Declan Kidney’s Ireland A side capped off a wonderful season for the Emerald Isle on Sunday by beating England Saxons 49-22 and claiming The 2009 Churchill Cup.
With Neil Best acting as captain, the Irish recovered from a slow start and two sin binnings in the first half to record a six-try win courtesy of an organized performance with good finishing.
Stephen Myler kicked the Saxons 6-0 ahead before Jonathan Sexton, making his first start in the tournament, got the Irish on the scoreboard through a penalty of his own.
The first try came through Devin Toner, Sean Cronin’s well-time pass setting up the move after a decent spell of dominance and Sexton duly converted.
Myler added another penalty to bring the Saxons back to within a point, and missed the chance to move his side ahead only for Ireland to collect their second try moments later.
It was all started by a break from Fergus McFadden, who drew a penalty with his run, which Chris Henry then took quickly and that allowed Tony Buckley and Isaac Boss to move forward, the latter diving over the tryline. Sexton converted, though Myler added another kick to leave to scores on 17-12.
Both teams lost players to the sin bin six minutes before the break when Saxons’ Dan Cole was shown yellow, while Ireland number eight followed him to the sideline for his part in a skirmish with Stuart Hooper.
A penalty, initially awarded to Ireland A, was reversed, though the men in green turned over possession, allowing Sexton to land the drop kick.
The fly-half followed Henry to the sin bin a minute before the break though, penalized for slowing England ball at the ruck. Myler missed the resulting penalty though, leaving scores at 20-12 at the interval.
Down to 13, McFadden stood in at ten and it was Cronin, with the help of Boss, who crossed over after handing off both Hooper and Tom Varndell. McFadden added the extras.
The Saxons used their advantage at the scrum to help them hit back, however, and went for territory instead of a kick at the posts -which saw flanker Ben Woods power over in the corner.
Myler missed the extras, while Niall O’Connor, on temporarily for Henry, was unlucky to see his well-struck penalty come back off the left upright.
However, despite O’Connor’s miss, Ireland’s momentum was growing, and Munster-bound Felix Jones charged in for the game’s fourth try and his second in two games.
Sexton missed the conversion, but Ireland were in again four minutes later. Jones gathered an up-and-under from Myler and went on a weaving run allowing Johne Murphy over – with the support of McFadden.
The conversion left the scoreboard 39-17, with Ireland out of sight.
Danny Cipriani and Shane Geraghty were introduced to the action late on but they had little impact as the Irish pack continued to dominant.
McFadden added another penalty and it was followed by another Irish try – this time tour captain John Muldoon broke from the base of a scrum to dive over.
Varndell did get over for a late consolation try, but it only managed to put a slightly better look on the scoreboard from the Saxons’ point of view.
Ireland A: Felix Jones; Denis Hurley, Fergus McFadden, Keith Matthews, Johne Murphy; Jonathan Sexton, Isaac Boss; Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Tony Buckley, Donnacha Ryan, Devin Toner, Neil Best (capt), Niall Ronan, Chris Henry.
Replacement: Niall O'Connor, John Muldoon, Denis Fogarty, Bryan Young, Trevor Hogan, Simon Keogh, James Downey.
England Saxons: Nick Abendanon; Noah Cato, Dominic Waldouck, Brad Barritt, Tom Varndell; Stephen Myler, Micky Young; David Flatman, Rob Webber, Dan Cole, Stuart Hooper, Nick Kennedy, Phil Dowson (capt), Ben Woods, Luke Narraway.
Replacements: Dean Schofield, Tom Guest, Tom Mercey, Danny Cipriani, Shane Geraghty, Joe Simpson, Joe Ward.
Referee: Matt Goddard (Australia)