The title challenge is back on track. After an opening couple of rounds for England that lacked in fireworks, the hosts put in a performance that put them right back in the mix to take home the trophy against an Ireland side that came with high hopes of a triple-crown. The main negatives were that the score-line didn’t do the game justice and England failed to come away with what could be an all-important bonus-point.
Here are the players ratings.
15. Elliot Daly – 8
His best game for a while and one of his best in the 15 shirt for England. Looked assured under the high-ball and chased kicks well all game, which brought him a try. The occasional forced pass were the only blemishes on an excellent game.
14. Jonny May – 6
Mostly dealt with the high-ball well, albeit with the odd error. Perhaps not as involved as he would have liked in attack and was guilty of crabbing infield sometimes.
13. Manu Tuilagi – 8
Game-busting. Carried brilliantly and with a ferocity that Ireland couldn’t live with. Smashed the attacks back behind the gain-line time and time again. As an England fan, it’s great to see him play like that with a smile on his face and his team using him effectively.
12. Owen Farrell – 7
In tandem with George Ford, defended stoutly against Ireland’s most threatening player on the day in Bundee Aki. Managed the game well, but perhaps didn’t offer himself with ball in hand or with his distribution that could have taken England to the next level and secured that bonus.
11. Jonathan Joseph – 7
The controversial selection turned out to be rather good on the wing. Perhaps didn’t pop up in attack as much as he could have, but when he did, he was effective (including one marvellous dancing weave of a run). Managed well aerially when called upon as well.
10. George Ford – 8
The kicking game won it for England with the pressure it put on Ireland in the first half and he and his half-back partner were at the heart of it. Got himself a try with a good chase as well. Loses marks for over-kicking at certain points when there were better options and for the one that went backwards…
9. Ben Youngs – 8
He needs more performances like this to guarantee his own selection and to ensure the progress of England going forward. Almost always chose the right option, pretty good pace to the game and kicked well.
1. Joe Marler – 7
Very solid in the pack, as you would expect. Defended well and carried well, but it would be good to see him take a greater role in the loose because we do have options that can do what he does with more prominence and dynamism when the ball gets moving.
2. Jamie George – 7
At the heart of a tireless performance from the forwards. Whilst he isn’t standing out in any particular facet (Luke Cowan-Dickie has arguably caught the eye more in his cameos), the forwards do seem to lose a bit of cohesion and direction when he is removed from the field.
3. Kyle Sinckler – 8
Seemed to be back to the Kyle Sinckler pre-World Cup Final. Carried venomously, showed some slick hands and was aggressive in the tackle and the scrum. Let’s hope he can keep this form up now as England are a much more formidable force with him playing like that.
4. Maro Itoje – 8
A nuisance to the Irish all day long. That is becoming increasingly his role in this squad and it works wonders. He put pressure on rucks, mauls and line-outs with those octopus-like arms finding their way everywhere the ball was.
5. George Kruis – 7
Marshalled the line-out well and supported the runners going in well. Could do with a bit more ballast in his carrying and did give away a couple of senseless penalties when England had momentum.
6. Courtney Lawes – 8
A few options for man of the match, but he did stand out. He really took the mantle for ball-carrying in the forwards and managed to put the tackler on the back foot every time. In addition, he was his usual torpedo in defence and was used well at the set-piece.
7. Sam Underhill – 7
Always on the front foot when tackling and set the tone for line-speed. Perhaps not as noticeable on the floor as he has been, but a solid performance all round.
8. Tom Curry – 7
Seemed in better control at the back of the scrum, tackled well and carried well when given space. Still struggled to show he can make the hard-yards required of an 8 though. If Courtney Lawes and Manu Tuilagi weren’t in such inspired form, would he have been able to make the difference?
Bench – 6
Individually, there were a lot of good moments from the replacements. However, collectively England seemed to lose the relentless pressure as the game went on.
What did you think? Where will England finish? What changes should they make in their last two games?
As a reminder, here are the definitions for each rating:
10 – World-class performance
9 – Excellent
8 – Very good
7 – Quite good
6 – Solid performance
5 – Average
4 – Off the boil
3 – Poor
2 – Very bad
1 – Horror show
By Joe Large