Ireland will go into the 2011 World Cup without a warm-up Test win to their name after they fell to England 20-9 in Dublin on Saturday.
Ireland will go into the Rugby World Cup without a warm-up Test win to their name after they fell to a gritty England side 20-9 on Saturday.
Defeat means Ireland have lost all four of their pre-tournament matches, with the World Cup just a fortnight away. What makes things worse will have been the sight of David Wallace carried off with what appeared to be a serious injury.
England, who had lost their last three matches against Ireland, most recently a 24-8 defeat in March that cost the Six Nations champions a Grand Slam, had their hosts by two tries to nil.
Manu Tuilagi and Delon Armitage both crossed while 2003 World Cup-winning fly-half Jonny Wilkinson landed all four of his kicks.
Ireland, who'd lost to Scotland and twice been beaten by France in their previous warm-ups, had to make do with three first-half penalties.
England started boldly with flanker Hendre Fourie, a late change after a calf strain ruled out Nick Easter, charging into Ireland's 22 and they only had to wait five minutes for a try.
James Haskell, switched to number eight in Easter's absence, broke off a scrum before stand-in skipper Mike Tindall released fellow centre Tuilagi.
The Samoa-born powerhouse, half of England's thirteenth midfield combination in Martin Johnson's 35 Tests in charge, rounded opposite number Keith Earls.
Wilkinson converted and England, beaten 19-9 last time out by Wales, were 7-0 in front before veteran outside-half O'Gara got Ireland on the board.
But a Wilkinson penalty, awarded when returning England prop Andrew Sheridan forced the Ireland scrum to stand up, restored the visitors' seven-point lead.
Ireland though were starting to test England's defence but a promising 20th minute move ended with Wallace, whose pain was immediately evident, being bundled into touch by Tuilagi and then carried from the field on a stretcher.
An attacking line-out deep into England territory on the half-hour almost cost Ireland dear when hooker Jerry Flannery overthrew and Tuilagi regathered the loose ball.
Tuilagi set off on a 70 metre run but he was denied a try thanks to a brilliant tackle by Leicester team-mate and Ireland full-back Geordan Murphy.
The ensuing attack floundered with lock Courtney Lawes passing the ball into touch and England turned round 13-9 in front.
Ireland could have taken the lead early in the second half when England wing Chris Ashton was yellow-carded for going off his feet at a ruck.
But O'Gara missed for the first time in four attempts when his kick came back off the post.
It was an error that proved all the more costly minutes later when England scored their second try despite being down to fourteen men.
From a scrum, the ball was worked left and Tindall's grubber-kick was seized upon by substitute Armitage.
Wilkinson, England's record points scorer, made light of a difficult conversion from out on the left to give his side breathing space at 20-9.
As rain lashed down and both sides emptied their benches, the game became increasingly scrappy.
England begin their bid for a third straight World Cup final appearance against Argentina while Ireland's opening pool opponents are the United States, coached by former Ireland handler Eddie O'Sullivan.
Pen: O'Gara 3
Tries: Tuilagi, Armitage
Con: Wilkinson 2
Pen: Wilkinson 2
Ireland: 15 Geordan Murphy, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Keith Earls, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Andrew Trimble, 10 Ronan O'Gara, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 David Wallace, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Jerry Flannery, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Rory Best, 17 Tom Court , 18 Donnacha Ryan, 19 Denis Leamy, 20 Conor Murray, 21 Jonathan Sexton, 22 Fergus McFadden.
England: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Mike Tindall (capt), 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Jonny Wilkinson, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 James Haskell, 7 Hendre Fourie, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Louis Deacon, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Steve Thompson, 1 Andrew Sheridan.
Replacements: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 Matt Stevens, 18 Simon Shaw, 19 Tom Palmer, 20 Joe Simpson, 21 Toby Flood, 22 Delon Armitage.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Tim Hayes (Wales)
Television match official: Giulio De Santis (Italy)