The Ireland Women suffered their second successive Women’s RBS 6 Nations defeat as they lost 13-9 to England at Twickenham tonight.
Emma Croker's 22nd-minute try from a classic catch and drive had England 8-6 ahead at half-time, with captain Niamh Briggs booting two penalties for Ireland.
Briggs' third successful penalty edged the visitors in front for the first and only time, but Abbie Scott burst through from a 63rd minute ruck for the decisive score of a closely-fought game.
England had the first sniff of a score at the west London venue, Lydia Thompson threatening on the right wing after a quick turnover. Ireland had most of the initial possession, with Marie Louise Reilly soaring to steal an early lineout.
Out-half Amber Reed punished a high tackle with the opening points in the fifth minute, whereas Briggs missed a touch finder from a penalty and twice England covered well in the back-field.
Influential front rowers Ruth O'Reilly and Cliodhna Moloney both carried strongly, but England enjoyed a promising spell on the quarter hour and a knock-on by Reed robbed them of an opportunity for an overlap out wide.
The home side remained on the front foot, though, and a well-worked lineout maul saw hooker Croker plunge over near the right corner. Reed missed the difficult conversion at 8-0.
Ireland were struggling for territory and were not helped by the same sort of unforced errors that hampered them against France last time out, with Briggs unable to gain much ground with the boot and their attack lacking potency.
However, a timely penalty from the Irish skipper, 30 metres out, opened her side's account and she added another on the 40-minute mark, following some nice interplay between Reilly and Moloney.
Hooker Moloney stood out in defence on the resumption, helping to break up a decent early spell from England before Briggs right-footed Ireland into a 48th minute lead.
A penalty-winning turnover by tighthead Ailis Egan and some more good work at the breakdown by the tireless Claire Molloy launched Ireland forward again, with a lineout maul drawing a close-in penalty.
England kept out Ihe Irish drive and also brought Paula Fitzpatrick down just short, wide on the right. The succession of penalties saw flanker Harriet Millar-Mills sin-binned, however Briggs had a try disallowed from a quick tap penalty and she then sent a scrappy drop goal wide.
It was a big let-off for 14-woman England and they showed Ireland how it is done, big ground-gaining runs from Amy Cokayne and Thompson getting them into scoring range and lock Scott broke clean through from a ruck for an unconverted effort.
Impact sub Cokayne was prominent once more in the build-up to a Reed penalty attempt who she pushed wide. Wingers Mairead Coyne and Elise O'Byrne White were ever-willing runners for Tom Tierney's side, but too often they lacked adequate support or were tackled into touch.
Poor decision-making let Ireland down at crucial stages and the more-experienced England outfit managed to contain them in their own half for the remainder, loosening the defending champions' grip on the trophy in the process.
TIME LINE: 5 minutes – England penalty: Amber Reed – 3-0; 22 mins – England try: Emma Croker – 8-0; conversion: missed by Amber Reed – 8-0; 36 mins – Ireland penalty: Niamh Briggs – 8-3; 40 minutes – Ireland penalty: Niamh Briggs – 8-6; Half-time – England 8 Ireland 6; 48 mins – Ireland penalty: Niamh Briggs – 8-9; 59 mins – England yellow card: Harriet Millar-Mills; 63 mins – England try: Abbie Scott – 13-9; conversion: missed by Amber Reed – 13-9; 68 mins – England penalty: missed by Amber Reed – 13-9; Full-time – England 13 Ireland 9
Referee: Alhambra Nievas (Spain)