England Dominate In The Rain

England 12 – Ireland 6

If you looked at the statistics after the game you would have thought England were lucky to scrape a win. They were “beaten” on paper in most areas of the game – possession and territory, yards gained, attacks made, and set-piece were all in Ireland’s hands.

But watching it through, there was no sense that Ireland were able to win. OK, so the third quarter, historically England’s purple patch, saw Ireland make significant gains.

And take this. The refereeing was extremely poor and from an England perspective, unkind. Two major incidents screamed out, and there other less obvious errors that went to Ireland’s advantage.

The major incidents were firstly that Ireland tight-head Cian Healy should have been removed from the field of play for stamping. He will surely be cited and banned following video evidence, but the referee was there; hovering over the incident. If for some reason he blinked at that moment, we have fully qualified international referees running the touch to fill any gaps. They did nothing.

Incidentally, Healy must also be cited for punching in his hot-headed joining of a ruck just before half-time; fists flailing and unprovoked. The second incident saw Haskell yellow-carded for interfering with the ball as he squirmed free of a ruck. He did, in my opinion, kick the ball with his foot and a penalty should have ensued; but this was reaction and not an intentional act to cheat. To send him off at that point could have spelled disaster for England.

But like the game against New Zealand, they grew stronger and wiser. They tightened up the game, remained strong in defence and made the right decisions – more from Farrell (who was simply world-class) than Robshaw, but the skipper was strong enough.

This surely is an England team on the cusp of real greatness. They are young, confident and able. All the championship trophies are in their grasp; they have their toughest remaining games at fortress Twickenham. Don’t write off any of the opposition yet, but this is a dream start for England players, as well as their supporters.