Two tries by Henry Slade helped England to a deserved 32-20 victory over Six Nations champions Ireland at Lansdowne Road on Saturday, ending the hosts’ hopes of back-to-back Grand Slams.
The visitors ran in four tries in a gripping and absorbing contest with England always seeming the most likely victors.
England’s win ended a run of two successive defeats at the hands of the Irish.
For Ireland, who are ranked two in the world on the back of 18 wins in their preceding 19 Tests, the defeat brought to an end a record run of 12 successive home victories.
England rocked the Irish within two minutes, Jonny May going over in the corner after a superb long pass by Owen Farrell picked out Elliot Daly coming into the line.
The England fullback off-loaded to May who ran in unopposed and Farrell converted brilliantly from the touchline for 7-0.
Johnny Sexton reduced the deficit with a sweetly struck penalty from in front of the posts.
The hosts received a further boost when Jerome Garces did not hesitate to send England flanker Tom Curry — making his Six Nations debut — to the sin bin for a high tackle on Keith Earls.
Jack Nowell, who Eddie Jones had suggested could play at flanker, for the scrums at least moved from the wing to replace Curry in his absence.
Jones had promised his side would bring brutality Dublin and the unfortunate Earls was victim to it again when Maro Itoje went in high on him without any intent to take the ball.
Ireland skipper Rory Best argued to Garces that it was worse than the Curry incident, but the French referee just awarded just a penalty.
Ireland sneaked ahead with 15 minutes remaining of the first period, veteran prop Cian Healy pushed over by his team-mates for his fifth try in 85 Tests after Sexton had gone for the corner instead of kicking at goal when the English conceded another penalty.
Sexton added a sublime conversion from the touchline for 10-7.
However, the English hit straight back almost immediately, Nowell harrying Jacob Stockdale into a handling error inside the Irish try area and Daly — whose grubber kick had forced the Ireland wing to scurry back — touched down.
Farrell converted superbly from the touchline to make it 14-10.
The Irish went in 17-10 down at half-time after Farrell slotted over a penalty on the stroke of the break, but Ireland had been relieved after Mako Vunipola had touched down over the line but it was adjudged to be a double movement.
The two sides traded blows early in the second half with the Irish relieving their 22 after sustained English pressure when Garry Ringrose’s clattering tackle on Farrell.
Ireland came away with a Sexton penalty to leave them trailing by four points. England lost key lock Itoje after he went off injured although that balanced out as giant Irish second rower Devin Toner limped off.
Ireland’s discipline had held really well through the pressure and when they conceded a rare penalty Farrell was unable to make them pay sending a relatively easy penalty wide of the posts.
However, the English produced the killer blow with 14 minutes remaining as May’s kick ahead was gathered by Slade who touched down for 22-13 — Farrell missing the conversion.
Farrell made no mistake, though, with a long range penalty attempt with 10 minutes remaining, pumping his fist in delight as he stretched the visitors’ lead to 25-13.
Another brilliant piece of handling by Slade extended their lead and Farrell converted before the well-beaten Irish ran in a late consolation try.
Tries: Healy, Cooney
Cons: Sexton 2
Pens: Sexton 2
Tries: Slade 2, May, Daly
Cons: Farrell 3
Yellow Card: Curry (13′)
ITALY vs SCOTLAND
Blair Kinghorn became the first Scotland player to score a hat-trick of tries in the Six Nations and its five-team predecessor for 30 years as in an opening 33-20 win at home to Italy on Saturday.
The Scots led 33-3 with 10 minutes left, but the Azzurri avoided a morale-sapping thrashing with three late tries.
Edinburgh wing Kinghorn scored twice in the first half and once after the interval to bridge a three decade gap back to March 4, 1989, when Iwan Tukalo claimed three tries in a Five Nations win over Ireland at Murrayfield.
Fullback Stuart Hogg and replacement centre Chris Harris also crossed as Scotland won a seventh successive home game in the Six Nations, their longest such run in the championship since 1975.
Reigning champions Ireland are sure to pose a sterner test next Saturday but coach Gregor Townsend had reason to be happy with a seventh successive Scottish victory against Italy, who line up against Wales in Rome next Saturday looking to end a record run of 18 successive defeats in the Six Nations.
Italy coach Conor O’Shea and captain Sergio Parisse, making a record 66th Six Nations appearance, were left pondering what might have been after scrum-half Guglielmo Palazzani and wings Edoardo Padovani and Angelo Esposito all scored tries in a late attacking flurry.
O’Shea was forced to change his starting XV before kick-off, injured scrum-half Tito Tebaldi making way for Palazzani. His team were on the back foot from the start of a one-sided opening half.
A chip and chase up the right wing would have earned Scotland a second minute try had Italy full-back Jayden Hayward not rushed across to hack the ball into touch.
Grant Gilchrist thought he had scored from the ensuing catch and drive but television match official Simon McDowell ruled the Edinburgh lock had made a double movement in getting the ball over the try-line.
Kinghorn and Stuart Hogg also stretched the Italian defence to near breaking point but it was the visitors who got the first score on the board, former Scotland Under-20 international Tommaso Allan landing a ninth minute penalty.
Tries: Kinghorn 3, Harris, Hogg
Cons: Laidlaw 3, Russell
Yellow Card: Berghan (70′)
Tries: Palazzani, Padovani, Esposito
FRANCE vs WALES
A George North try double helped Wales overcome a 16-point first-half deficit to seal a dramatic 24-19 victory over France in the 2019 Six Nations opener and equal their longest winning sequence since 1999.
In an uncharacteristically error-ridden first-half, Wales spilled the ball and conceded turnovers under pressure from a fantastic showing by the home back-row led by ubiquitous No 8 Louis Picamoles.
Despite racing to a 16-0 half-time lead, France were left to rue their woeful goal kicking at the rain-hit Stade de France, Morgan Parra and Camille Lopez combining to miss 13 points with their respective boots.
France opened at a lick and when Wenceslas Lauret secured a turnover in their own half, Yoann Huget charged up the field. The winger was brought down, but after several phases was back in the thick of it, combining with Lopez to find Picamoles on the outside.
The ever-present Montpellier No 8 made no mistake, stepping inside Gareth Anscombe and crashing through Liam Williams’ tackle to cross for the try.
Recalled Parra missed the conversion and then a long-range penalty.
Anscombe then went dreadfully wide with a penalty of his own, a clear reminder of how much Wales miss metronomic Leigh Halfpenny, out with concussion.
Liam Williams then fluffed a try-scoring opportunity after good work from Josh Navidi, failing to draw and pass with one defender left and then being forced into a knock-on under pressure from Picamoles.
Things went worse for Wales when the French backs linked with outstanding flanker Arthur Iturria, who looked like he was going nowhere until he straighted and drew two defenders, simultaneously popping up a beautiful back-of-the-hand offload to Huget, who streaked in at the corner.
Parra again missed the tricky conversion, Anscombe incredibly following suit with his second penalty attempt minutes later.
As chants of “Allez, Les Bleus!” rang around the stadium, the French XV showed no signs of the malaise that saw them win only three of 11 Tests last season as they seemed to have the measure of their rattled rivals.
A clever chip-and-chase by Damian Penaud saw the winger snag Tomos Williams over the Wales line, Lopez going close from the resulting scrum before the Welsh conceded a penalty, the flyhalf taking over kicking duties from Clermont teammate Parra and put the home side 13-0 up.
With three minutes of the half to play, Lopez put what seemed like a nail in the Welsh coffin with a drop-goal.
It all changed as North then followed up on an innocuous Hadleigh Parkes grubber which Huget seemed to have covered before looking on in disbelief as the ball squirted over the line, past him, on a plate for the Wales winger to touch down.
Anscombe converted, his last act before being replaced by Dan Biggar, to pull Wales within two points.
No team had ever come back from more than 11 points down at half-time to win a Six Nations match, and Wales had never come back from more than 13 points to win any match.
France’s goal-kicking shocker continued as Lopez missed a penalty, before Biggar booted Wales into a one-point lead with one of his own.
Flanker Justin Tipuric, increasingly to the fore towards the end of the game, did well to charge down a Lopez drop-goal with 12 minutes to play as the rhythm of the match became increasingly disjointed with a raft of replacements.
When the Welsh scrum folded under pressure, Lopez this time made no mistake for France to regain the lead.
But French hearts were broken when North grabbed his double in the 73rd minute when he intercepted the ball as lock Sebastien Vahaamahina attempted to fire out an ambitious, floated pass.
Biggar, a supremely steadying force at fly-half, hit the extras to seal an historic win for Wales.
Tries: Picamoles, Huget
Pens: Lopez 2
Tries: North 2, T Williams
Cons: Anscombe 2, Biggar