In the sweltering conditions of south-west London that could yet prove to be the hottest August Bank Holiday weekend on record, Ireland melted in the heat as they found themselves outplayed and outpowered by what very much looks to be England’s first-choice side.
Manu Tuilagi was at his destructive best to not only score a try himself but prove a problem that the Irish defence simply couldn’t deal with, while Joe Cokanasiga bounced back from last weekend’s struggles against Wales to score twice and take his record to five tries in eight career matches.
England took a healthy lead in at the break courtesy of Cokanasiga’s opener and ensuing scores from Elliot Daly and Tuilagi, but the floodgates well and truly opened in the second half as Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Tom Curry, Cokanasiga again and Luke Cowan-Dickie all crossed.
Cokanasiga has has to answer a fair few critics this week that included his own coach Eddie Jones, who challenged him to find a way through his second-season struggles after being exposed defensively in Cardiff last weekend. Those issues remained here as he rushed up on opposite man Jacob Stockdale, only to see the Ulster wing kick past him and allow a bobbling ball to set up Larmour for the try.
But if that is the worst of Cokanasiga, he immediately responded with his best as he collected a lovely move that saw Vunipola take the ball from the base of the scrum, pop to Ben Youngs who then played through the hands of Jonny May, Daly and finally into the hands of the giant wing. With work still to do, Cokanasiga displayed his raw pace to finish from 35m out and put England back in front.
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From there, England did not look back. The second try proved much of the same as Ford combined with Curry to send Daly in unopposed, before the Irish scrum melted and with it their defence, giving Youngs the chance to put Tuilagi through for his try as he outpaced flanker Josh van der Flier.
The second half saw Ireland crumble, as Itoje cut a perfect line on Youngs’ blindside to grab the attention of the scrum-half and surge through a gap between props Jack McGrath and Tadhg Furlong to score beneath the uprights.
A handful of minutes later, a full-speed break from May on the left wing saw the Leicester wing just stopped short by Rob Kearney, but the ball was recycled quick enough for Kruis on a crash-ball line to score.
The sixth try again saw England break the Irish defence with ease, as Kyle Sinckler once again showed his past life as a back to use his handspeed to release Sam Underhill, who committed Stockdale and sent Curry over.
The predictable seventh came when the Ford-Farrell axis once again showed what it can do as they combined to release Cokanasiga, who befuddled Stockdale with al ovely dummy to score, and Cowan-Dickie added the eight late in the day when the Irish lineout misfunctioned – not for the first time.
Ireland actually lead the match at one point when Jordan Larmour scored the opening try of the match early on, but by the time centre Bundee Aki added their first points of the second half in the 73rd minute, the game was long gone.
One large disappointment and concern for the hosts proved to be the short-lived return of Mako Vunipola. The loosehead prop came off the bench in the 61st minute to make his return from three months out after hamstring surgery, but he lasted just 17 minutes before being forced off with what looked to be a head knock, while Ireland lost their own loosehead Cian Healy just before the break to a nasty-looking ankle injury.