By Associated Press - Saturday, March 20, 2021

DUBLIN (AP) - Ireland overwhelmed England for an hour and held on after getting a second red card of the Six Nations in a 32-18 win on Saturday, handing Eddie Jones’ team a third loss of its disappointing title defense.

First-half tries by winger Keith Earls and No. 8 Jack Conan were dovetailed with a flawless goalkicking display by Jonathan Sexton, who had 22 points, as Ireland closed the tournament with a third straight win and a case of what might have been after narrow defeats to Wales and France in the first rounds.

England was outmuscled and dominated in every department, particularly in the scrum, and is set to end the championship in fifth place for the second time in four seasons under Jones.

Even the 64th-minute sending off of center Bundee Aki, for leading with his shoulder into the head of Billy Vunipola in an upright tackle, hardly changed the course of the match at 26-6. Ben Youngs scored an unconverted try almost immediately for the English but the Irish rallied with two penalties through Sexton.

Ireland finished the game with 13 men after scrumhalf Conor Murray was sin-binned in the 78th, creating the space for Jonny May to go over for a consolation try a minute later and give the scoreline a flattering look for England.

“I am just delighted for the lads because they’ve come in for a bit of stick,” Ireland coach Andy Farrell said. “Obviously we’ve lost a couple of games and we never like to lose.

“The lads have always believed in how they are progressing and they’ve always thought that there is a performance like that in them.”

England captain Owen Farrell kicked two penalties to move to 500 career points in the championship - a feat achieved only by former players Ronan O’Gara of Ireland and Jonny Wilkinson of England - but there was little to cheer for the deposed champions, whose contingent for the British and Irish Lions tour against South Africa could dwindle as a result.

England lost to all of the home unions - Wales, Scotland and Ireland - in the tournament for the first time since 1976.

Jones still feels his players are responding to his methods.

“Ah yeah, most definitely,” Jones said, “I don’t think that’s the issue. If I thought that was the issue, I wouldn’t be coaching the team.

“As disappointed as I am about the result, we still know where we are going and we’ll continue in a positive fashion. There were a lot of positive things in the game. It a difficult game for us but we still know where we are going.”

Ireland is in second place at the end of its five-game campaign but could still be overtaken by Scotland or France, who will meet on Friday for their rearranged final game.

Peter O’Mahony also had a red card for Ireland in a Round 1 loss to Wales but Aki’s came much later and didn’t affect the result - except for ensuring the score didn’t completely humiliate England.

Ireland was better in the scrum - prop Tadhg Furlong destroyed Mako Vunipola, who was substituted at halftime after conceding three penalties - dominant in the exchanges and more imaginative in attack, as shown in Earls’ 22nd-minute try.

The right winger burst onto Conan’s knock-down at the back of a lineout, powered through the defensive line, and sidestepped May before muscling his way over in the right corner for a superb score.

England was also outmaneuvered for Conan’s 37th-minute try, which came at the end of a sweeping move from right to left after fullback Hugo Keenan won a high ball from Sexton into the right corner over Elliot Daly, who started in his usual position at fullback after Max Malins pulled out before kickoff with a leg injury.

As the play spread to the left, Jacob Stockdale made ground on the wing before Conan darted from the back of a ruck and stretched over the line.

Some optimism returned in the England camp after the entertaining win over France last weekend, but the team barely come close to a try before Aki’s red card and had a high penalty count - 14 by the end - that was typical for this tournament.

“We need to assess where we are going. As I’ve said all along, we are going through a transition period in the team,” Jones said. “This is almost a natural time for that to happen with two years before the World Cup. Those things will happen.

“We’ve had a fairly settled team for the last four years and that’s natural. But post the Lions, maybe there will be changes to personnel.”


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