England claimed an impressive 12-6 success over Six Nations rivals Ireland on Sunday in an absorbing 80 minutes at the Aviva Stadium.
England picked up an impressive 12-6 victory over Six Nations rivals Ireland on Sunday in an absorbing 80 minutes at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
Stuart Lancaster's outfit put in another mature effort that leaves them as the last remaining unbeaten side in the 2013 Championship.
No tries were scored in the spectacle but the English displayed an edge that denied Ireland, who had crossed for three tries against Wales, any real opportunity to get over the whitewash.
Owen Farrell kicked all of England's points, but it was their intelligence with and without the ball that ultimately won the game as Ireland struggled to get into the match, due in part to losing Simon Zebo and Jonathan Sexton to early injuries.
Farrell gave England an early lead with a second-minute penalty but Dublin tempers flared in the fourteenth minute when Ireland prop Cian Healy's apparent use of the boot on England tighthead Dan Cole at a ruck sparked a mass brawl.
Both packs managed to slow their opponents' ruck ball and neither side had a genuine chance of a try in the first-half of a match featuring several candidates for the Lions tour.
In such a tight contest, discipline was especially important, and Farrell punished Ireland for coming round the wrong side of a ruck with a superb penalty from nearly 50 metres out.
Ireland lost fly-half Sexton with a hamstring pull just after the half-hour mark, although the wet conditions put a premium on the kicking game for which Ronan O'Gara is renowned.
But when O'Gara, Ireland's most capped player, held on too long in the tackle, following good work by England defensive linchpin Brad Barritt, it gave Farrell a long-range penalty chance on the stroke of half-time. However, his kick just went wide.
Early in the second period Ireland won a scrum penalty and O'Gara cut the deficit in half.
Coach Lancaster stiffened his side's physical presence by bringing on centre Manu Tuilagi for Billy Twelvetrees and Courtney Lawes for lock Joe Launchbury in the 48th minute.
England, though, were a man down in the 57th minute when blindside James Haskell, was yellow carded by French referee JÃ©rÃ´me Garces for kicking the ball out of a ruck.
O'Gara landed the ensuing penalty to tie the match at 6-6 heading into the final quarter. Yet despite being reduced to fourteen, England then outscored Ireland 6-3 in the ten minutes.
Farrell's clever kick ahead set up an England line-out close to Ireland's line and then Tuilagi was just unable to get a touch for a try after a neat chip ahead by scrum-half Ben Youngs.
However, Garces had already awarded England a penalty from inside the 22 and Farrell made no mistake to nudge his side into a 9-6 lead. And that became 12-6 when the composed Farrell landed his fourth penalty after Ireland infringed by not releasing.
Ireland then saw O'Gara miss an eminently kickable penalty from just outside the 22 and England's defence held firm for a result that puts them two points clear at the summit.
Man of the match: While the official award went to captain Chris Robshaw, who was superb as a leader, we believe that Ben Youngs had a slightly better shift in Dublin. He organised his pack well while his kicking for position was outstanding in difficult conditions. Rarely does Danny Care not make it onto the field but today Youngs was not to be disturbed.
Moment of the match: After Ronan O'Gara had kicked three points following England's James Haskell kicking the ball out from a ruck, the visitors showed real character to record their own points while the flank was in the sin-bin. In such spells wins are earned.
Villain of the match: There were two occasions when Cian Healy lost his cool and it is now expected that the Irish loosehead prop will face a trip to a hearing. The first indiscretion saw him stamp on Dan Cole's ankle before he led with the elbow in a ruck. Not good at all.
Pen: O'Gara 2
Pen: Farrell 4
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip (c), 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Donnacha Ryan, 4 Mike McCarthy , 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Declan Fitzpatrick, 19 Donncha O'Callaghan, 20 Chris Henry, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Ronan O'Gara, 23 Keith Earls.
England: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Brad Barritt, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Mike Brown, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Tom Wood, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 James Haskell, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 David Wilson, 18 Mako Vunipola, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 Thomas Waldrom, 21 Danny Care, 22 Toby Flood, 23 Manu Tuilagi.
Referee: JÃ©rÃ´me Garces (France)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Pascal Gauzere (France)
Television match official: Iain Ramage (Scotland)