The Ireland "A" team outscored their English hosts by four tries to two at Kingsholm as they celebrated St. Patrick's Day in fine style.
"A" INTERNATIONAL: Friday, March 17
ENGLAND "A" 18 IRELAND "A" 33, Kingsholm (Att: 10,005)
Scorers: England "A": Tries: Paul Sackey, Michael Lipman; Con: Shane Drahm; Pens: Drahm 2
Ireland "A": Tries: Ian Dowling, Jeremy Staunton, Kieran Lewis, Robert Kearney; Cons: Staunton 2; Pens: Staunton 3
Coach Michael Bradley praised his side in the aftermath of a very encouraging performance for the "A" team, which bodes well for June's trip across the Atlantic for the Churchill Cup.
Current Connacht boss Bradley said: "England hit us for six early on, but we recovered brilliantly. I thought our forwards were exceptional in coping with a strong challenge, and we hit back with some good constructive tries. Overall, I don't think England can have any complaints."
There were few grumbles from the home supporters when an ambitious England line-up begun at break-neck speed. Both Mark van Gisbergen and Tom Palmer were hauled down short of the Irish line in the opening stages, and Worcester out-half Shane Drahm kicked the hosts into a deserved 3-0 lead after 12 minutes.
An English try soon followed with Wasps winger Paul Sackey beating his opposite number out wide after good work by Michael Lipman, in the tackle, and captain and scrum half Shaun Perry, who recycled well. Drahm missed the conversion and tellingly, Sackey's club mate Jeremy Staunton got the Irish back in touch as soon as possible.
Staunton kicked two penalties for 8-6, but missed a lengthier shot at the posts on 33 minutes. The former Garryowen full-back/out-half need not have worried as a blindside snipe saw Munster winger Ian Dowling get over for a galvanising score, which went unconverted.
Drahm replied with a penalty for 11-11 shortly before the interval, but Ireland's sheer will saw them net a second try in injury-time. A flurry of attacks saw Bradley's men bulldoze England right back to their line and Staunton spotted a gap to go over and convert for an 18-11 buffer at the break.
Left reeling by their first half finish, England sought out the first score of the second half but Drahm drove a penalty attempt wide. Staunton stepped up to hammer one at the uprights on 53 minutes - the blustery conditions took the ball wide but with England failing to gather in the loose ball, Leinster centre Kieran Lewis burst through to pick it up and score. Staunton added the extras for 25-11.
Bath flanker Michael Lipman replied with a try fashioned from a lineout maul, and Drahm converted. However, the result seemed certain by that stage. Ireland, with captain and lock Mick O'Driscoll in imperious form at the set piece and in the loose, wanted more and got it when they closed out the scoring with a third Staunton penalty, and Leinster's Robert Kearney, set up by Dowling, got in for a 72nd-minute unconverted try.
England "A" coach John Wells summed it up by saying: "Ireland played better than us, both individually and collectively - simple as that. We tried to play explansive rugby, but we overdid it at times. in the end, Ireland played the clever rugby."
ENGLAND "A": Mark van Gisbergen (Wasps): Paul Sackey (Wasps), Jon Clarke (Northampton), Ollie Smith (Leicester), Chris Bell (Leeds Tykes); Shane Drahm (Worcester), Shaun Perry (Bristol) (capt); Tim Payne (Wasps), Andy Titterrell (Sale), Stuart Turner (Sale) Louis Deacon (Leicester), Tom Palmer (Leeds Tykes), Andy Beattie (Bath), Michael Lipman (Bath), Chris Jones (Sale).
Replacements used: Delon Armitage (London Irish) for Smith (37 mins), Dan Ward-Smith (Bristol) for Palmer (61), Matt Cairns (Saracens) for Tiierrell (62), Tom Rees (Wasps) for Beattie (68), Nick Wood (Goulcester) for Turner, Sam Vesty (Leicester) for van Gisbergen (both 73), Nick Walshe (Bath) for Perry (79).
IRELAND "A": Robert Kearney (Leinster); Tommy Bowe (Ulster), Gavin Duffy (Harlequins), Kieran Lewis (Leinster), Ian Dowling (Munster); Jeremy Staunton (Wasps), Tomas o'Leary (Munster); Ray Hogan (Connacht), John Fogarty (Connacht), Bryan Young (Ulster), Mick O'Driscoll (Munster) (capt), Matt McCullough (Ulster), Neil Best (Ulster), Shane Jennings (Leicester), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster.
Replacements used: Ronan McCormack (Leinster) for Hogan (55 mins), Chris Keane (Connacht) for O'Leary, Roger Wilson (Ulster) for Heaslip (both 68), Leo Cullen (Leicester) for McCullough (77). Not used: Brian Blaney (Leinster), Paddy Wallace (Ulster), Bryn Cunningham (Ulster).
Referee: Christophe Berdos (France)