England dominate Ireland in Dublin to lay down Six Nations marker
England came into the game as underdogs, but emerged as genuine contenders for the Six Nations title
On a day when all eyes were on the reigning champions, Eddie Jones' England side blew away the tournament favourites in their own backyard; Ireland's first defeat at home since losing to New Zealand in 2016.
Not a man to play the shrinking violet, Jones talked up his side's chances prior to this match up and within 96 seconds he would have felt partly vindicated, as England flew out of the blocks and got their first try in Dublin in 2,716 days as Jonny May went in at the corner.
Ireland are the number two side in the world however, so this was never going to be a procession, and Joe Schmidt's side fought back through a Johnny Sexton penalty and a converted Cian Healy try.
Recent England sides, even those which have appeared revived under Jones' management, could have wilted in such circumstances, but it was evident that this was never going to happen here.
— JOE (@JOE_co_uk) February 1, 2019
England probed and posed questions to Ireland at every given opportunity and thankfully for the visitors, their hosts were uncharacteristically generous when it came it errors.
Joe Schmidt has created a machine with this Ireland team which rarely strays too far from the well-drilled routines and patterns they work on in training, but Jones' team proved that no team is infallible, and that pressure can affect anyone if applied correctly.
It was this pressure which forced a mistake from Jacob Stockdale - the young man who was so impressive in Ireland's memorable victory over New Zealand in November 2018 - before Elliot Daly went over for England's second try.
England were unlucky not to get a third before the 40 minute mark, but Owen Farrell did put away another penalty to make 17-10 to the visitors at half-time.
— JOE (@JOE_co_uk) January 31, 2019
The guests started the second half as they had the first and immediately put Ireland on the back foot. Ireland did pull three points back through Sexton but continued to look flat compared to their effervescent neighbours, whose tactically astute and mentally switched on play was exemplified by their match winning try, scored by Jonny May but beautifully set up by Henry Slade.
Jones would've been pleased with this, but there was insult to injury when Slade intercepted a Jonny Sexton pass to get yet another try, shortly before a John Cooney consolation.
Ireland will remain confident of retaining their Six Nations title but having ended their hopes of a second consecutive Grand Slam, Jones will be delighted with his England side.
Crucially, he will be confident of achieving a third Six Nations in four years after a victory which showed that - when on their game - England are capable of competing with, and beating, the best around.