Ireland extended their lead at the top of the Six Nations log with a 14-13 win over a dreadful England at Croke Park.
In an absolutely shocking game of rugby, it was England’s ill discipline and lack of temperament that gave an equally poor Ireland the victory.
England scored a late try through Delon Armitage and had it not been for two yellow cards and countless penalties the result could have been very different, but in the end it was the eight points from skipper Brian O’Driscoll that was the difference between the two sides.
Ireland dictated most of the play enjoying the bulk of the possession. Ronan O’Gara missed an early opportunity to put his side in front when his penalty went just past the left hand upright. With 20 minutes gone the hosts had yet another opportunity to open the scoring, but this time O’Gara pushed his penalty attempt wide.
In the battle at the breakdown it was England who had the upper hand early on and despite all their possession, Ireland struggled to get any quality go-forward ball. Eventually, though, the men in green went in front when O’Gara finally found his range in the 29th minute.
With just over a minute left in the opening stanza, England had an opportunity to get some points on the scoreboard when they were awarded a penalty by referee Craig Joubert and Toby Flood made no mistake leveling the score.
O’Gara had an early opportunity in the second half to give his side the lead again when James Haskell was blown up for playing the ball off his feet, but the Irish pivot’s attempt struck the upright. A few minutes later, though, his skipper Brian O’Driscoll put the Irish in front with a well struck drop goal.
Phil Vickery was later sent to the bin for going off his feet at the ruck after Joubert had warned England on numerous occasions. Ireland took advantage of their extra man immediately when O’Driscoll forced his way over the line for the first try of the game.
The woeful O’Gara’s poor form continued as he missed the conversion and Ireland led 11-6 with just over a quarter of the game left.
England had a good opportunity to score when replacement Mathew Tait made a brilliant linebreak but failed to see Riki Flutey to his left and the chance went begging.
With Vickery ready to come on, England were awarded a penalty and fullback Armitage slotted it with ease to cut Ireland’s lead to just five points.
But just as England looked to be getting themselves back in the game, indiscipline cost them yet again as replacement scrumhalf Danny Care became the second England player to be sent to the bin much to the disgust of head coach Martin Johnson.
With time almost up Andy Goode put Armitage through with a lovely grubber and the fullback finished off the well worked attack. Goode added the conversion to make it a one point game. But despite the close scoreline the game was anything but a thriller and both sides should be embarrassed by the performance they provided in front of a packed Croke Park.