Thursday 14 December 2017

O'Driscoll in good spirits

Alex Lowe

Declan Kidney moved quickly last night to ease fears over Brian O'Driscoll after the Ireland captain was stretchered off in the 70th minute.

O'Driscoll was accidentally struck on the head by the knee of team-mate Paul O'Connell and was tended by medics before being carried from the pitch.

"Brian took a bit of a bang. It was nothing -- he was out on the pitch at the end. He's good and is enjoying the win as much as anyone," said Kidney. "Brian just felt he should make Paul do the press conference to make up for him giving him a bang on the head with his knee. There's no risk of concussion. He's fine."

Ireland were delighted to nudge their Six Nations title defence back on track with a courageous display full of character.

"That was an important response after France," said O'Connell. "Brian said yesterday that teams are defined by how they react to losses but we could have picked an easier one to get back on the horse than England at Twickenham, especially as they had their backs to the wall as well.

"I don't think we played outstandingly well but we showed a lot of intensity and a high work-rate. To come back and win the game with eight or nine minutes to go is a good feeling. The guys are very pleased with that."

Tommy Bowe's two tries sandwiched one from Keith Earls as Ireland, who were on defensive duty for most of the match, showed a clinical finishing touch that was beyond England.

"It's great when you have backs like we do. They are great finishers, confident guys who can do it either way," said O'Connell. "Finishing is something the guys work hard on and it came off today. We don't mind how we win but it's a great when you score three tries on a day like today."

Man of the match Jamie Heaslip was delighted with the result, praising his side's character. "We've come back from deficits before, we've shown we can kick on in the second half and we showed belief and confidence and got a good try at the end and closed them out well," said Heaslip.

"I suppose we just took our chances, they came close a couple of times but the scoreboard reflects the game. We looked at the France game afterwards and thought we didn't take our opportunities, but for Ireland it's not difficult to get motivated for an England game."

Martin Johnson admitted England's defeat was a "tough, tough loss". And the England manager urged his players to keep the "horrible feeling" stored inside them and unleash it on Scotland in two weeks' time.

Bowe sliced through the England defence to score his second try of the game and seal a dramatic late victory.

"It is a tough, tough loss," said Johnson. "I thought the guys played very well. They got themselves back into the game and got themselves ahead. It was a tough game, either team could have won it.

"We did a lot of good things. I thought it was a good performance. "It was wet, muddy and we were playing Ireland so it is going to be difficult. Have we lots to get better at? Yes, we have. It is frustrating for us all because there were chances.

"But we only took one in the second half and they scored two. That was probably the difference. It is a very tough loss to take and we will work that through. We will be better for the game. I said to the players they have to keep that horrible feeling inside of them for two weeks and release it at Murrayfield. We come back to play Scotland, who will be playing that game to save their championship (after defeat to Italy)."

Bowe had opened the scoring after a slick counter-attack just four minutes into the game and Ireland moved further ahead through Keith Earls in the second half.

Ireland built towards the Earls try directly from a penalty conceded by England scrum-half Danny Care for dumping opposite number Tomas O'Leary on the turf as he wrestled for the ball.

England had been awarded the scrum penalty but referee Mark Lawrence reversed the decision and Ireland exploited the opportunity to the full.

Johnson questioned whether the penalty reversal was necessary.

"Games turn on things like that," said Johnson. "In a game like that, is that a penalty reversal? They jumped in just as quickly (in the subsequent melee). I don't think it was a penalty personally, but it was given. Even then we came back, but it was disappointing to concede a penalty with the last play of the game when we had driven them back 25 yards."

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