England stunned reigning Six Nations champions Ireland 32-20 to take a giant step towards reclaiming their crown with a first win in Dublin for six years.

Leading 17-13 in an epic opening-weekend title showdown that lived up to expectations, they engineered the decisive moment in the 66th minute when Henry Slade and Jonny May combined brilliantly from a scrum for Slade to touch down.

It was a try made possible by the pace of May, who along with Jack Nowell on the opposite wing was magnificent throughout an afternoon of drama and high-quality rugby.

Owen Farrell was on target with a penalty to put the game beyond Ireland's reach as the Aviva Stadium was stormed for the first time in the Six Nations since 2013, securing Eddie Jones' 29th win in 36 Tests.

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Joe Schmidt's Grand Slam champions fell apart in the closing stages, enabling Slade to plunder his second try, before replacement John Cooney restored some scoreboard credibility in the final seconds.

England's Elliot Daly, second left, is congratulated by teammate Jack Nowell after scoring a try during the Six Nations rugby union international between Ireland and England. Photo / AP
England's Elliot Daly, second left, is congratulated by teammate Jack Nowell after scoring a try during the Six Nations rugby union international between Ireland and England. Photo / AP

Jones' decision to retain Elliot Daly at full-back rather than revert to the security provided by Mike Brown was partially vindicated by his involvement in both first-half tries, the second of which he finished by pouncing on an error by Jacob Stockdale.

England bristled with intent when in possession and benefited from the return of forwards Mako and Billy Vunipola and centre Manu Tuilagi, the bulldozing trio starting together for the first time due to injury.

After years spent in the treatment room rehabilitating serious groin, chest and knee injuries, Tuilagi's first Six Nations start since 2013 was especially welcome and his duel with opposite number Bundee Aki was thunderous.

An enthralling victory took a savage toll, however, as Maro Itoje and Kyle Sinckler limped off in the second half.

The speed of England's ball, combined with a line-out thrown straight to Tuilagi, enabled the Irish whitewash to be breached after only 92 seconds through May.

England's Kyle Sinckler, centre, runs at Ireland's Josh van der Flier, left, and Bundee Aki during the Six Nations rugby union international between Ireland and England. Photo / AP
England's Kyle Sinckler, centre, runs at Ireland's Josh van der Flier, left, and Bundee Aki during the Six Nations rugby union international between Ireland and England. Photo / AP

Tuilagi was repeatedly involved in the early onslaught but it also took an injection of pace and a well-timed pass from Daly to send May over for England's first try in Dublin since 2011.

Tom Curry was sent to the sin-bin for a late tackle on Keith Earls shortly after Johnny Sexton landed a penalty and Ireland's slow start was now a distant memory as the green shirts poured forward.

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The hapless Earls was then clattered heavily by Itoje as he lined up a catch, incurring another penalty to dent English momentum.

England players embrace during the Six Nations rugby union international between Ireland and England, in Dublin, Ireland, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
England players embrace during the Six Nations rugby union international between Ireland and England, in Dublin, Ireland, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

Ireland were showing trademark mastery of keeping possession and this in turn caused ripples of panic in their opponents as the game's frenzied pace continued.

Cian Healy burrowed over for a try from a line-out that rewarded the bold decision to opt for touch in instead of the posts, but England were back in front on the half hour mark when Daly touched down his own kick following a fumble by Stockdale.

And it was Jones' men who finished the half stronger, pounding away at the whitewash before winning a penalty which was successfully kicked by Farrell.

England began to suffocate Ireland by using kicks and their big pack to keep them pinned in their own half and when the opportunity presented itself they attacked with precision.

One assault broke down, however, when Farrell was on the receiving end of a hard tackle by Ringrose and suddenly they were defending in their own 22.

It proved to be a costly passage of play as Sexton slotted a penalty to narrow the lead to 17-13 before Itoje limped off - soon to be joined by Sinckler.

But England wrestled back control brilliantly and the key try was a work of art.

A scrum gave Slade the ball and he fed a pinpoint long pass to the sprinting May, who kicked ahead for Slade to touch down - timing his onside run to perfection.

Slade then picked off Sexton's pass as the world player of the year sought to inspire the fightback, before Cooney had the final say.







Coach Joe Schmidt insists there isn't much of a difference between his Ireland side and England.

Yet there is a difference.

The main one is possession. The Irish hog the ball and the English wish they could.

Thanks to overwhelming ball control, Ireland has won their last two rugby matchups, spoiling England's Six Nations Grand Slam bid in 2017 at Lansdowne Road, and clinching their own Grand Slam in 2018 at Twickenham.

A Grand Slam isn't on the line on Saturday in Dublin, but a grand event is guaranteed by teams who have shared the last five championships.

And when it comes to competing for the ball at the breakdown, England might finally be able to match Ireland thanks to loose forwards Tom Curry and Mark Wilson.

Given a second shot by England in June, Curry and Wilson grabbed it and came to prominence in November with their exceptional workrate. Now they pose the threat England has longed for at the breakdown that has been bossed by Ireland's fantastic back-rowers Peter O'Mahony, Sean O'Brien, CJ Stander, Josh van der Flier, and Dan Leavy. O'Mahony, Van der Flier and Stander start on Saturday with aggressive two-time Lions tourist O'Brien in reserve.

Curry and Wilson were tried and ditched by coach Eddie Jones in June 2017, when Curry became at 18 the youngest player to start for England in 90 years. They were brought back a year later for the tour of South Africa. England lost the series but Curry and Wilson impressed with their willingness to put their bodies on the line.

Curry, the specialist openside prized for so long by England, started the first match of November against South Africa but severely injured his ankle and missed the rest of the series. Wilson, a No. 8, started the same match only after Billy Vunipola and Sam Simmonds were injured and Nathan Hughes was suspended. He was man of the match against the Springboks, kept plugging, and was voted man of the series.

Up against Ireland for the first time, Curry and Wilson start with the fit-again Billy Vunipola, giving England a trio which has a voracious desire for contact.