It was a performance not bereft of positives for Ireland on Saturday.
The young guns looked good. Specifically, McCloskey, van der Flier and the impactful Ultan Dillane off the bench.
Also, Robbie Henshaw looked more than comfortable in his first game for Ireland at outside centre. It was a performance from Henshaw which will hopefully convince Joe Schmidt that 13 is the right position for 22-year-old.
Here's how the English media have reacted to defeating Ireland at Twickenham.
Stephen Jones for the Sunday Times thought Ireland had two specific weak points.
Ireland held on well up front, where Jack McGrath is now looking the part in every game, and yet they had two damaging failings. First, they simply lacked the inspiration to put pressure on the England defence; and second, their replacements bench did not have the thump to rescue the match, for all the frantic efforts of the splendid Ultan Dillane.
The Telegraph's Steve James had plenty of praise for several Irish players, including the two starting debutants.
Ireland, who, it has to be said, were missing some key players, were horribly outgunned and outclassed in parts, but Donnacha Ryan and Josh van der Flier (on debut) had very good matches in defeat and they rallied bravely in the final quarter. Stuart McCloskey had an impressive debut at centre, while Jonathan Sexton proved that he is still a very good Test fly half and one that will not be distracted by pre-match chatter. He was superb, even if one mistake when knocking on in the second half cost his side dearly.
Gavin Mairs, writing for The Telegraph, felt England's line speed and their superior ball carrying (i.e. Billy Vunipola) were the decisive factors.
In short, their aggressive line speed and the sheer ball carrying power of Billy Vunipola were the decisive factors in England’s hard-fought but error-ridden victory. Vunipola was England’s stand-out performer in the victories over Scotland and Italy and once again it was his driving play that so often put Eddie Jones’s side on the front foot. In the first half alone he carried for 75 metres, almost twice the distance of any other player.
England completely dominated the first half, claiming 60 per cent of the possession and 72 per cent of the territory and their ability to pressurise Ireland’s possession forced the visitors to lose their shape in attack. Ireland in contrast could not generate enough pressure through their carrying and it also limited Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton’s opportunity to build pressure by kicking on the front foot. Significantly England showed impressive character and composure to respond with tries by Mike Brown and Anthony Watson after Ireland had snatched the lead while James Haskell was in the sin bin.
The Guardian's Paul Rees thought Ireland's approach to the game was noticeably different to previous outings this year.
Eddie Jones had mocked Ireland in the buildup for a game plan that was based more on kicking than running. If the England head coach was intending to provoke the champions into doing what did not come naturally, he succeeded: they ran from their own 22 in the opening minute and kept the ball in hand throughout but their passing in midfield was not as sure and varied as England’s and they lacked a carrier with the force of Vunipola.
Hugh Godwin of The Independent was watching a different game to Paul Rees.
Ireland set out like a non-league team through to the later rounds of the FA Cup who daren’t mount an all-out attack in case their better opponents pick off a disorganised defence. England mounted plenty of attacks – six very good ones in the first half alone, and five of those in or near the so-called red zone in the Ireland 22. Trouble was, they all went unfinished.
According to The Guardian's player ratings, Conor Murray was the standout Irish performer.
Rob Kearney 6, Andrew Trimble 5, Robbie Henshaw 6, Stuart McCloskey 6, Keith Earls 6, Jonathan Sexton 6, Conor Murray 7, Jack McGrath 5, Rory Best 6, Mike Ross 5, Donnacha Ryan 5, Devin Toner 6, CJ Stander 5, Josh van der Flier 6, Jamie Heaslip 6
According to The Telegraph, who were somewhat more generous than the Guardian with their rating of the Irish performance, Donnacha Ryan and Josh van der Flier were best for Joe Schmidt's side.
Rob Kearney 6, Andrew Trimble 6, Robbie Henshaw 7, Stuart McCloskey 7, Keith Earls 5, Jonathan Sexton 7, Conor Murray 6, Jack McGrath 6, Rory Best 5, Mike Ross 7, Donnacha Ryan 8, Devin Toner 6, CJ Stander 7, Josh van der Flier 8, Jamie Heaslip 5
Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE