TWICKENHAM, United Kingdom (AFP) – Joe Cokanasiga scored twice as England laid down a warning to their Rugby World Cup rivals with an astonishing 57-15 trouncing of Ireland at Twickenham last Saturday night.
England ran in eight tries in all – man of the match Manu Tuilagi getting one of them – as they recorded both their highest score and largest winning margin over their opponents.
For Ireland – who won the Six Nations Grand Slam and beat the All Blacks last year – it was a bitter reality check in a game they had hopes of becoming world number one.
Both sides came roaring out of the blocks in the baking sunshine with Owen Farrell landing the first blow with a penalty in the seventh minute.
The visitors struck back as Rob Kearney’s superb long pass found Jacob Stockdale.
The Ulster flyer kicked ahead and the ball bounced kindly over the line for Jordan Larmour with the wing touching down for his fifth Test try.
Ross Byrne making his first start at fly-half showed no nerves as he converted from wide out on the left for 7-3.
For all Larmour’s style in attack his Achilles heel is his defence and he was left grasping at air as he tried to tackle Joe Cokanasiga, who brushed him aside to touch down in the 13th minute – Tuilagi’s decoy run having sucked in the Irish defence.
Farrell failed to convert but England had their noses in front at 8-7.
Byrne – who is vying to be on the plane to Japan to back up the injured Joey Carbery and number one Johnny Sexton – slotted over an excellent penalty to give the Irish a 10-8 lead.
However, Tuilagi once again caused panic in the Irish defence and Stockdale repeated an error from the first try in coming on off his wing and Tom Curry fed Elliot Daly who ran in to touch down.
Farrell converted for 15-10.
Tuilagi did not bother setting anyone up for the third try going on his own paying little notice to Stockdale’s effort at a tackle as Farrell added the extras.
Ireland’s problems deepened shortly before half-time as veteran prop Cian Healy limped off but in a nice touch Farrell and Jamie George clapped him on the back.