England 16-20 Ireland, Twickenham, February 27
Johnson disappointed by tough loss
February 27, 2010

England manager Martin Johnson has called on his players to focus their energies on beating Scotland after slipping to a "tough, tough loss" against Ireland at Twickenham.

Two tries from Tommy Bowe and another from Keith Earls ended England's Grand Slam hopes and Johnson hopes that the players will use the result as added motivation ahead of their Six Nations trip to Murrayfield on March 13.

"It is a tough, tough loss," he said. "I thought the guys played very well. They got themselves back into the game and got themselves ahead. It was a tough game, either team could have won it.

"We did a lot of good things. I thought it was a good performance. It was wet, muddy and we were playing Ireland so it is going to be difficult. Have we lots to get better at? Yes, we have. It is frustrating for us all because there were chances.

"But we only took one in the second half and they scored two. That was probably the difference. It is a very tough loss to take and we will work that through.

"We will be better for the game. I said to the players they have to keep that horrible feeling inside of them for two weeks and release it at Murrayfield. We come back to play Scotland, who will be playing that game to save their Championship."

Earls' try came in the second-half after a penalty against Ireland was reversed following some retaliation from England scrum-half Danny Care, with Johnson unsure that any punishment was necessary.

"Games turn on things like that," he said. "In a game like that, is that a penalty reversal? They jumped in just as quickly. I don't think it was a penalty, personally but it was given. Even then we came back but it was disappointing to concede a penalty with the last play of the game when we had driven them back 25 yards."

Ireland head coach Declan Kidney eased fears over Brian O'Driscoll after the Leinster centre was stretchered off in the 70th minute. O'Driscoll was accidentally struck on the head by the knee of team-mate Paul O'Connell and was tended by medics before being carried from the pitch.

"Brian took bit of a bang. It was nothing - he was out on the pitch at the end. He's good and is enjoying the win as much as anyone," said Kidney. "Brian just felt he should make Paul do the press conference to make up for him giving him a bang on the head with his knee. There's no risk of concussion. He's fine."

Ireland were delighted to nudge their Six Nations title defence back on track with a courageous display full of character. A fortnight ago they were humbled 33-10 in Paris but with two-try hero Tommy Bowe leading the charge, they bounced back at Twickenham.

"That was an important response after France," said O'Connell. "Brian said yesterday that teams are defined by how they react to losses but we could have picked an easier one to get back on the horse than England at Twickenham, especially as they had their backs to the wall as well.

"I don't think we played outstandingly well but we showed a lot of intensity and a high work-rate. To come back and win the game with eight or nine minutes to go is a good feeling. The guys are very pleased with that."

Bowe's two tries sandwiched one from Keith Earls as Ireland, who were on defensive duty for most of the match, showed a clinical finishing touch that was beyond England.

"It's great when you have backs like we do. They are great finishers, confident guys who can do it either way," said O'Connell. "Finishing is something the guys work hard on and it came off today. We don't mind how we win but it's a great when you score three tries on a day like today."

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