10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
It had started quite well for Ireland, that is if one is to ignore the little bit of gamesmanship the English indulged in before the kick off. With the two sides expected to line-up to the right and left of the half-way line for the pre-match rituals, the English opted to occupy the side where Ireland should have stood. Despite repeated pleas, Martin Johnson refused to budge his troops and the kick-off was delayed while the visitors stood their ground. It was at least pure bad mannered but it was gesture that would probably be covered in the 'setting out your stall' category. And from then to the end of the 87 minutes and 40 seconds that were played, England never took a backward step.
They led 13-6 at the end of a thoroughly entertaining first half, a half that saw Jonny Wilkinson stamp his authority on the game with two drop-goals and his conversion of Lawrence Dallaglio's 8th minute try.
Besides all that Wilkinson was immense, as indeed was the English back-row of Neil Back, Richard Hill and Dallaglio. So it's to their great credit that this Irish side were well in the hunt at the break and indeed might has been much closer had they not being denied a try by fierce English defence, in injury time of the first half.
And the outcome still hung in the balance as the game entered it's final quarter particularly as Wilkinson had limped off to be replaced by Paul Grayson. Mike Tindall brushed off a few tackles to score near the posts, Grayson knocked over the conversion, and to make matters worse, Wilkinson re-appeared, and you knew Ireland's goose was well and truly cooked.
The world's best out-half added the points to Will Greenwood's 64th minute try, struck his third drop-goal five minutes later, ut that was disallowed, so he knocked over a penalty for good measure and that was effectively that as far as determining which side would be making history.
Greenwood weighed in with another try after takiing advantage of a sloppy pass and replacement Dan Luger compunded Ireland's misery when he crossed for the game's fifth try six minutes into injury time.
For Ireland no excuses. They came up against a side that according to computers is the best in the world and they found to their cost that the computer got it spot on.