England refused to give Brian O’Driscoll a fitting Twickenham farewell with a priceless victory in a riveting, breathless Six Nations encounter.
The win for Stuart Lancaster’s men reignites their chances of claiming the title and ends the grand slam ambitions of Ireland, who had hoped to send the legendary O’Driscoll into retirement with a championship clean sweep.
As it was, England won a game of furious intensity and dramatic momentum shifts thanks to their resilient defence and some stellar individual performances from the likes of lock Joe Launchbury, scrum-half Danny Care and full-back Mike Brown.
It was a try by Yorkshireman Care in the 57th minute from Brown’s break - converted by Owen Farrell - that edged England into a lead they were hard-pressed to hold on to.
The hosts held a slender 3-0 lead after 40 ferocious minutes when defences were on top and fierce tackles were the order of the day.
They should have had a try through free-running Jonny May but the ball was thumped out of his hand by a combination of Rob Kearney and Andrew Trimble.
Farrell was lucky to be on the pitch to slot the only penalty after he had earlier been guilty of a reckless challenge on Jonny Sexton after the ball had gone. Farrell also struck an upright with a first-half penalty.
Ireland burst out of the blocks in the second half, scoring within two minutes of the restart when Rob Kearney darted over from Jamie Heaslip’s pass.
Then Sexton added a penalty after sustained pressure.
Ireland had seized the initiative but England ripped it back instantly with a long spell of pressure creating an easy penalty for Farrell before Chris Robshaw and Brown set Care scampering away for the game-winning try.
With two more rounds of the Six Nations remaining, England, Ireland, Wales and France all have two wins from three matches with the championship well and truly up for grabs.