- Ireland 20 - 32 England
Ireland’s Six Nations defence got off to a devastating start as England produced a ruthless display to win 32-20 at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
After a Grand Slam last year, expectations were high for more success but Ireland will need to do it the hard way this year after a torrid performance.
Time and again, England’s suffocating defence extinguished Ireland’s attacking threats - and the 12-point margin of victory was testament to that.
Ireland’s success in recent years has been built on quick starts and controlling the tempo, but they were left chasing this game after 94 seconds.
The visitors worked space down the left hand side and some slick hands released Jonny May to score in the corner.
Captain Owen Farrell added a tough conversion from the touchline and Ireland’s Six Nations got off to the worst possible start.
Ireland were on the board after 10 minutes when Johnny Sexton nudged over a penalty in front of the posts.
England flanker Tom Curry was handed a yellow card after a late hit on Keith Earls and, while Ireland failed to score during the 10 minute period, the men in green scored almost instantly on Curry’s return to the field.
After keeping it tight among the forwards, Cian Healy rumbled over the line from close range.
Sexton added the extras to give the Irish a three-point lead.
England retook the lead on the half-hour mark - a stabbing kick through was juggled and spilled by Jacob Stockdale, who lost control of it behind his own line.
Elliot Daly dived on the loose ball to touch down and make it 14-10 to the visitors.
Ireland made a dramatic defensive stand on the goal line at the end of the first half to deny England.
Mako Vunipola drove near the line, but the TMO and referee Jerome Garces didn’t award the score.
England did have a penalty advantage, which Farrell kicked as the clock went red to leave it 17-10 to the away side at the break.
Sexton opened the scoring in the second half with another simple penalty to reduce the deficit to four in favour of England.
Farrell then pulled a kickable penalty left of the posts five minutes later.
But England roared back with a try after a brilliant move off the back of a scrum in midfield.
A fluid move among the backs unleashed the ever-dangerous May and his chip through found Henry Slade to sweep over the line.
Farrell’s missed conversion left the Irish trailing by nine with a quarter-of-an-hour to play.
Ireland’s play was uncharacteristic of the brilliance they’ve shown in their rise to second in the world rankings.
Missed passes and miscommunication led to an England penalty which Farrell nailed from the half-way line.
And the dagger at the finale came from Slade’s second try - an intercept as he gathered the ball at the second attempt to dive over the line.
Ulster’s John Cooney grabbed a consolation at the death to leave the scores at 20-32 on a day which will give head coach Joe Schmidt a lot to think about.
A first Test defeat in 13 for the men in green, but the manner of the defeat will worry the Irish.
A far cry from the historic win over the All Blacks in the autumn and a long way back to defending their Six Nations crown.