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Fringe players struggle to shine against Saxons

England Saxons 23

Ireland Wolfhounds 17

This was an opportunity for several players to stake a claim in Declan Kidney's squad but Ireland Wolfhounds produced a disjointed performance at Sandy Park in Exeter last night.

Ireland improved as the game progressed but they never got on top for any sustained period and there were very few standout performances by players hoping for inclusion in the squad which will be announced tomorrow.

Ireland started poorly and England made them pay, racing into a 10-0 lead in just over 10 minutes as Ireland struggled to get out of their own half.

Freddie Burns gave the Saxons a sixth-minute lead from a 42-metre penalty and it was no surprise when they got in for the opening try.

It came after a good lineout maul with Saracens scrumhalf Ben Spencer darting over after spotting a gap, with Burns adding the conversion.

Ireland eventually started building the phases with Mike McCarthy, Dan Tuohy and Rhys Ruddock taking the game to the English up front.

Munster's hat-trick hero Simon Zebo came close to getting off the mark with a great break down the left after 13 minutes, but Matt Banahan made it across from the other side to bundle him into touch.

But the pressure paid off after 22 minutes after the ball was recycled wide after a good lineout maul with an inside pass from the impressive Eoin O'Malley putting David Kearney through for a good try.

Ian Keatley, who didn't have a good first half with the boot, missed the conversion from just left of the posts.

Burns missed a chance to increase England's lead just before the break, but he was off target with a penalty from 35 metres on the left.

Thomas Waldrom increased England's lead after 54 minutes when a grubber from Burns bounced kindly for him, with the conversion opening up a 17-5 lead.

Ireland coaches Eric Elwood and Anthony Foley -- Kidney was in the stands -- emptied the bench in the second half and they got back into contention when one of the replacements, a fired-up Tomas O'Leary, darted over after 62 minutes.

Ian Madigan added the conversion to make it 17-12 but Burns, after missing a penalty from 40 metres, extended the Saxons lead with eight minutes remaining with a kick from right on the 22 and he made the game safe with his third penalty four minutes from the end.

Zebo got over for a consolation try in the left corner in the final play of the night.

Scorers -- England: Spencer, Waldrom tries, Burns 2 cons, 2 pens; Ireland: Kearney, O'Leary, Zebo tries, Madigan con.

England Saxons: D Armitage; U Monye, M Hopper, B Twelvetrees, M Banahan ( J May 60) ; F Burns, B Spencer ( P Hodgson 67); M Mullan, J Gray (C Brooker 60), P Doran-Jones; M Garvey ( K Myall 46), G Robson; J Gaskell, A Saull (T Johnson 72), T Waldrom.

Ireland Wolfhounds: G Duffy (D Hurley 55); D Kearney, E O'Malley, N Spence, S Zebo; I Keatley ( I Madigan 52), I Boss (T O'Leary 52); B Wilkinson ( R Loughney 60), D Varley (M Sherry 67), S Archer; D Tuohy, M McCarthy (D Toner 63); J Muldoon (K McLaughlin 67), C Henry, R Ruddock.

Referee: C Marchat (Fra).

Sunday Indo Sport