Christian Wade’s late try sealed an impressive win for England Saxons 18-9 against the Irish Wolfhounds in Cork.
In a stodgy affair, Henry Slade’s first-half try allowed the Saxons to lead from the 22nd minute, but it was only after Wade’s try in the final minute, that they secured the win.
While the build-up was dominated by the selection of league star Sam Burgess, the Bath centre had a largely forgettable evening, struggling to make a positive impact on the game.
Still, for a Saxons side which was dwarfed in terms of top level experience, it was a great result in difficult conditions.
Ireland, who included returning Lion Sean O’Brien, got out of the blocks quicker but could not turn their early dominance into points.
And it was the visitors who got onto the scoreboard first when Slade finished off a move started by Exeter teammate Thomas Waldrom, with Elliot Daly also heavily involved.
He missed the conversion, but soon slotted a penalty to give England an 8-0 lead, with Ian Madigan responding with the first of three penalties.
Slade had the final word of the half, with a penalty on 40 minutes, to put England 11-3 up, but Madigan responded with two more penalties of his own to make it a two-point game.
O’Brien was one of the few to impress for Ireland, in a game that was overshadowed by the fussy refereeing of Neil Hennessey.
Still, Ireland looked like they might steal the win, having got the upper hand in the scrum.
England solved that problem though in the final quarter of an hour, and Wade darted over after a period of concerted pressure to secure the result.
Whether any of those on show did enough to convince Joe Schmidt or Stuart Lancaster that they are worthy of a spot in the Six Nations remains to be seen.
For Irish Wolfhounds:
Pens: Madigan 3
For England Saxons:
Tries: Slade, Wade
Ireland Wolfhounds: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Keith Earls, 12 Gordon D’Arcy, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 Dominic Ryan, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Iain Henderson 3 Mike Ross, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Michael Bent, 18 Nathan White, 19 Robbie Diack, 20 Eoin McKeon, 21 Isaac Boss, 22 Noel Reid, 23 Craig Gilroy
England Saxons: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Sam Burgess, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 Henry Slade, 9 Lee Dickson (c), 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 James Gaskell, 4 Matt Garvey, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Matt Mullan.
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan Dickie, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 19 Maro Itoje, 20 Carl Fearns, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Ollie Devoto, 23 Christian Wade
Date: Friday, 30 January
Venue: Irish Independent Park, Cork
Kick-off: 19.45 GMT
Referee: Neil Hennessey