England grind out victory over Ireland
March 6, 1999
Jonny Wilkinson, excellent with the boot all afternoon, breaks clear of the Irish defence
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England ground out a precious win against Ireland at Lansdowne Road on Saturday largely thanks to an outstanding effort from their pack and the boot of Jonny Wilkinson.
The pre-match hype had centred around the Irish eight but on the day they were out-powered by the Englishmen. Martin Johnson had a huge game and Lawrence Dallaglio was back to his old self. It was a wise move by Woodward to shunt him along the scrum from blind-side to No8 and Dallaglio revelled in the greater freedom he found at the base of the scrum. He is one of the most effective No8s in the world when it comes to picking up from the scrum and driving forward over the gain line.
Ireland will be disappointed with their display. They were slowly strangled up front while out wide their options were limited to either crash balls using Rob Henderson in the centre or telegraphed switches to the two wings and/or full-back Conor O'Shea. Against a team as street-wise as England it was a waste of ball.
England had obviously come out intent on subduing the Irish pack from the start and for the first few minutes they were camped in their 22. David Humphreys slotted over a penalty against the run of play in the 8th minute, but England were soon back in the driving seat keeping the ball in the forwards and trying to establish domination in the set-piece. Referee Paddy O'Brien had trouble the whole afternoon controlling the scrums and the much-vaunted clash between hookers Cockerill and Wood never materialised.
Jonny Wilkinson had levelled the scores with a penalty in the 19th minute and although Humphreys had nosed the home side in front 10 minutes later England had a hold on the game that soon earned them a try in the right-hand corner. Powerful drives into the heart of the Irish defence by Johnson and Rodber sucked in the Ireland defence and Wilkinson flicked a beautifully-judged pass out to full-back Perry who cut back inside for the opening try.
Paul Grayson dropped a goal in the 37th minute to take England up to 11 points but two Humphreys penalties either side of half-time edged them out in front shortly after the re-start.
Wilkinson scored three unanswered penalties in a 15-minute spell midway through the second half to establish a 20-12 lead for England, but the match was becoming increasingly shapeless as errors crept into both team's play.
Bracken and Guscott were both pushed into touch a yard short of the Irish try-line but England failed to apply the finishing touch to several well-worked moves that would have killed off Ireland's resistance.
Humphreys kicked his fifth penalty after 70 minutes to bring the Irish to within five points of the visitors and England then had to survive the only sustained period of Irish pressure five minutes from the end. They weathered the brief storm and on the stroke of full-time Tim Rodber barged his way over to put a deserved gloss on the final scoreline.