England rack up half-century against Ireland
February 5, 2000
Debutant Mike Tindall dives in to score against Ireland
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Ireland just did not allow England to run all over them for a record defeat at Twickenham this afternoon, they just surrendered. This was not just a World Cup hangover, it was a major migraine.
The first 40 minutes were as an absymal performance from an Ireland team as one could have imagined. The traditional optimism before the game was very much misguided judging by what happened in the leafy suburbs of south west London.
Ireland certainly did not fancy the new laws. At least that's the impression one got as they gave away penalty after penalty in the first half, and found that their time-honoured trait of stopping other teams playing just didn't mix with referee Steve Walsh's thinking.
In the first half, the England side had Twickenham all to themselves as the Ireland defence disappeared without trace on numerous occasions. They leaked three tries in each half as England appeared to score at will whenever the notion took them.
Down 25-3 at the break, they did to their credit stage a remarkable recovery in the face of adversity with a couple of tries. But they were not as much playing catch-up rugby, but attempting to come second. They did that, just. But basically it was pretty awful.
England started in a real rush and only a covering tackle by prop Paul Wallace of all people, bundled full-back Matt Perry into touch 10-metres from the Ireland line.
England refused to relinquish their stranglehold on Ireland in those opening moments, and when Malcolm O'Kelly was turned over and Ireland gave away a penalty, Johnny Wilkinson fluffed his first dart at goal in the ninth minute.
However, he redeemed himself two minutes later when Ireland were again penalised at a ruck and he nudged his kick over from 30 metres.
Ireland's propensity for lack of discipline saw them punished again in the 14th minute with Wilkinson bang on with his second penalty.
Ireland were having great difficulty in getting their hands on the ball, as the English loose forwards gobbled up possession for the backs to put the men in green under constant pressure. Even when they managed to secure possession Ireland had it stripped from them or they gave it away.
England's superiority told again in the 18th minute with the first try of the game. The ball was flashed right and debutant Ben Cohen was given the chance on the overlap. The young Northampton winger took his chance well as he sidestepped the covering Malcom O'Kelly and avoided Tom Tierney's tackle to go over under the posts for Wilkinson to convert easily.
At 13-0 to the good, England were just cruising, while Ireland were being hit by a tidal wave of white jerseys.
The surfeit of ball was being put to good use by England as Ireland were continually on the back foot. It came as no surprise when England scored again on the half hour. They were virtually playing basketball as the backs and forwards enjoyed a spell of wonderful rugby which in the end culminated with right wing Austin Healy popping up to meander over at the posts. Wilkinson's conversion was again spot on.
Ireland did manage to venture into the England half in the final 10 minutes of a half they will want to forget. That little trip was concluded with a David Humphreys penalty. The same player, however, missed a chance to double Ireland's score a few minutes later with another penalty.
Ireland were let off after England skipper Matt Dawson was allowed to slip through a couple of tackles to sprint 50 metres upfield. However, England's advantage was lost when they were penalised 10 metres from Ireland's line.
However, they ended the first period on a high when after running Ireland ragged inside their own half, Healey out-paced the defence to score with consummate ease.
It was no better for Ireland at the restart when from England's first serious dart at the try-line they came up trumps. It was Dawson again who wriggled clear at a ruck and although he was pegged down by Conor O'Shea three metres out, he was able to shift the ball on to Neil Back who crashed over. Wilkinson converted from wide out.
Ireland, who had brought on Munster talisman Mick Galwey at the break for youngster Robert Casey, finally encroached on the England try line in the 45th minute. They charged out of defence with Brian O'Driscoll slipping out of a tackle along the right touchline. Approaching Perry at pace, O'Driscoll tapped over the full-back's head, and his pace allowed him to collect. Although he was pulled down, the ball was recycled by Keiron Dawson, who fired a long pass out left to Kevin Maggs to run in wide out.
Ireland rang the changes shortly afterwards in the 47th minute with flanker Trevor Brennan and full-back Girvan Dempsey coming on to boost areas that were of concern to Ireland.
Immediately afterwards Humphreys banged over a penalty just inside the England half to cut down the deficit to 32-11. However the same player was penalised in the 53rd minute for not releasing, and Wilkinson did the needful from 45 metres.
Ireland were having a bit of a purple patch midway through the second half when they were finally able to put together a number of phases. In one instance, Humphreys was unlucky not to have squeezd his way over as the recovering England defence held him up over the line.
However, they failed to turn possession into points as England broke away to allow Wilkinson to knock over his fourth penalty in the 67th minute. Undaunted, Ireland came straight back to turn the screw on England again. This time they scored with Galwey being carried over at the posts by his pack with Humphreys converting.
Stung by their try line being breached for the second time, England charged right back with their fifth try. A short penalty caught Ireland napping and Mike Tindall was left to sprint in a try, the second England debutant to get his name on the scoresheet.
And it was England who wrapped up a game they never looked like losing when the ball was again flashed across the field to leave Cohen charging in for his second try which Wilkinson converted from in front of the posts.