Last minute of the match, and Ireland couldn’t even get a line out in their own half to go right. Owen Farrell wasn’t flawless, and England didn’t score any tries, but there was no question as to the best team on the damp and muddy pitch, and as to the identity of the favorites to keep on to win the 2013 Six Nations Championship.
England were never looking to make some sort of statement involving style and flair. They were about discipline, fantastic tackling, their lines moving quickly and reacting well to everything, especially the trio of Mike Brown, Chris Ashton and Alex Goode, who never let ireland make anything out of Farrell’s clearances. They got on the score sheet pretty quickly, and enjoyed the Ireland of the second half from the tournament opener instead of the team that simply torched the field in the first half against Cardiff.
Ireland tried to open up on certain plays, but aside from one run, beginning with a beautiful Brian O’Driscoll pass and some neat running from Rob Kearney, which was tackled well before it became an actual goal-line stand situation, England were never in any danger. Ronan O’Gara, coming on for the injured Jonathan Sexton, did score six points on two penalties, but didn’t really add something special on the field.
It might signal and end of an era for Ireland, who were out-muscled and out-hustled throughout the 80 minutes, as aside from Brian O’Driscoll showing a bit of tenacity and flair in small bits, didn’t have anything to sell against a bigger, quicker, better trained and more efficient England side, who came to Dublin, a place where they haven’t won a 6 nations match since 2003, with a better game plan and better tools to execute it, not really losing their grip on the match even with a man down in the second half.
Manu Tuilagi had a chance to score a try 21 minutes into the second half, but slippery hands couldn’t make the most of the situation, brought on by a clever kick from Ben Youngs. Owen Farrell was calm as always with the penalty to kick, and England were distancing themselves once again from the Irish, who seemed to be running out of faith and steam.
Everything is still open, but there’s clearly a separation dealt in the tournament, heading into a two week break. England win home & away, in a stadium they rarely succeed in, showing the depth and versatility of their developing, young side. Ireland? They’re still in the race for the first place, although it’s hard to believe they have the needed quality and depth to finish the job.