High Noon for England World Cup hopes

Jamie Noon has issued a defiant riposte following England's latest Six Nations defeat by insisting: "We haven't got time to sit around licking our wounds." [more]

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Jamie Noon has issued a defiant riposte following England’s latest Six Nations defeat by insisting: "We haven’t got time to sit around licking our wounds."

While their Twickenham conquerors Ireland jigged away to celebrate a second Triple Crown in three seasons, England could only reflect on another disappointing campaign.

The world champions failed to improve on last year’s fourth-place finish, again losing three successive games.

Unlike the error-strewn Six Nations defeats against Scotland and France though, England could justifiably claim Brian O’Driscoll and company really did enjoy the luck of the Irish.

Two decisions by touch judges Rob Dickson and Nigel Owens cost England everything in a rip-roaring contest decided at the death by wing Shane Horgan’s second try.

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On the other hand, it is also a sound argument to suggest any team that leads three times at home – which England managed 5-0, 18-14 and 24-21 – should not finish second.

"We made improvements, definitely, and we played most of the rugby, but we have come away with nothing," said try-scorer Noon, whose evening lasted just 27 minutes before a head wound forced him off.

"You have just got to bite your tongue, really. The players were very disappointed at a couple of decisions they thought they should have received, but the referee (Welshman Nigel Whitehouse) has not given them.

"The feeling is one of frustration. Ireland were struggling at times, and they had to work very hard for the win.

"It just goes to show we’ve got a good strong squad of players – it is just a matter of turning up and limiting the number of mistakes we are making.

"Finishing fourth in the championship for England is very disappointing, but we haven’t got time to sit around licking our wounds."

The lead changed hands five times, with Horgan (2) and number eight Denis Leamy claiming touchdowns for Ireland as they completed a hat-trick of victories over England for the first time in 30 years.

They could also reflect on a highest-ever points total against England, despite the world champions staying in touch through scores by Noon – after just 77 seconds – and lock Steve Borthwick, who bagged his first Test match try.

Fly-half Andy Goode slotted 14 points, but opposite number Ronan O’Gara landed 13, including the last-gasp conversion that crucially put England out of drop-goal reach in any desperate injury-time attempt to steal the match.

England have now lost eight of their 15 RBS 6 Nations games since the World Cup, while Robinson’s success rate stands at just 50 per cent over 16 Tests, statistics that will intensify pressure on him.

"Obviously, it is very frustrating," said Robinson.

"I thought the performance of the side was very good throughout, with a tremendous start.

"We’ve lost the game by four points. It is small margins, but nothing really went our way. I couldn’t fault the effort of our players.

"International rugby can change very, very quickly and the momentum of the game can swing on decisions that are made.

"I felt we were on the wrong end of a number of decisions, and that is disappointing.

"Credit to Ireland though, because they came here, took their chances and played well."

Ireland’s thrilling win ensured that France – conquerors of Wales in Cardiff – were crowned Six Nations champions.

England will rue the fact they conceded 16 turnovers and lost four line-outs – double the Irish statistics in both departments – but Robinson can also point to encouraging performances from Goode and centre Stuart Abbott ahead of this summer’s two-Test Australia tour.

The red-rose scrum had Ireland wilting, yet the visitors possessed a far more threatening back division and they could conceivably have gained a more conclusive triumph had O’Driscoll not bombed a glorious chance by failing to find his unmarked midfield colleague Gordon D’Arcy with England’s line beckoning.

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