Six Nations Game 8 - Ireland vs England (43-13)
Crunch time, for both teams. As the anthems played, I felt sick, and that was just me watching in front of the telly! (A new telly, which I had to rush out and buy earlier, when the old one chose to die on me at 10am this morning - what timing!)
It always makes me smile when I see Peter Stringer [tiny fellow that he is, right] dwarfed bewteen the two Locks, as they sing "standing shoulder to shoulder". Wonderful.
And Jonny Wilkinson fit, thankfully. David Strettle in for the injured Jason Robinson. So, a new-look backline.
Joel Jutge blew the whistle and we were off. Wilko's kick taken safely by Ireland. Penalty for England withing thirty seconds, after a high ball kick wasn't taken well by anyone. Jonny punts the ball over, 0-3 to England.
Danny Grewcock [left] took the restart kick safely, but Ireland soon had it back in their possession. They kicked long and it ended over the try line, so it was a 22m dropout to England. Paul O'Connell was brought to ground after his catch. O'Gara put it just out near the England line and it was England's lineout. Easterby went up too, but it was won by Lund and the forwards rumbled them back. Shortly after Ireland won a penalty, O'Gara pushing it over cleanly.
They played ping pong for a bit, Ireland lost their lineout and England made a break. Attack and counter-attack, and then into touch. After the scrum, England won a lineout, and seemed to be getting some quick ball from rucks. Ireland had a chance of overlap but squandered it.
Soon after, Ireland kicked another penalty to make it 6-3. Then they stole a lineout from Grewcock. Then Ireland infringed, Ellis took the penalty quickly and then O'Connell gave away another penalty for high tackle. Wilkinson punted it deep into the Irish 22. George Chuter's [right] lineout was lost and Ireland won another lineout a couple of minutes later.
The rain started hammering down and the ball was getting slippery. Then England gave away another stupid penalty at the lineout. O'Gara made it 9-3.
After the restart, Ireland looked more dangerous, and Josh Lewsey saved a possible Irish chance by making sure it was in touch. Then Ireland were attacking again, just before the line and Danny Grewcock was sin binned. Which meant an Irish lineout close to England's line and a man down. The inevitable - Irish try finished by Girvan Dempsey [left]. 16-3 to Ireland once O'Gara had done the hours with the boot.
After some sticky moments for England, they had a chance at attack, but knocked on. So Ireland had the put-in. Mattew Tait came on for Olly Morgan (shoulder injury). Ireland were on the attack again after a lineout, and almost made it, but Tait made one hell of a tackle and it was out of the dead ball line. Soon after they were back and David Wallace [right] just managed to get across the whitewash. O'Gara did the honours, and Ireland were up 23-3.
Shame to see England on the ropes, I was hoping for a better matched first half. Just before the break, they looked to be making a break, but couldn't manage it. Brian Ashton has some talking to do at the break.
Things didn't get any better at the restart of the second half. Paul O'Connell almost charged down a Mike Tindall [left] clearance kick but it went out. Ireland stole the ball but then knocked it on. The scrum was terrible for England and O'Gara added another three points for the offence, making it 26-3. Ghastly second half start for the men in white.
Julian White came on as a blood replacement for Vickery, Grewcock caught the dodgy England lineout. Then the centres had a go. Andy Farrell kicked a lovely clearance to touch but the Irish lineout was solid, until England turned them over. Josh Lewsey made some headway and England were only 5m out. They had to spin it out wide, and David Strettle scored in the corner on his debut, after seeing the video replay. Wilkinson took the extras and England were back in the game at 26-10.
Ireland's next attack eventually put the ball in touch. England won the lineout, but the clearing kick failed to find touch and Ireland were back on the attack. They were pinged for crossing on the half way line, and Jonny wasn't quite able to push it over.
On 53 minutes, Tom Palmer [right] replaced Danny Grewcock. The next phase of play, Ireland gave away a penalty closer in, and Jonny made no mistake with the boot this time, making it 26-13. Then Julian White gave away a penalty, and O'Gara did the honours - 29-13.
The restart saw Ireland go on the attack, but Lewsey got the ball back and Ireland had a forward pass. The England scrum wasn't performing to best - England done for not feeding straight and Stringer was off for a quick tap and go. They tried to get themselves into the England 22, but Tait was able to take a silly kick from Ireland.
Then Ireland looked like they were making headway before England managed to catch an intercept. Then Ireland had a scrum, and there were a couple of knock-ons either side. A few minutes later, a huge crossfield kick from O'Gara was taken by Shane Horgan [left] to put it down in the corner, O'Gara making it 8 from 8 and the score moved on to 36-13.
Then Brian O'Driscoll's hamstring appeared to go again as England turned over the Irish ruck. It took another ten minutes for him to go off the field, though.
A flurry of replacements for both sides, but Ireland still looked like the dominant force. England won some more ball, but it was basically scraps compared to Ireland's possession.
Even the last five minutes were fairly furious, with possession changing hands regularly. Paul O'Connell was named man of the match, but I'm sure Isaac Boss, a late replacement for Stringer, will be relishing his interception which gave him a simple run under the posts. And then O'Gara added the rest. Again. 43-13.
Ireland certainly looked the most convincing, they played extremely well. And 30 points is the biggest Irish win against England. The best team certainly won on the day, and at Croke Park, they will be partying very hard tonight.
Or read my ten word review.