Ireland looked set for a third successive defeat in this season’s campaign when they fell 20-6 behind early in the second-half, but they never panicked and eventually got on top.
Lock James Ryan was an inspirational captain, powering over for the opening try and leading the side superbly as they scored only their second win in England in the history of the competition.
Ireland, enjoyed plenty of possession in the opening half but found themselves 17-6 adrift at the break.
Handling errors played a big part in undermining Ireland’s efforts and England were ruthless in punishing mistakes as they looked to build on their win over Italy last time out, having lost their opening game away to Scotland.
Ireland were turned over on their first scrum and it let to England’s opening try after just four minutes when flanker Sam Smith powered over off a lineout.
Northumberland native Johnny McPhillips pulled back a penalty for Ireland but the Ulster native managed just two from four kicks in the opening half.
That meant that good work by Ireland went unrewarded and they trailed 14-3 after 22 minutes despite enjoying 69% possession to England’s 31.
English out-half, the Swansea born Matthew Protheroe who is also being courted by Wales, was superb in the opening half and he created their second try for winger George Perkins with a superb break.
Protheroe was off target with a penalty but the Gloucester clubman gave England a 17-6 interval advantage when Irish prop Conan O’Donnell was binned just the break.
Protheroe extended England’s two minutes after the restart with a drop goal and the margin of victory seemed all that was to be decided after that.
But with Ryan leading by example and Ireland building the phases by cutting out the mistakes, the complexion of the game changed and Carolan’s men grew in confidence.
They got back in the game with a penalty to the corner which was finished by Ryan spotting a gap off the lineout and diving over. McPhillips was unable to convert but Ireland suddenly had a pep in their step with England flanker Sam Smith in the bin.
The try which really got Ireland back in the hunt was superbly worked with a good move being finished by quality passes from Conor O’Brien and Brett Connon to put Matthew Byrne over in the right corner.
Connon, a Newcastle Falcons player, landed the touchline conversion on his home pitch to cut the gap to 20-18 after 54 minutes.
England piled on the pressure after that and looked set to extend their lead but Ireland defended superbly and broke from a five-metre lineout to go up the other end and surge in front for the first time after 67 minutes with prop Andrew Porter scoring after some superb handling in a flowing movement. Connon missed the relatively easy conversion and left the score at 23-20.
It took a superb tackle from England winger Ollie Thorley to deny Ireland what would have been a superb score to clinch the game. McPhillips chipped in midfield for Shane Daly to run on to the ball and the Cork Con centre executed a superb crossfield kick off the outside of his boot for Byrne to gather and sprint for the line but he was denied by an excellent challenge.
But Ireland closed out the game with England replacement Stan South red-carded for a tip tackle on Ireland flanker Will Connors. Connon put six between them with as many minutes remaining and they never looked like losing that lead in the dying moments.
Tries: S Smith, G Perkins. Cons: M Protheroe (2). Pens: Protheroe. Drop goal: Protheroe
Tries: J Ryan, M Byrne, A Porter. Pens: J McPhillips (2), B Connon. Con: Connon
M Malins; G Perkins, J Marchant, C Thacker, O Thorley; M Protheroe, M Green; T West, J Singleton, W Stuart; H Taylor, G Nott; A White, S Smith, C Chick.
J Willis for White (40), J Shillcock for Green (40), S South for Nott (69).
J Power; H Keenan, S Daly, J O’Brien, C O’Brien; J McPhillips, S Keirns; A Porter, A McBurney, C O’Donnell; P Claffey, J Ryan; C Gallagher, W Connors, G Jones.
M Byrne for Power (10), B Connon for J O’Brien (22), K Brown for Jones (69).
T Trainini (France).