Worcester Warriors duo Tom Wood and Miles Benjamin both featured as England Saxons put their Churchill Cup final misery behind them by beating Ireland A 17-13 at The Rec on Sunday afternoon.
Back row Wood played for over an hour at the home of Bath Rugby while wing Benjamin came off the bench for David Strettle as both Sixways stars, products of the Warriors Academy, made England Saxons debuts.
When the two sides met last June it was Ireland who had the upper hand with a 49-22 victory but on this occasion Stuart Lancaster’s men came out fighting.
A first half try from David Strettle (Harlequins) got the Saxons on the scoreboard with Shane Geraghty (Northampton) adding his own effort just before half time and contributing seven points with the boot.
England errors kept Ireland in the game during the first half with Paddy Wallace (Ballymena/Ulster) kicking two easy penalties.
Strettle’s try eased the pressure after he received an outside pass from Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers) to go over in the top corner for Geraghty to convert.
And on the half hour England’s Geraghty went in under the posts after secure offloads from Saracens pair Noah Cato and Brad Barritt.
Worrying moments for England before the break after Ireland were awarded another penalty but Wallace went wide at the posts.
Early pressure from Ireland A paid off in the second half with Paul Doran-Jones (Gloucester Rugby) being sent to the sin bin for being off his feet at the ruck and with England down to 14 men, replacement Ryan Caldwell (Dungannon/Ulster) went over, Wallace added the extras to take them within a point, 14-13.
A further nail biting 15 minutes followed with Geraghty missing a penalty but England’s defence held strong and they were awarded on the buzzer with another penalty, this time Geraghty didn’t miss. The final score 17-13.
Lancaster said, “The opportunities we had, particularly in the first half we took and our second half defence was outstanding. We worked hard for each other and the shirt.
“Saxons is about building experience for these players at international level. Ireland took the game seriously and so did we and it was nice to turn the tables from our previous performance.”
England Saxons: 15 Alex Goode (Saracens), 14 David Strettle (Harlequins), 13 Dominic Waldouck (London Wasps), 12 Brad Barritt (Saracens), 11 Noah Cato (Saracens), 10 Shane Geraghty (Northampton Saints), 9 Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers), 1 Nick Wood (Gloucester Rugby), 2 David Paice (London Irish), 3 Paul Doran-Jones (Gloucester Rugby), 4 Dave Attwood (Gloucester Rugby), 5 George Skivington (London Wasps, captain), 6 Tom Wood (Worcester Warriors), 7 Andy Saull (Saracens), 8 Phil Dowson (Northampton Saints)
Replacements: 16 Rob Webber (London Wasps) rep Paice (58), 17 Tom Mercey (Saracens) rep Wood (65-74), 18 Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers) rep Attwood (58), 19 Luke Narraway (Gloucester Rugby) rep Saull (48), 20 Micky Young (Newcastle Falcons) rep Young (65), 21 Jon Clarke (Northampton Saints), 22 Miles Benjamin (Worcester Warriors) rep Strettle (69)
Scorers: Strettle, Geraghty Pens: Geraghty; Cons: Geraghty (2)
Sin bin: Doran-Jones (63)
Ireland A: 15 Gavin Duffy,14 Ian Dowling,13 Pfergus Mcfadden (Old Belvedere/Leinster),12 Keith Matthews (Buccaneers/Connacht), 11 Fionn Carr, 10 Paddy Wallace (Ballymena/Ulster), 9 Peter Stringer (Shannon/Munster), 1 Marcus Horan (Shannon/Munster), 2 Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster), 3 Tony Buckley (Shannon/Munster), 4 Mick O’Driscoll (Cork Constitution/Munster), 5 Devon Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster), 6 Sean O’Brien (Clontarf/Leinster), 7 Shane Jennings (St Mary’s College/Leinster), 8 John Muldoon (Galwegians/Connacht)
Replacements: 16 John Fogarty (De La Salle Palmerston/Leinster) rep Best (40), 17 Mike Ross (Clontarf/Leinster), 18 Ryan Caldwell (Dungannon/Ulster) rep O’Driscoll (40), 19 Chris Henry rep Matthews (55), 20 Isaac Boss (Ballymena/Ulster) rep Stringer (65), 21 Ian Humphreys (Ballymena/Ulster) rep Mcfadden (65), 22 Darren Cave (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster) rep Muldoon (55)
Scorers: Tries: Caldwell; Cons: Wallace; Pens: Wallace (2)
Referee: Jerome Garces (France)
England Saxons face Italy A in Treviso next Sunday, February 7 (ko 2.30pm, local time)