By Simon Lewis, Twickenham
England 21 Ireland 13
Ireland signed off their World Cup preparations with a loss at Twickenham as they slumped to their second consecutive pre-tournament defeat.
Always looking second best to a much sharper English side, there were further concerns for Irish head coach Joe Schmidt as he lost the services of scrum-half Conor Murray following a head injury during a torrid first half in which the visitors were blown away, conceding two horrible tries and having another England score disallowed for a forward pass.
Fellow half-back Johnny Sexton and full-back Simon Zebo also limped out after half time but they were precautionary withdrawals following cramping.
Ireland will have been relieved to have gone in at half-time trailing only 12-3 after an awful first 40 minutes as Jonny May ploughed through a poor Tommy Bowe tackle and then fellow wing Anthony Watson beat Zebo in the air for a crossfield kick from George Ford to touch down for England's second try in the opening quarter-hour.
Murray caused huge concern when he appeared to be knocked out cold tackling England prop Joe Marler and was immediately put into the recovery position but he was soon back on his feet, and taken off for a head injury assessment from which he would not return.
It was nearly a lot worse for Ireland, unable to get on the front foot, when England cut through again and May got over for what appeared to be his second try of the half, only for the TMO to spot a forward pass to the wing from hooker Tm Youngs.
It was a let off gratefully accepted and a half-time deficit at 12-3 that should have been much more punishing and Ireland did regain their composure for the second half. After an exchange of penalties captain Paul O'Connell picked and drove over for a try in the 53rd minute, converted by Sexton to draw the score back to a two-point deficit at 15-13.
Yet it was indiscipline which again cost Ireland, sub fly-half Owen Farrell slotting two late penalties to give England the cushion they probably deserved. It left Schmidt with plenty to think about heading to Ireland's Pool D opener in Cardiff against Canada on September 19.
England: M Brown; A Watson, J Joseph, B Barritt (S Burgess, 59), J May; G Ford (O Farrell, 59), B Youngs (R Wigglesworth, 59); J Marler (M Vunipola, 55), T Youngs (J George, 59), D Cole (K Brookes, 62); C Lawes, G Parling (J Launchbury, 12-19; 45); T Wood, C Robshaw – captain, B Morgan (B Vunipola, 55).
Ireland: S Zebo (T Furlong, 69); T Bowe, J Payne, R Henshaw (I Madigan, 60), D Kearney (D Cave, 60 - blood); J Sexton (D Kearney, 65), C Murray (E Reddan, 17); J McGrath (M Ross, 74), R Best (R Strauss, 61), M Ross (N White, 59); D Toner, P O'Connell – captain (D Ryan, 65); P O'Mahony, S O'Brien (C Henry, 61), J Heaslip.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)