England’s George Ford tackles Ireland’s Tommy Bowe (AP)
London - England signed off for the Rugby World Cup with a 21-13 victory
but Stuart Lancaster's men made heavy weather of beating Ireland after
threatening to blow them away earlier in the warm-up contest on Saturday.
Tries from Jonny May and Anthony Watson ensured the
Twickenham fans went away with smiles on their faces, even more relishing the
start of the World Cup with England's opening pool game with Fiji on September
Ireland were unable to bounce back from their recent loss to
Wales, and will have plenty of food for thought over the next couple of weeks
before their opening World Cup contest.
England captain Chris Robshaw and his men led 12-3 having
taken the game by the scruff of the neck with a stirring first-half display.
May used sheer strength, power and determination to crash
his way over for the opening try within three minutes of the start.
Like a man on a special mission to cement his World Cup
starting spot, he did his own Jonah Lomu impression on rival wing Tommy Bowe
and then fullback Simon Zebo.
Both Irish defenders left sprawled on the ground as
Gloucester ace May grabbed Ben Youngs' pass out wide and charged through and
over them in the left hand corner with Ford converting.
May turned sinner moments later handed the Irish a penalty
and Jonathan Sexton kicked Ireland's first points which bounced on the crossbar
But that provided temporary respite for the Irish as George
Ford's high punt to the right wing saw Watson leap like a salmon and out-jump
The talented wing plucked the ball out of the air and
grounded it over the line as he fell back to earth.
It was another stunning moment of athleticism and skill from
the youngster tipped to be a real World Cup sensation.
Ireland lost scrumhalf Conor Murray to concussion after his
head connected with England prop Joe Marler.
May thought he had a second try in the 26th minute when
running over the line unchallenged.
But, after a series of TV replays, it was ruled out for a
forward final pass from hooker Tom Youngs.
Ford and Sexton exchanged penalties at the start of the
second half but then came an Irish resurgence with captain Paul O'Connell
leading the way.
A strong forwards drive from the visitors from a line-out to
the veteran lock forcing his way over for a try converted by Sexton.
From the threat of being overrun in the first half, Joe
Schmidt's men were suddenly right back in with a chance of upsetting the home
side and the odds as England began to show some nerves.
Both sides made wholesale changes as a game which was
lively, exciting and full of incident went through a quiet phase with neither
managing to create any real pressure on the opponents’ line.
England threw on ex-rugby league man Sam Burgess in a bid to
add some more strength and power to their back line but his first two pieces of
action resulted in a forward pass and knock on.
Not the kind of impact Burgess was hoping to make as he
attempts to snatch a starting spot against Fiji.
England finally gained some renewed momentum and long series
of phases saw them knocking on the Irish line.
Replacement scrumhalf Richard Wigglesworth cut in and
desperately tried to plant the ball on the line but was tackled by Ireland
replacement hooker Richardt Strauss.
However, referee Nigel Owens ruled the England man had come
up short but a penalty from replacement No 10 Owen Farrell sealed victory.
Tries: Jonny May, Anthony Watson
Conversion: George Ford
Penalties: Ford, Owen Farrell (2)
Try: Paul O'Connell
Conversion: Johnny Sexton
Penalties: Sexton (2)
15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Chris Robshaw (caotain), 6 Tom Wood, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Joe Marler.
Substitutes: 16 Jamie George, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Billy Vunipola, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Sam Burgess
15 Simon Zebo, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Paul O'Connell (captain), 4 Devin Toner, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Jack McGrath.
Substitutes: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Tadhg Furlong, 18 Nathan White, 19 Donnacha Ryan, 20 Chris Henry, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Darren Cave