in Ireland’s 22nd, ended with that that Sexton was aiming for the post.
England conceded 16 penalties during the game, slightly more than the tournament average, and Sexton kicked six of them in points in his 99th appearance for his country. Ireland struggled to make all the tournaments but they were consistently England’s measure and when Aki was sent off for an upright challenge against Vunipola that saw his right shoulder contact the No. 8’s chin, Ben hit Youngs immediately after a lineout.
There was still time for England to at least make Ireland nervous, but two more penalties made the game safe before May scored 90 seconds from the end when Ireland were down to 13 men. Murray was in sin for taking his team’s fifth penalty in so many minutes. It was too little, far too late, and England are in fifth place, where they were in 2018 when they also defended their title. It was the first time since 1976 that they had lost to Scotland, Wales and Ireland in the same tournament.
It came as a surprise to a seasoned coach that Jones accused the media of planting rat poison for his players and not just because it’s a fight he’ll never fire the last shot. He has bigger concerns to worry about, such as that a team that made it to the World Cup Finals with an age profile to dominate the Six Nations for a couple of years has slipped so low. France was like a mirage: the poverty of this performance cannot be overstated.
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