England made sure the wait was worth it as they ran out 24-12 victors over Ireland at Twickenham.
After away trips to Paris and Edinburgh to start the Six Nations, England rediscovered the moxie which took them to the World Cup final four months ago with a three-try victory over an Ireland side who had journeyed to south-west London with the aim of keeping their Grand Slam hopes intact.
In truth, Ireland faced a massive uphill battle from the off as Andy Farrell rued a first half abound with errors.
The first try of the match set the tone for a testing day in defence for Ireland’s back three of Jacob Stockdale, Andrew Conway and Jordan Lamour. Take advantage of first tryscorers odds and get your Coral promo code here.
The trinity of Ireland’s failsafe opening like a chasm for Ben Youngs exploit with a probing grubber-kick through the middle after a strong carry for Courtney Lawes.
And in a week of ‘Farrell v Farrell’ storylines which left Johnny Sexton’s continued adjustment to captaincy dormant, it was the Ireland fly-half who was scrambling to gather the ball ahead of opponent number George Ford.
Sexton losing out to Ford to give England the lead on 9 minutes, with Owen Farrell slotting the conversion.
Things were only just starting to get challenge for Sexton and the rest of the Ireland team, as their leader botched a penalty kick wide of the left post six minutes later.
An error which wouldn’t be able to prevent Ireland from finishing the first half scoreless.
With Manu Tuilagi back to start in the midfield following a groin injury, England soon grabbed their second try before the half-four.
Farrell opted to kick for the corner from a penalty and learnt their lesson from an earlier Peter O’Mahony steal at a lineout five metres out by going straight to Lawes at the front to set up the maul.
From the following phases, George Ford tricked the rush of the Irish defence to prod a ball over into the in-goal area for Elliot Daly to latch onto – this time it was Stockdale unable to ground the ball before an English rival.
England extended their lead one minute before the break with a Farrell penalty in front of the sticks.
Walking in at half-time 17-0 to the good, had England looking together as a unit even with the questions that have been posed by Eddie Jones’ selection.
Ireland regrouped to get over their no-show in the first half and cause England problems after the restart.
Using the set-piece to find a breakthrough, Ireland were able to score from a play resulting from a scrum five metres out.
Conor Murray and Peter O’Mahony making up ground to drive the visitors close to the line, where centre Robbie Henshaw was able to power through Tom Curry and Farrell.
But England were unnerved their defence being breached and continued to surge forward with he help of their bench.
Replacement loosehead prop Ellis Genge followed up a war of words with scrummaging opponent Andrew Porter, with a big shunt to turn the Ireland scrum on its head off its own feed.
Farrell kicked for the corner and from the resulting lineout Luke Cowan-Dickie was able to peel off the maul to give England breathing space.
Moments like Genge’s were not in isolation, as Jonathan Joseph produced his own big play to vaccuum all Irish momentum, counter-rucking at a ruck to create a turnover.
Yet, as England were able to clear, Ireland continued to press and had their labouring efforts pay off when Andrew Porter was bundled over the line two minutes after the clock had gone red.
For Jones, the performance of his side in the first half was nothing short of ruthless.
“I thought they were outstanding in that first 40 minutes, we put Ireland to the sword,” Jones said of England’s performance.
“We played with a lot of control and read the conditions well. At half-time if it was a cricket game we would have declared.
“I got the preparation wrong for the France game and I apologise for that, but we were very good against Scotland and we took another step up today.”
The result brings England and Ireland on equal parity, both tasked with chasing down France who top by Six Nations standings by four points.
England: Elliot Daly 8, Jonny May 7, Manu Tuilagi 8 (Henry Slade 74), Owen Farrell 6, Jonathan Joseph 7, George Ford 7, Ben Youngs 7 (Willi Heinz 58, 6); Joe Marler 6 (Ellis Genge 58, 6), Jamie George 6 (Luke Cowan-Dickie 52, 6), Kyle Sinckler 6 (Will Stuart 69, 6), Maro Itoje 8, George Kruis 7 (Joe Launchbury 61, 6) , Courtney Lawes 6 (Charlie Ewels 58), Sam Underhill 6, Tom Curry 6 (Ben Earl 66, 6)
Ireland: Jordan Larmour 5 (Keith Earls 64, 6), Andrew Conway 5 (Ross Byrne 66, 6), Robbie Henshaw 6, Bundee Aki 6, Jacob Stockdale 5, Johnny Sexton (capt) 5, Conor Murray 5 (John Cooney 55, 6); Cian Healy 6, Rob Herring 6 (Ronan Kelleher 61, 6), Tadhg Furlong 5 (Andrew Porter 58, 6), Devin Toner 5 (Ultan Dillane 61, 6), James Ryan 5, Peter O’Mahony 7, Josh van der Flier 6 (Caelan Doris 61, 6), CJ Stander 6
Referee: Jaco Peyper (RSA)
Star Man: Elliot Daly (England)
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