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Ronan O'Gara
Dan Sheridan/Inpho
England turn the screw in the second half
3 March 2008, 3:58 pm
By Pat Geraghty
Leading by just three points at the interval, after a superbly entertaining opening period, England turned on the style in the second half to score 20 points and end up 33-10 winners.
At half-time, very few would have predicted the gap would be so wide at the end because in that opening half Ireland gave every bit as good as they got. Although it can't be offered as an excuse their rhythm can't have been helped by the loss through injury early on of Denis Leamy and just before half-time of Geordan Murphy, though it must be said that in terms of the future, the display of Murphy's replacement, Luke Fitzgerald was hugely encouraging.

Ireland got off to a great start when Eoin Reddan took a quick tap penalty on the English 22 and when they spread it wide, Murphy slipped a lovely inside pass to Rob Kearney who scored his second senior international try. O'Gara landed the conversion and from the restart when Ian Balshaw was penalised for holding on, the skipped boomed over the penalty for a 10 point lead with less than ten minutes gone.

In the eleventh minute Paul O'Connell was penalised at a ruck and Danny Cipriani landed the penalty at the same time as Leamy was being replaced by Simon Easterby.

England's opening try came in the 18th minute when quick hands from Balshaw put Paul Sackey clear after good momentum right and left had Ireland stretched and Cipriani's conversion levelled matters.

Jamie Noon came within inches of a try in the 23rd minute, hauled down short by Tommy Bowe but Ireland were given good field position moments later when Lesley Vanikolo lost possession in the tackle but England survived that and when Toby Flood collected his own chip ahead, Ireland were penalised and Cipriani kicked them ahead 13-10.

In the 34th minute, injury forced Murphy to retire. He was replaced by Luke Fitzgerald and that meant Kearney moving to full back, Fitzgerald taking up station on the wing.

After early second half pressure Cipriani kicked England further ahead with a 44th minute penalty for hands in the ruck. Five minutes later when Tom Croft was penalised for not releasing, O'Gara was wide from the 22.

The crucial try came in the 56th minute when temporary replacement, Matthew Tait - in for Sackey - skipped over on the right, thanks to quick hands from replacement Jonny Wilkinson and Balshaw for Cipriani to kick the conversion for a 23-10 lead.

In the 68th minute England scored again, working off a close in scrum, Noon scored wide on the left and Cipriani's sixth successive effort to put twenty points between the sides.

His seventh from seven came in the 74th .minute with a penalty for a 33-10 victory.

Ireland: G Murphy (L Fitzgerald 34th min); T Bowe, S Horgan (P Wallace 77th min), A Trimble, R Kearney; R O'Gara capt, E Reddan (P Stringer 71st min); M Horan (T Buckley 66th min), R Best (B Jackman 75th min), J Hayes; D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell; D Leamy (S Easterby 11th min), D Wallace (M O'Driscoll 66th min), J Heaslip.

England: I Balshaw; P Sackey (M Tait 47th min temp, 64th min), J Noon, T Flood (J Wilkinson 52nd min), L Vanikolo; D Cipriani, R Wigglesworth (J Hodgson 74th min); A Sheridan, L Mears (G Chuter 74th min), P Vickery capt (M Stevens 60th min); S Shaw, S Borthwick; T Croft, M Lipman (J Haskell 64th min), N Easter.

Referee: Stuart Dickinson.

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