Mullan off bench as Saxons defeat Wolfhounds

Worcester prop Matt Mullan was a second half replacement as England Saxons edged out an experienced Ireland Wolfhounds side 14-10 in Galway on Friday night.

A Saxons outfit with an average age of less than 23 – and sharing that same number of international caps – might have made really heavy weather of facing an experienced Ireland side away from home.

Instead they soaked up first half pressure playing into the wind, dominated long spells and then snatched the vital score inside the last 10 minutes.

Saracens flanker Will Fraser produced an athletic dive into the corner to finish off a sustained spell of pressure. Fly half George Ford added three difficult penalties and controlled the latter stages with maturity to make sure of the result.

Head Coach Jon Callard had a side with plenty of back line tyros in the shape of Elliot Daly, Christian Wade and Joel Tomkins, who all showed up well despite a limited number of chances coming their way.

More prominent were the traditional virtues, though, with Gloucester loose head Nick Wood the dominant influence series of scrums from which the Wolfhounds were lucky to escape without conceding a penalty try before the interval.

They were 10-0 to the good then, having piled round the back of a succession of lineouts for Leinster's Kevin McLaughlin to force his way over in the right-hand corner 10 minutes into the game with Paddy Jackson converting. The Ulster fly half then added a penalty five minutes before half time.

But even with the wind in their favour the Wolfhounds were troubled. Andrew Trimble had batted away one potential scoring pass from Jordan Crane that was floated towards Bath's Tom Biggs and Daly ensured the visitors finished the half on a high with a chip and chase halted five metres from the line.

Declan Fitzgerald replaced the struggling Michael Bent at tight head, but the Wolfhounds conceded another penalty five minutes later so that Ford, who hit the post with his only first half effort, could get his side on the board at last.

He struck again in the 62nd minute when the Wolfhounds went in at the side of a ruck before the sustained handling phases that led to Jackson's finish wide on the right. Half a dozen players handled before he struck with the Television Match Official judging he had got the ball down before being bundled into touch.

Ford couldn't convert but made it 14-10 with an excellent third effort five minutes from time, just reward from a gritty evening’s work from England’s rising stars.