Eddie Jones’ men defeated Ireland 24-12 back at Twickenham this morning thanks to a strongarm display which squeezed the Irish into errors, both forced and unforced.
On a windy London afternoon, England raced to a 17-0 halftime lead thanks to some aggressive defence, and two tries from kicks. The first, to No 10 George Ford, came from a Ben Youngs grubber which Johnny Sexton, having one of his bad days, failed to clean up properly. The second, to fullback Elliot Daly, saw a Ford dink bounce tantalisingly away from Ireland wing Jacob Stockdale.
England did not even have the lion’s share of ball, but carried strongly and made dominant tackles in a fine riposte to the growing legion of critics following a scratchy start to the Six Nations. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot rang out through Twickenham not long into the second stanza.
Ireland did stiffen its defence, but the consolation try by Andrew Porter was too little, too late. Andrew Farrell’s charges’ Triple Crown and Grand Slam hopes are dashed, but they will be confident of dispatching the Azzurri in a fortnight to stay in the championship race.
For the second time in three matches, Italy was blanked, despite playing some decent attacking rugby in perfect conditions in Rome. But the 17-0 loss to Scotland told another tale of missed opportunities.
Scotland recorded its first win of the Six Nations, fired by a sizzling solo try to fullback Stuart Hogg, skinning Kiwi-born Jayden Hayward on the outside. The Scots added two more tries and defenced with tenacity, led by opensider Hamish Watson.
France underlined its growing credentials under new coach Fabien Galthie with a bruising 27-23 win over Wales, its first victory in Cardiff since 2010.
The first half laid the platform, Les Bleus’ outstanding line speed, driven by former Wales defence guru Shaun Edwards and led by Virimi Vakatawa, rocking the home side off its game. First five Romain Ntamack had the ball on a string, while the try scored by lock Paul Willemse, from a powerful carry off a lineout move and front peel, exemplified the French effort.
However, Wales coach Wayne Pivac was rightly peeved that a deliberate slap-down by Willemse on a Ken Owens pass did not incur a yellow card and probably a penalty try.
Wales will face a resurgent England at Twickenham in the biggest match-up of round four, while France travels to Scotland seeking to keep Grand Slam hopes alive.
Rome: Scotland 17 (Stuart Hogg, Chris Harris, Adam Hastings tries; Hastings con) Italy 0 HT: 5-0
Cardiff: France 27 (Anthony Bouthier, Paul Willemse, Romain Ntamack tries; Ntamack 3 con, 2 pen) Wales 23 (Dillon Lewis, Dan Biggar tries; Biggar 2 con, 3 pen)) HT: 17-9
London: England 24 (George Ford, Elliot Daly, Luke Cowan-Dickie tries; Owen Farrell 3 con, pen) Ireland 12 (Robbie Henshaw, Andrew Porter tries; John Cooney con) HT: 17-0
15 Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
14 Virimi Vakatawa (France)
13 Manu Tuilagi (England)
12 Owen Farrell (England)
11 Gael Fickou (France)
10 Romain Ntamack (France)
9 Ben Youngs (England)
8 Greg Alldritt (France)
7 Hamish Watson (Scotland)
6 Courtney Lawes (England)
5 Paul Willemse (France)
4 Maro Itoje (England)
3 Mahomed Haouas (France)
2 Jamie George (England)
1 Joe Marler (England)
Points: France 13, England 9, Ireland 9, Wales 6, Scotland 6, Italy 0
Round four (NZT), March 8-9
Ireland v Italy, Dublin, Sunday 3.15am
England v Wales, London, Sunday 5.45am
Scotland v France, Edinburgh, Monday 4am