England produced one of the best showings of Eddie Jones’ tenure to kick off their 2019 Guinness Six Nations in superb style and snap defending champions Ireland’s home winning run.
The Red Rose was in full bloom in an enthralling first half in Dublin, Jonny May going over inside 90 seconds and Elliot Daly also dotting down.
Cian Healy went over for the hosts – Grand Slam winners last year but now playing catch-up in this year’s Championship with a trip to Edinburgh up next – but they trailed 17-10 at the break.
Jonathan Sexton trimmed the lead in the second half with his second penalty but England stretched their lead out when Henry Slade chased down May’s kick to score.
Farrell then added a penalty and England sealed the deal when Slade picked off Sexton for his second try of the night.
John Cooney then secured a late consolation for Ireland but this was a famous England win – their first in Dublin since 2013 and handing Joe Schmidt his first defeat at home in Rugby’s Greatest Championship.
Ireland began the game on a 12-match winning run at the Aviva Stadium – but it was England who looked right at home from the outset.
Farrell fired a pass out to the left and Daly managed to get outside Keith Earls, draw the last man and put May over in the corner for England’s first try inside 90 seconds.
Not since 2011 had England scored a try in Dublin, but with Farrell’s extras it was 7-0 to the visitors.
The anticipated battle in the air then began to rage, May was near perfect under a Conor Murray barrage but when Kyle Sinckler didn’t roll away soon after, Sexton’s penalty got Ireland on the board.
Tom Curry, in his first career Guinness Six Nations start, then saw yellow for a late hit on Earls and Ireland looked like they had ridden out the storm.
The next penalty went to the corner and while England managed to repel the initial maul, Healy had the strength to go over from close range.
Sexton’s extras made it 10-7 but back came England in an enthralling first half with no quarter asked or given.
Daly’s clever dink caused confusion and when Jacob Stockdale – bright with ball in hand but slow on the turn in defence – spilled under pressure from Nowell it was Daly who pounced.
Farrell’s extras made it 14-10 and still Eddie Jones’ men kept coming, a Rory Best wonky lineout earning them perfect territory with the first half coming to an end.
The ever-present Mako Vunipola thought he had grounded England’s third but the referee Jerome Garces deemed it a double movement and in the end the visitors had to settle for a penalty which Farrell duly slotted for a 17-10 lead.
SLADE STARS IN SECOND HALF
The second half started in much the same vein as the first, England lifting the tempo and stressing Ireland’s defence.
But Schmidt’s men held firm and eventually won a penalty of their own that Sexton slotted to close to four points.
Ireland’s discipline had been magnificent and with Maro Itoje off injured and George Kruis already withdrawn, seemed poised to strike in the final quarter.
Farrell missed a penalty but England then turned on the jets, Slade just about staying onside to chase down May’s kick and score.
And when he picked off a Sexton pass, juggled, re-gathered and dotted down the bonus point was secured and England were home and hosed.
There was still time for a John Cooney consolation but there was no doubting the winners, England’s hard-fought victory one for the ages.
WHAT THEY SAID
“On the back of the Autumn series we had a good base to work from and we were obviously pleased with that performance because we played against a top team today.
“Henry Slade and Elliot Daly are both good players. I haven’t seen a back player that doesn’t make a mistake. We want them to try things and I thought both of their performances tonight were outstanding.
“Ireland are a well-coached team. We want to play good England rugby and good England rugby involves attacking kicks, putting pressure on the opposition and we tried to execute a plan to find the space in the Ireland defence line and I think we did that reasonably well.
“We started slow and then we gave up a couple of soft tries and in fairness against a team of England’s quality you’re always going to be struggling.
“If you look at the end of the game we started chasing it and gave up another couple of soft scores, so I think our start killed us and you can’t do that against England.
“We did steady the ship a little bit and the half-time chat was good, but for whatever reason we were a little bit flat coming out again and not like us.
“It’s pretty hard to put your finger on it, but the main thing is against England you can’t afford to be flat.”
Mako Vunipola made a jaw-dropping 25 tackles and 11 carries to lead a brutal England pack performance.
The Saracens man nearly lasted the full 80 minutes and was key to nullifying an Irish pack that have beaten all before them in the last year.
Maro Itoje was off injured, Nathan Hughes packing down in the second row and Ireland were within four points as the hour mark came and went.
But when May chipped over the top and Slade, despite close inspection from the TMO, was adjudged to have stayed onside – the game was effectively up for Ireland.