- Re-live and examine a big moment from England's latest Test
- George Ford's drop goal against Ireland is Play of the Week
England endured a difficult time in Dublin as they went down 19-9 to Ireland on Sunday afternoon in their third match of the RBS 6 Nations campaign.
Even so, our analysis feature Play of Week returns to examine a significant moment from the game. This week, we take a close look at the patient attack that ended in a drop goal for George Ford as Stuart Lancaster's charges got themselves on the scoreboard:
Throughout this tie, Ireland stood firm in defence and hit breakdowns in numbers. This had the effect of slowing down England's phase-play, simply because it took more time and effort to recycle possession.
In this instance though, England eventually emerged from the opposition 22 with points thanks to some intelligent organisation and effective ball retention.
Going back one phase prior to the video clip, we start as the ball is on the floor following a tackle on Dave Attwood. Ben Youngs, one of the team's key communicators at scrum half, recognises that England's attack has slowed and looks to generate pace. He glances into midfield and gestures towards a runner:
The forward who offers himself is Billy Vunipola, and the 22 year-old Saracen comes from depth in order to build up speed into contact. Turning their shoulders in his direction, three of Ireland's fringe defenders must commit to the tackle:
Demonstrating the power that saw him beat five defenders from 14 carries, Vunipola ties this trio of tacklers into the collision:
Attempting to clear the ruck quickly so England can capitalise on some momentum, James Haskell, Joe Marler and Dylan Hartley are in support and add their weight to the breakdown.
They execute their roles well, but Jordi Murphy – one of the tacklers to fell Vunipola – is lying on the turf, stopping Youngs from getting at the ball and moving it on:
While the tangle of bodies does make it difficult for Murphy to roll away, he is clearly contravening law 15.4 b):
Referee Craig Joubert, in an excellent position, makes a swift decision and holds out his arm to indicate England have a penalty advantage:
With this advantage to fall back on, England now opt to put more width on their attack. Youngs fires a long pass to his fly half George Ford, bypassing George Kruis and Chris Robshaw, who have curved around the corner.
It is important to note that these forward runners have an integral role in this phase themselves, holding Ireland's fringe defenders to retain space further out:
That said, Ford identifies that there is a lack of options as he collects. Ireland have numbered up well and there is little chance of making ground.
With that in mind, he plays Jonathan Joseph on a short, punchy angle. With England's chances of scoring a try (as Ireland did later with penalty advantage) extinguished, Ford heads back into the 'pocket' – directly behind where he envisages the next ruck will be – to position himself for a drop goal attempt:
The next stage of this pattern is Joseph's carry, which is strong, allied to the support play of Luther Burrell and George Kruis, who are primed to resource the next breakdown:
They do so efficiently, and England's forwards then offer themselves to Youngs on either side of the next ruck, therefore tying in more Ireland defenders:
Readjusting after some communication from Attwood, Youngs then swivels to find Ford:
The number 10 receives the ball in plenty of space, with time to collect himself, take aim and ensure his strike is a good one.
Notice how various England forwards (circled in white) stand firm on the gain-line, making it tougher for Ireland to rush up into Ford's eyeline, let alone near enough to charge him down:
Indeed, only Conor Murray gets within 10 metres of the kicker at the point of contact. Keeping his head still, Ford sends the ball through the uprights coolly:
Cutting their deficit to 6-3, this was one of the most cohesive passages of play England put together. They can take consolation, however small, from that as they look ahead to Twickenham tussles against Scotland and France to finish the Championship.