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Rugby | Six Nations

England stay on course for Grand Slam



England defeated Ireland 12-6 in a bruising Six Nations encounter Sunday at a rain-sodden Aviva stadium in Dublin to remain the only country capable of winning the Grand Slam.

All the points for England came from the boot of outhalf Owen Farrell while Ireland's scores came from penalties by Ronan O'Gara.

"The conditions out there were not great but we got our sleeves rolled up and got stuck in," said Farrell. "It was a brutal game out there."

England had not won a Six Nations match in Dublin for 10 years but signalled their intent from the opening whistle, dominating possession which was rewarded by a Farrell penalty in the third minute to give the visitors a 3-0 lead.

Farrell stretched England's advantage to six points with another penalty on 29 minutes after Ireland's Donncha Ryan was penalised for coming in from the side.

There was more Irish indiscipline just before half-time when Ronan O'Gara, on for the injured Jonathan Sexton, failed to release the ball when he found himself isolated but Farrell sent the resultant penalty kick just wide of the upright to leave England 6-0 up at the break.

In a reverse of the home side's fortunes at the scrum in the first half, Ireland gained penalties in quick succession at the first two set pieces after the break, culminating in O'Gara slotting over to reduce the deficit to 6-3.

With the momentum swinging in Ireland's favour, O'Gara continued to kick for territory, which was rewarded with another penalty on 57 minutes when James Haskell was adjudged to have kicked the ball away at the base of the ruck.

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Haskell received a yellow card for his actions, reducing England to 14 men for the next 10 minutes while O'Gara kicked the resultant penalty to level the match at 6-6.

However, England refused to buckle despite the loss of Haskell and instead moved into a 12-6 lead thanks to two more Farrell penalties.

"At the start of the second half we were put under a bit of pressure," admitted England coach Stuart Lancaster. "The way we managed the sin period was critical."

O'Gara missed an opportunity to narrow the gap when sending a penalty wide with 10 minutes remaining and while Farrell also missed a kick of his own, England played down the clock in Ireland's half to remain the only unbeaten side in the championship and on course for the Grand Slam.

"They took their chances well when they came their way," said Ireland coach Declan Kidney. "We give them credit for the way they played.

The third round of Six Nations matches takes place on the weekend of February 23 and 24 when Italy welcome Wales, England entertain France and Ireland visit Scotland.

"That game will be massive," said Lancaster of the Twickenham date against a France side that is in crisis after surprise defeats to Italy and Wales.

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