No heroics but brave Billy plays part as England win in Dublin
BILLY Twelvetrees helped England raise the sniff of a Grand Slam tilt as Stuart Lancaster's men won a brutal battle against Ireland in Dublin.
The Gloucester centre provided vital midfield solidity alongside Brad Barritt, before making way for Leicester's wrecking-ball Manu Tuilagi in the second half.
The sodden Aviva Stadium left running rugby at a premium, so on his second cap Twelvetrees had little chance to shine on the front foot.
One tap pass set Chris Ashton into space, but aside from that it was through tidy solidity and shape where the 24-year-old impressed.
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England's 12-6 victory leaves them the only unbeaten side in the Six Nations.
Owen Farrell slotted the four crucial penalties, trumping replacement Irish fly-half Ronan O'Gara's two.
Ireland dominated territory and possession.
But England were resolute and regimented without the ball.
In the first half Stuart Lancaster's men had the edge at the scrum and were battling hard at the savage contact area.
Cian Healy got his act together after the break to put pressure on England.
And then James Haskell was sin-binned for playing the ball offside on the ground at a ruck.
Ireland's loosehead prop Healy was lucky to have avoided a yellow card, first for stamping needlessly and then for throwing two equally pointless punches.
Replacement centre Tuilagi almost scored a try when impressive Ben Youngs chipped over the top.
The Leicester monster reached his club-mate's dink first in the in-goal area but could not collect.
Farrell and O'Gara traded missed penalties, but England were able to hold out.
With home games against France and Italy to come, before a final-weekend trip to Wales, Lancaster's men will be buoyed by passing this Dublin test.
Meanwhile, Gloucester captain Jim Hamilton played his part in Scotland's 34-10 record Six Nations victory over Italy at Murrayfield.
The Scots ran in four tries in a comprehensive triumph.
Gloucestershire wing Alex Cuthbert was part of Wales' grinding 16-6 win in France – their first victory in nine matches.