Eddie Jones took aim at the media last week, claiming he was poisoning the minds of his players. The England head coach may prepare for another attack after the defending champions ended a disappointing campaign with another display of slow wit that left them only ahead of Italy on the table.
His two attempts came after Irish center Bundee Aki was sent off for a high tackle on Billy Vunipola when Ireland were 20 points ahead. Ireland had made their way through the first four rounds, but here they quickly seized the opportunities and dominated up front and in collapse in by far their most impressive performance since 2018.
Jack Conan was making his first start for Ireland since a preparation match against Wales before the 2019 World Cup, and his contribution in the first half ensured that England would have had to overcome a 14-point deficit in interval to win. something that they had never achieved before. The brilliance of their display against France in the previous round faded into obscurity as they retreated to more familiar kicking and punching tactics, and they didn’t react when they got nowhere.
Ireland were as aggressive and aggressive as ever, but kept the ball in hand and used the width of the field. England started strong and took the lead with an Owen Farrell penalty after using some innovative routines at the lineout to secure the ball moving, but they had a training ground feel, sticking to their game plan even as Hugo Keenan as a winger he caught everything that was sent to him. and Tadhg Beirne, after his dominant performance against Scotland six days earlier, turned rival mauls into Irish scrums.
Such was the poverty of England’s display in the first half and its repeated lack of discipline and inflexibility that Jones drew two players out at halftime. Mako Vunipola conceded two penalties and a free kick as Tadhg Furlong won the Lions battle up front and Luke Cowan-Dickie also paid for moments of indiscipline: The hooker conceded the penalty that allowed Johnny Sexton to kick the first of his six penalties. freaking out in a ruck, the kind of unnecessary offense that has undermined England during this tournament.
England enjoyed a one-man lead for the final 17 minutes, but were 20 points down and had a scrum-half, Dan Robson, in the outside half with George Ford replaced after 50 minutes and Owen Farrell with his head examined on orders. of the independent doctor on the ground after a challenge to Iain Henderson.
It summed up their lack of direction and what worried them again was that once the game started to fall apart, as it did from the end of the first quarter when Irish mediators Conor Murray and Sexton dictated tactically and players like Beirne and center Robbie Henshaw dominated their areas of the field.
England’s tendency to award offensive penalties at or around 22 of their opponents tended to be overlooked because they defeated France, but here it stood out. When Mako Vunipola was penalized for a neck twist, Ireland shot long at the lineout where Conan hit the ball under pressure from Tom Curry for Keith Earls who had come off the right wing.
It was a move in training camp and Billy Vunipola couldn’t close the gap in time, watching the wing pass and get to 22 where he circled Jonny May to score. He was denied a second after the break when he managed to land after Sexton’s cross kick even though he seemed to have neither space nor time, but the attempt was ruled out due to Cian Healy’s punch in preparation.
Farrell’s second penalty was quickly countered by Sexton after Vunipola dropped his knee in a scrum before a 23-phase Ireland play ended with Conan lifting to score from a ruck after Keenan climbed higher than Daly to claim a high kick from Sexton. He made it 20-6 against Ireland at halftime and while the changes made by Jones gave England an extra boost early in the second period, there was no mental difference and two penalties in quick succession, the first given away at 22 from Ireland. , ended with Sexton pointing at the posts.
England conceded 16 penalties during the match, slightly more than their tournament average, and Sexton converted six of them on points in his 99th appearance for his country. Ireland had struggled to create the entire tournament, but they had England’s measure throughout and when Aki was sent off for a vertical challenge at Vunipola that saw his right shoulder make contact with the No. 8’s chin, Ben Youngs immediately scored after a lineout.
There was still time for England to at least make Ireland nervous, but two more penalties made the game safe before May scored with 90 seconds remaining as Ireland were left with 13 men, with Murray in the sin-bin to concede. his team’s fifth penalty. in so many minutes. It was too little, too late, and England are in fifth place, where they were in 2018 when they were also defending their title. It was the first time they had lost to Scotland, Wales and Ireland in the same tournament since 1976.
For an experienced coach, it was surprising that Jones accused the media of putting rat poison on his players, and not just because it’s a battle where he will never fire the last shot. He has bigger things to worry about, like how a team that reached the World Cup final with an age profile to dominate the Six Nations for a few years has slipped so low. France was like a mirage: the poverty of this performance cannot be underestimated.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism