England’s hot run of form has gone decidedly cold.
Under the snowy skies of London on Saturday, the dethroned Six Nations champions were soundly beaten 24-15 by successors Ireland, who completed only their third Grand Slam triumph in the process.
This defeat for England at Twickenham was their third in a row, having previously won 24 of 25 Tests since Eddie Jones took charge in the wake of an abysmal 2015 World Cup.
It was also a first home loss under Jones, coming after disappointing defeats in Scotland and France, and represents the first time England have lost three in a single championship since 2006, when they lost against the same three nations.
England came under fire for their performances against Scotland and France, particularly at the breakdown, but they showed little sign of having addressed those issues in a match when they occasionally threatened but never looked like winning.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) March 17, 2018
Garry Ringrose and CJ Stander stunned the shivering home faithful with a pair of tries that opened up a 14-0 lead, Irish fans – perhaps warmed by an early St Patrick’s day drink or two – making themselves heard in huge numbers.
Owen Farrell – shifted to fly-half from centre as part of Jones’ shake-up – delivered a cute grubber kick to tee up a deficit-reducing touchdown for Elliot Daly after half an hour, but Jacob Stockdale crossed for a record-breaking seventh try of the championship to re-establish Irish control at the break.
Ireland could only add a Conor Murray penalty after the interval, but it mattered little as the sum of England’s response was an unconverted Daly try and a consolation from Jonny May at the death.
Jones – who found himself at the centre of controversy over his 2017 “scummy Ireland” comments this week – insisted in the build-up that his team continues to move in the right direction, but having seen his expected World Cup contenders under-deliver so drastically in recent weeks, even he must be questioning that assertion.
England’s lack of response to the defeats will come as a great concern, although it must be noted that injuries, most notably to Billy Vunipola, have played their part.
Eddie Jones on @IrishRugby: “They’re a good tough team, well coached, very well disciplined and worthy Grand Slam winners.”
— NatWest 6 Nations (@SixNationsRugby) March 17, 2018
England had the additional motivation of having missed out on the Grand Slam at the hands of Ireland in Dublin last year, but could not channel that desire for revenge enough to deliver a return dose.
If that result at the Aviva Stadium 12 months ago – Jones’ first defeat in the job – was a tap that checked the stride of an England side in full flow, then this result was a crunching tackle that leaves them dazed and unsure of their next move.
There is no question that England still have an enviable pool of talent at their disposal just over a year out from their next shot at the World Cup, while Jones could do no wrong prior to this recent slump.
But as Britain’s cold snap continues to bite, so too will England’s winter of discontent carry into the spring and towards a three-match summer series in South Africa.
KEO.co.za News wire is powered by opta