May double steers England to win over Ireland
MATCH REPORT: Two superb Jonny May tries set England on their way to an 18-7 win over Ireland at Twickenham as Eddie Jones’ side continued their unbeaten start to the Nations Cup.
May latched on to Owen Farrell’s cross-field kick to break the deadlock in the 16th minute before adding a scintillating solo score from inside his own 22 midway through the first period.
*As it happened: England v Ireland
The wing’s brace saw him draw level with Will Greenwood and Ben Cohen in second place on England’s all-time list of try scorers on 31, with only Rory Underwood now ahead of the 30-year-old.
Two Farrell penalties settled the outcome in the second half to consign Ireland to a first defeat in Group A, though the visitors did have the final word through Jacob Stockdale’s well-worked try.
The opening exchanges at Twickenham saw boot meet ball on plenty of occasions, with both sides happy to trade kicks early on.
Ben Youngs almost sparked a breakthrough by taking a ninth-minute penalty quickly, allowing Owen Farrell to make ground, but his pass to Jamie George went to ground via a backtracking Irish hand and the hosts’ momentum was lost.
Farrell then put too much on a grubber kick as England continued to set the pace but made no mistake with his next switch of play to set up his side’s opening try.
After the forwards had pounded away at the Ireland line, the fly-half opted for a cross-field kick which May leapt above Hugo Keenan to claim before spinning to dot down.
Within four minutes, May had another in spectacular style. It stemmed from an attacking Ireland lineout which went loose, allowing England to build a counter-attack.
What followed was remarkable as the wing collected possession inside his own 22, sprinted past a despairing Bundee Aki tap tackle and kicked infield. May won the race with Jamison Gibson-Park, kicked on again from 10 metres out and gleefully dived on the bouncing ball over the line to complete a brilliant individual score.
Farrell, who had sliced his first conversion attempt wide, added the routine extras to open up a 12-0 lead before May came to the rescue at the other end, tackling Keith Earls after the Ireland wing had broken to within five metres of the England line.
The visitors continued to struggle at the set piece, with the imperious Maro Itoje stealing a lineout from another opportunity inside the home 22, and had to dig in to keep the deficit to 12 in the closing stages of the first half.
Peter O’Mahony won a vital turnover five metres out before Sam Underhill saw a try disallowed for playing the ball off his feet having ripped possession from Gibson-Park and touched down.
Ireland came out with a point to prove and built numerous phases early in the second half but met a tenacious England defence who refused to budge, with each of the starting home pack recording double-figure tackle counts.
The hosts were able to stretch their lead through two Farrell penalties but Ireland kept ploughing away against the relentless England pack, who celebrated with gusto when Itoje won a vital turnover under his own posts just after the hour mark.
Even crossing the line didn’t result in points for Ireland as Chris Farrell was held up by a fine try-saving tackle from Henry Slade having latched on to Earls’ deft grubber kick.
It was a similarly neat piece of footwork which set up the try Ireland’s second half territory deserved as two replacements combined, Jacob Stockdale claiming Billy Burns’ chip before sprinting clear of the covering England defence.
Those were the first points the hosts had conceded in the Autumn Nations Cup following last weekend’s shutout against Georgia and there were no further additions to the scoreboard on either side in the final six minutes as Jones’ side successfully saw out the victory.
England will look to wrap up top spot as they take on Wales next week, while Ireland will hope to bounce back against Georgia.
Moment of the match: It could only be the moment of magic from Jonny May which provided him and England with a second try of the match. There seemed little on when he collected possession inside his own 22 and his initial break to create the space was impressive enough. His kick infield perhaps didn’t go exactly where he planned but his pace more than made up for that, as he left Jamison Gibson-Park for dead. May then had the composure to apply the finishing touch, again latching on to his own kick to complete the job in style. Perhaps only May could have scored a try like this of the players on the field – it was one which deserved the roar of a full house.
Man of the match: For all May’s heroics, this was a win built in no small part on the determination and discipline of the England defence. Maro Itoje was at the forefront of those efforts throughout, making a remarkable 23 tackles – and not missing a single one. He also proved a nuisance at the breakdown, stealing lineouts and winning vital turnovers, as part of a complete performance. Itoje is a world-class operator and this was the 26-year-old at his best.
Villain of the match: Nobody, the match was played in good spirit.
Tries: May 2
Pens: Farrell 2
England: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Jonathan Joseph, 13 Ollie Lawrence, 12 Henry Slade, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell (captain), 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Tom Curry, 5 Joe Launchbury, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Jonny Hill, 20 Ben Earl, 21 Dan Robson, 22 George Ford, 23 Max Malins.
Ireland: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 James Lowe, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Peter O’Mahony, 6 CJ Stander, 5 James Ryan (captain), 4 Quinn Roux, 3 Andrew Porter, 2 Ronan Kelleher, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Will Connors, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Billy Burns, 23 Jacob Stockdale.
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Assistant referees: Mathieu Raynal (France), Alex Ruiz (France)
TMO: Nigel Owens (Wales)