ON A DAY when Ireland’s back three were comprehensively outplayed by the England trio of Mike Brown, Anthony Watson and Jonny May, Dave Kearney was a shining light during a tough outing at Twickenham.
Harlequins fullback Brown and his wingers covered the backfield superbly cutting off Jonathan Sexton’s kicking options all afternoon as the Ireland fly-half struggled to find space in behind a ferocious and organised English defensive line.
Brown and Co dominated the aerial battle while all three made telling contributions with ball in hand. On the other hand, Tommy Bowe produced his worst 40 minutes in an Ireland shirt in living memory while Simon Zebo struggled to deal with Watson’s pace and footwork on several occasions in the first-half.
Despite limited attacking opportunities, Kearney emerged from the 21-13 defeat with great credit on the back of his high work rate and intelligent defensive reads.
The Leinster winger came off his wing to put in a thunderous man-and-ball hit on George Ford in the 31st minute before following up with another big tackle on Bath winger Watson a few phases later leading to an Irish penalty.
Kearney had a busy end to the half as he claimed Zebo’s Garryowen before bumping off Brown’s attempted tackle to get Ireland on the front foot once more.
Ireland struggled to match England in the air all afternoon but Kearney soared above Joe Launchbury to claim Sexton’s restart in the 47th minute after Ford had struck a penalty to increase his side’s lead to 15-3. The visitors needed to respond immediately with the left winger leading the way once more.
Kearney was beaten to a high ball by the imperious Brown in the 57th minute but he atoned for it a couple of phases later with a monstrous hit on the England No 15 after Ford and Watson line breaks had Ireland on the ropes.
“I suppose individually I went alright,” said Kearney on his performance on Saturday.
“Obviously, as a team, we didn’t go great. England came at us pretty hard and we didn’t deal with it very well but we were a lot better in the second half I thought.
“So, there were some positives. I think we got ourselves into some good positions and maybe just a few small things, handling errors and stuff like that let us down. We’ll definitely have a good look at it.”
Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
Kearney, who had not started a Test for Ireland in 18 months prior to the warm-up series, made a late charge into the 31-man World Cup squad on the back of a strong showing in pre-season, an eye-catching cameo against Scotland and a solid outing against Wales in Dublin. The 26-year-old now looks a shoo-in for a starting berth at the World Cup.