Some last minute heroics from Tom Willis was enough to see England fight off a spirited Irish comeback at the very last gasps of today’s World Cup action.
Ireland 23 England 30
England were down to 14 men after just six minutes on the clock when number eight Ted Hill was penalised for a tip tackle.
From the resulting penalty, Ireland kicked to the corner where they got their lineout maul moving to within 10 metres of the English line. Noel McNamara’s side went through 14 phases until England were penalised once again for not rolling away.
Ireland captain Charlie Ryan pointed to the posts and Ben Healy dispatched the kick to give Ireland a 3-0 lead after 10 minutes.
With 87% possession and 78% territory, Ireland dominated the opening exchanges of this match but they were pegged back by England when Ronan Watters was penalised for not rolling away. Josh Hodge stepped up to take the long-range penalty which he brilliantly converted to level the game.
Discipline continued to be an issue for both sides as they struggled with the conditions and when Richard Capstick was penalised for offside, Healy put Ireland back into the lead with a penalty kick which brought him up to 34 points scored in the tournament.
After 23 minutes, England played the ball in an offside position which saw Healy punt the ball into the corner in search of the game’s first try but Thomas Aherne was penalised for obstruction in the formation of the maul which allowed Ireland’s opponents to clear.
With just over 10 minutes remaining in the first half, England were down to 14 men for the second time as Kai Owen was penalised for a high tackle. Healy lined up a kick at the posts but his effort drifted wide in what was his first miss of the tournament.
England loosehead prop Kai Owen gets sent to the sin bin for a high tackle on Ireland prop Michael Milne.
— eir Sport (@eirSport) June 17, 2019
It was then Ireland’s discipline which began to wane as Casey couldn’t resist tackling his opposite number despite the ball not coming out of the scrum. The referee penalised him for offside and Hodge notched the kick at goal to bring his side level.
Ireland suffered a sucker punch with less than five minutes remaining in the first half which began when Jake Flannery knocked on when attempting to catch an England clearing kick.
From the resulting scrum, England generated forward momentum and they spread the ball wide with a penalty advantage as Hodge received the ball at pace and stepped back inside Flannery to touch down to the left of the posts. The winger notched the conversion to give England a 13-6 lead.
When the sides re-emerged for the second half, it was the Irish who first got off the mark through Ben Healy – who managed to score a penalty to reduce the margin to four points.
England were quick to respond, however, as Josh Hodge answered with a penalty of his own shortly after – leaving the scores at 16-9 in favour of Steve Bates’ team.
Things then went from bad to worse for Ireland as Sam Maunder was able to score a try – his side’s second of the game before Hodge once against was able to find the target from the kick.
At this point, a fourteen-point gap was to be found between the two rivals with just over twenty-five minutes left to play.
From there, Ireland started to put some pressure on their opponents – pressure that resulted in a crucial try in the 70th minute, one that Healy was able to convert to narrow the margin to seven.
Brian Deeny managed to continue Ireland’s fantastic momentum with another try scored and later converted by Healy once again. The scores were level with time on the clock and everything was there to be won for whoever was able to step up to the plate.
England’s Tom Willis was the man who was able to do just that – crossing the Irish line to grant England a last-minute victory and a spot in the 5th Place Play-Off.
Ireland, on the other hand, will take on New Zealand in the 7th/8th Place Play-Off on Saturday.