England Saxons too good for Ireland A
PA Sport
February 9, 2007

Three second-half tries ensured England Saxons romped to what could perhaps be considered a 32-5 rout over an industrious but outclassed Ireland A side.

After seeing off Italy 34-5 last week, the Saxons again put in a high scoring performance in front of a modest turnout at Ravenhill in Belfast.

A first-half try from hooker Dylan Hartley was accompanied by scores, albeit late in the game, from James Haskell, David Strettle and Richard Wigglesworth while Shane Geraghty kicked nine points.

While Ireland battled hard, they lacked anyone with Mike Catt's authority and class and, even with Leicester Tigers duo Leo Cullen and Shane Jennings putting in a lot of work, the home side simply failed to live with England's power up front.

After a bright opening quarter from Ireland, when their scrum and lineout was functioning well, a combination of the Saxons' forward superiority and greater organisation began to take their toll.

In an increasingly fractious encounter, with plenty of first half off the ball incident, the Saxons gradually took control and should really have been further than 8-5 ahead at the turnaround.

Leicester's Ian Humphreys had the first chance to open the scoring after Ireland's encouraging start, but his seventh-minute penalty came off the upright.

Even so, Ireland were still in good shape and one big hit from Stephen Ferris on Chris Jones seemed to set the template for what was to follow.

However, with rugby league convert Chev Walker popping up in contact, and the Saxons lineout beginning to disrupt Ireland's ball, the game began to turn in the Saxons' favour.

Just before the quarter of an hour mark, England began to put in some useful continuity with scrum half Peter Richards to the fore.

Number eight Jordan Crane came close to scoring as the Saxons upped their intensity and Geraghty slotted the straightforward penalty to open the scoring.

A period of scrappy play followed before the Saxons stretched their lead, on 31 minutes, when Richards broke on the narrow side from a lineout and linked with hooker Dylan Hartley who did well to make the corner for an unconverted score.

Ireland, though, hit back immediately and Rob Kearney spun past Walker after the home side had taken a quick penalty in a rare sortie into England's 22.

Humphreys failed to add the points which certainly set the tone for much of the exchanges in the opening quarter of the second half.

With most of the game being played out in Irish territory, it came as little surprise when Catt's scuffed drop goal crept over the bar to give the Saxons an 11-5 lead after 55 minutes.

Indeed the Saxons should really have further stretched their lead but Geraghty was wide with two penalty attempts as the visitors slowly strangled the life from their opponents.

Ireland's already faint hopes were extinguished within a seven-minute period when firstly replacement James Haskell got on the end of a Catt inside pass to run over unimpeded and then winger David Strettle broke three tackles from tied defenders to coast over. Geraghty converted both to put the Saxons out of sight.

Then to further rub salt into Irish wounds, scrum half replacement Richard Wigglesworth beat about half a dozen green shirts to score under the posts. Geraghty added the simple two pointer.

England coach Dorian West, commented, "I'm very pleased with the result, it was a convincing win. It's difficult to come here and play, let alone come away with a victory. Although we lacked composure at times, especially in key areas, we were confident from the off and as a coach you could see the players were really up for it.

"There were a lot of good performances, from individuals and collectively. I thought once or twice we overcomplicated our lineouts, probably inexperience, although the scrums went very well. We could have done with a bit more composure at times but that's why we're all here. You have to put players in situations like this to learn more about them."

Sale winger Mark Cueto, who made a successful return to international action, added, "From a personal point of view it was just nice to get through a whole 80 minutes without any worries, my calf was really good. Overall I thought the boys played really well and we scored a few decent tries. Apart from their one try, which came from a quick tap when we hadn't had time to get ourselves organised, we had a big defensive game and an all round solid performance.

"Ravenhill is a very difficult place to play so it was a great result for us to get a win out here. In the last quarter our fitness probably showed. We'd had a lot of possession and had forced the Irish to defend for long periods of time, which eventually took its toll and the game started to open up for us."

Ireland A 5 (5)
Tries: Kearney

England 32 (8)
Tries: Hartley, Haskell, Strrettle, Wigglesworth
Conversions: Geraghty (3)
Penalties: Geraghty
Drop: Catt

Ireland A

Danny Riordan (Galwegians/Connacht), Tommy Bowe (Belfast Harlequins), Barry Murphy (U.L. Bohemians/Munster), Kieran Lewis (St.Mary's College/Leinster), Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster), Ian Humphreys (Leicester Tigers), Conor O'Loughlin (Buccaneers/Connacht), Ronnie McCormack (UCD/Leinster), Frankie Sheahan (Cork Constitution/Munster), Bryan Young (Ballymena/Ulster), Trevor Hogan (Shannon/Leinster), Leo Cullen (Leicester Tigers, captain), Stephen Ferris (Dungannon/Ulster), Keith Gleeson (St.Mary's College/Leinster), Roger Wilson (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)

Replacements: Bernard Jackman (Clontarf/Leinster), Peter Bracken (London Wasps), David Gannon (Connacht), Shane Jennings (Leicester Tigers), Kieran Campbell (Dungannon/Ulster), Johnny Sexton (St.Mary's College/Leinster), John Hearty (Galwegians/Connacht)

Substitutions: Shane Jennings (Leicester Tigers) for Keith Gleeson (St.Mary's College/ Leinster) 33 mins, Peter Bracken (London Wasps) for Ronnie McCormack (UCD/Leinster) 40mins, Bernard Jackman (Clontarf/Leinster) for Frankie Sheahan (Cork Constitution/ Munster), 53mins, David Gannon (Connacht) for Stephen Ferris (Dungannon/Ulster) 77mins, Kieran Campbell (Dungannon/Ulster) for Conor O'Loughlin (Buccaneers/Connacht) 77mins, John Hearty (Galwegians/Connacht) for Barry Murphy (U.L. Bohemians/Munster) 77mins, Johnny Sexton (St.Mary's College/Leinster) for Ian Humphreys (Leicester Tigers), 77mins.

England Saxons:

Mike Brown (NEC Harlequins), Mark Cueto (Sale Sharks), Chev Walker (Bath Rugby), Mike Catt (London Irish, captain), David Strettle (NEC Harlequins), Shane Geraghty (London Irish), Pete Richards (Gloucester Rugby), Tim Payne (London Wasps), Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), Stuart Turner (Sale Sharks), Dean Schofield (Sale Sharks), Alex Brown (Gloucester Rugby), Chris Jones (Sale Sharks), James Scaysbrook (Bath Rugby), Jordan Crane (Leicester Tigers)

Replacements: Andy Titterrell (Sale Sharks), Nick Wood (Gloucester Rugby), Ben Woods (Newcastle Falcons), James Haskell (London Wasps), Richard Wigglesworth (Sale Sharks), Olly Barkley (Bath Rugby), Nick Abendanon (Bath Rugby)

Substitutions: James Haskell (London Wasps) for Chris Jones (Sale Sharks) 33mins, Andy Titterrell (Sale Sharks) for Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints) 66mins, Nick Wood (Gloucester Rugby) for Stuart Turner (Sale Sharks) 71mins, Ben Woods (Newcastle Falcons) for James Scaysbrook (Bath Rugby) 73mins, Richard Wigglesworth (Sale Sharks) for Peter Richards (Gloucester) 73mins, Olly Barkley (Bath Rugby) for Mike Catt (London Irish) 74mins.

Referee: Jerome Garces (France)

Attendance: 3,528

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