'Massive balls' spur England to victory
Tom Hamilton at Twickenham
February 22, 2014
Mike Brown was superb for England © Getty Images
In the words of Andy Farrell, England's win took "massive balls". Again England found themselves behind with the momentum firmly in the opponent's favour but unlike their games against New Zealand back in the autumn and France at the start of the month, sheer bloody-mindedness and defensive structure saw them through.
This was a brilliant Test match with both teams finding tooth and nail throughout. The statistics show that Ireland shaded almost every area of the game bar the scoreboard. They had more possession, territory and a scrum in the ascendancy but they lost.
Ireland did not do anything wrong. They did what Joe Schmidt would have wanted them to do - edge the percentages and you usually win the match. At the start of the second-half Ireland got their try and threatened to pull away.
While the Irish in the crowd applauded Rob Kearney's wonderful try, those sporting a red rose were rooted to their seats fearing the worse. In Lancaster's words, it is about "riding the momentum shift and then getting the chance to play". England have learnt from harsh lessons.
Andy Farrell's work was all over this England performance, they were structurally superb. They defended as a unit throughout with even Jonny May and Owen Farrell making turnovers but for Ireland boss Joe Schmidt, Mike Brown was the difference between the two sides both defensively and in attack. While Ireland's try was made in Dublin, England's was made at the Stoop as the fullback's break put Danny Care over. Brown is now an essential part of England's structure as is Joe Launchbury.
Lancaster singled out the young lock for praise post-match and he was unlucky to miss out on the Man of the Match award. His late tap tackle - his 15th of the game - on Dave Kearney was potentially a game-saver he also and made three turnovers.
It's a double-edged sword that this was far from a complete performance from England. David Wilson did well to last 70 minutes but the scrum struggled. In either half England squandered clear overlaps as they opted to keep the ball in and around the breakdown instead of spreading it wide. May will wake up in cold sweats over the try that was not when Andrew Trimble knocked the ball out of his hands despite his torso being over the line.
Room for improvement but it is a good sign for Lancaster's men they are winning despite being on the back foot in parts of the game.
Belief and pride have both been aspects Lancaster has tried to drill into this side since he took on the job before the 2012 championship. He's not averse to trying different things like asking the coach to park further away to rally the crowd - quite how the extra 20 yards the players had to stroll affected the team only they know - but it is all part of the master plan. Social media ploys and gimmicks only do so much; nothing raises Twickenham quite like a winning England team. Now they need to build on this.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.
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