England will enter the Rugby World Cup armed with a confidence-enhancing 21-13 victory over Ireland but know they should have emerged with a more convincing win over the Six Nations champions in their final warm-up game.
Jonny May and Anthony Watson ran in tries inside the opening 15 minutes as the tournament hosts honoured their promise to address the shortcomings exposed during two poor performances against France.
They attacked the breakdown with far greater energy and relentlessly hunted down green shirts, with captain Chris Robshaw at the heart of his pack’s pursuit in an afternoon that restored the forwards’ reputation after their humbling Paris a fortnight ago.
However, when Ireland scored with half an hour remaining, what should have been an emphatic seventh successive triumph at Twickenham became far closer until Ireland fell away in the final 10 minutes.
Substitute Owen Farrell, who had earlier butchered an overlap, landed two penalties to put the result beyond doubt and ensure England will enter the World Cup unbeaten at Twickenham this year.
Sam Burgess arrived from the bench for the final quarter and gave a glimpse of what he might be able to achieve with more time, almost succeeding with one offload amid two handling errors.
Tom Wood was named man of the match but Robshaw could have also finished with that accolade, and it was two late penalties from replacement fly-half Owen Farrell that swept Stuart Lancaster’s side home.
England, whose line-out and set piece were improved but still fell short of the usual standard, enter their World Cup opener against Fiji on September 18 with some momentum while accepting higher standards will be needed for the Pool A clashes with Wales and Australia.
Ireland will take comfort in knowing they do not need to peak until October 11 when they play their pivotal Pool D clash with France and on this evidence their conditioning levels are below that of the hosts.
They will monitor the fitness of Conor Murray carefully over the coming days after he departed with concussion early in the match, his good health critical given he is one of only two scrum-halves in the 31-man squad named for England 2015.