Joe Cokanasiga scored twice as England laid down a warning to their Rugby World Cup rivals with an astonishing 57-15 trouncing of Ireland at Twickenham on Saturday.
England ran in eight tries in all – man of the match Manu Tuilagi getting one of them – as they recorded both their highest score and largest winning margin over their opponents.
For Ireland – who won the Six Nations Grand Slam and beat the All Blacks last year – it was a bitter reality check in a game they had hopes of becoming world number one.
Both sides came roaring out of the blocks in the baking sunshine with Owen Farrell landing the first blow with a penalty in the seventh minute.
The visitors struck back as Rob Kearney’s superb long pass found Jacob Stockdale.
The Ulster flyer kicked ahead and the ball bounced kindly over the line for Jordan Larmour with the wing touching down for his fifth Test try.
Ross Byrne making his first start at fly-half showed no nerves as he converted from wide out on the left for 7-3.
For all Larmour’s style in attack his Achilles heel is his defence and he was left grasping at air as he tried to tackle Joe Cokanasiga, who brushed him aside to touch down in the 13th minute — Tuilagi’s decoy run having sucked in the Irish defence.
Farrell failed to convert but England had their noses in front at 8-7.
Byrne – who is vying to be on the plane to Japan to back up the injured Joey Carbery and number one Johnny Sexton – slotted over an excellent penalty to give the Irish a 10-8 lead.
However, Tuilagi once again caused panic in the Irish defence and Stockdale repeated an error from the first try in coming on off his wing and Tom Curry fed Elliot Daly who ran in to touch down.
Farrell converted for 15-10.
Tuilagi did not bother setting anyone up for the third try going on his own paying little notice to Stockdale’s effort at a tackle as Farrell added the extras.
Ireland’s problems deepened shortly before half-time as veteran prop Cian Healy limped off but in a nice touch Farrell and Jamie George clapped him on the back.
The Irish began the second-half also without Conor Murray who had taken a knock to the head in the first-half from Jonny May’s shoulder and had briefly returned after passing a Head Injury Assessment.
Five minutes after the break Ireland lost a line-out and ended with Maro Itoje bursting through the middle, breaking Tadhg Furlong’s tackle to score under the posts for his second Test try — Farrell converted for 29-10.
Ireland were at sixes and sevens and Byrne epitomised that by kicking straight into touch — a rueful shake of the head reflecting the downbeat mood.
Tuilagi caused more havoc in the Irish defence setting up George Kruis to go over for a try which Farrell converted for 36-10.
Sam Underhill and Curry – nicknamed the ‘Kamikaze Kids’ by Eddie Jones – combined for another try with the former off-loading to the latter as the Irish were run ragged.
Tuilagi was everywhere clattering Larmour when he took a high ball and then getting across to tackle Stockdale.
The match would have been stopped if it was a boxing bout but the punishment kept on coming as Cokanasiga came off his wing and ran through the centre to touch down – wagging his finger in celebration metres out.
Bundee Aki had a rough day defending Tuilagi but once the latter had gone off he gained a little consolation in breaking through from outside the 22, fending off Daly to touch down.
Luke Cowan-Dickie rounded of Irish misery with another try – George Ford converting.
Tries: Cokanasiga 2, Daly, Tuilagi, Itoje, Kruis, Curry, Cowan-Dickie
Cons: Farrell 5, Ford
Tries: Larmour, Aki
Yellow card: Goerge Kruis (England, 79 – dangerous tackle)
England: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Owen Farrell (captain), 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Tom Curry, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Piers Francis, 23 Joe Marchant.
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Christiaan Stander, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 Jean Kleyn, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Tadhg Beirne, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Jack Carty, 23 Andrew Conway.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Alex Ruiz (France)
TMO: Philippe Bonhoure (France)
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