Eddie Jones took another significant step in the rebuilding of England yesterday as a 21-10 victory over champions Ireland at Twickenham kept them on course for a first Six Nations title since 2011 and a possible first grand slam since 2003.
England had dominated much of the game but trailed 10-9 after a Conor Murray try early in the second half, but well-crafted scores by Anthony Watson and Mike Brown around the hour mark put the hosts in control.
Ireland, seeking a third consecutive title, looked underpowered throughout.
Even when England went down to 14 men after a yellow card for replacement scrumhalf Danny Care in the last 10 minutes, Ireland never looked likely to find a way back.
England, who had already won away in Scotland and Italy, top the standings on six points, one ahead of Wales.
“I think our performances have stepped up,” said Jones.
“We were facing a better team today and we probably left 10 to 15 points out there, as we couldn’t always convert our attacking pressure. We weren’t quite sharp enough and we were letting them get a hand in at crucial times.”
England, who have not lost a Six Nations game at Twickenham since 2012, next host Wales, when a victory would leave them facing France in Paris in their final game with an opportunity for their first grand slam since their World Cup winning year of 2003.
Earlier, captain Greig Laidlaw kicked Scotland to a 36-20 victory over Italy in a ferocious Six Nations match in Rome, their first victory in the tournament for two years.
Scotland flankers John Barclay and John Hardie both powered over the line in the early stages to give the visitors control of the match after nine successive Six Nations losses.
Italy struck back with a fine try by hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini following a charge from Gonzalo Garcia to cut the deficit to 17-10 at half-time.
Scotland flyhalf Finn Russell was sent to the sin bin and Italy lock Marco Fuser barrelled over the line but scrumhalf Laidlaw continued to punish Italian indiscipline with his reliable boot and Tommy Seymour’s late try sealed victory.
“It was great to get that victory,” Scotland hooker Ross Ford said.
“It was close at times in the second half, we did give ourselves work to do, but that try at the end showed just if we stick to what we can do well we can create chances and score.”
Played yesterday: Italy vs Scotland 20-36; England vs Ireland 21-10.
Standings: England 6 (3-0-0); Wales 5 (2-1-0); France 4 (2-0-1); Scotland 2 (1-0-2); Ireland 1 (0-1-2); Italy 0 (0-0-3).
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