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27 Aug 2011 19:26
England ensured they set off for the World Cup on a winning note with a 20-9 victory over Ireland in their final warm-up match at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.
Defeat for Ireland meant they’d lost all four of their warm-up matches and this reverse, with the World Cup in New Zealand just a fortnight away, was made worse by the sight of flanker David Wallace being carried off with what appeared to be a tournament-ending injury.
England, who’d lost their last three matches against Ireland, most recently a 24-8 Lansdowne defeat in March that cost the Six Nations champions a grand slam, outscored Ireland by two tries to nil on Saturday.
Manu Tuilagi and Delon Armitage both crossed while 2003 World Cup winning fly-half Jonny Wilkinson, selected ahead of Toby Flood, landed all four of his goalkicks.
Ireland, who’d lost to Scotland and twice been beaten by France in their previous warm-ups had to make do with three first-half Ronan O’Gara penalties.
England started boldly with flanker Hendre Fourie, a late change after a calf strain ruled out Nick Easter, charging into Ireland’s 22 and they only had to wait five minutes for a try.
James Haskell, switched to No 8 in Easter’s absence, broke off a scrum before stand-in skipper Mike Tindall released fellow centre Tuilagi.
The Samoa born powerhouse, half of England’s 13th midfield combination in manager Martin Johnson’s 35 tests in charge, rounded Keith Earls.
Wilkinson converted and England, beaten 19-9 last time out by Wales, were 7-0 in front before veteran outside-half O’Gara got Ireland on the board.
A Wilkinson penalty, awarded when returning England prop Andrew Sheridan forced the Ireland scrum to stand up, restored the visitors’ seven-point lead.
Ireland though were starting to test England’s defence but a promising 20th minute move ended with Wallace, whose pain was immediately evident, being bundled into touch by Tuilagi and then carried from the field on a stretcher.
An attacking lineout deep into England territory on the half-hour almost cost Ireland dear when hooker Jerry Flannery overthrew and Tuilagi regathered the loose ball.
Tuilagi set off on a 70-metre run but he was denied a try thanks to a brilliant tackle by Leicester team-mate and Ireland full-back Geordan Murphy.
The ensuing attack floundered with lock Courtney Lawes passing the ball into touch and England turned round 13-9 in front.
Ireland could have taken the lead early in the second half when England wing Chris Ashton was yellow-carded for going off his feet at a ruck.
O’Gara missed for the first time in four attempts when his kick came back off the right post.
It was an error that proved all the more costly minutes later when England scored their second try despite being down to 14 men.
From a scrum, the ball was worked left and Tindall’s grubber-kick was seized upon by replacement back Armitage.
Wilkinson, England’s record points scorer, made light of a difficult conversion from out on the left to give his side breathing space at 20-9.
As rain lashed down and both sides emptied their benches, the game became increasingly scrappy.
England begin their bid for a third straight World Cup final appearance against Argentina while Ireland’s opening pool opponents are the United States, coached by former Ireland handler Eddie O’Sullivan.—AFP
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