May celebrates a try that will live long in the memory
Credit: PA/Amazon Prime
Jonny May is no stranger to spectacular, solo tries at Twickenham.
His very first in Test rugby, against New Zealand back in 2014, came from a mazy run that stunned Conrad Smith and Israel Dagg.
But the Gloucester wing will remember his 31st England score, which drew him level with Ben Cohen and Will Greenwood on his country’s all-time list, for a long time.
Fittingly, given Saturday’s game was defined by the defence of England’s superb forwards, it begins in the pack.
Ireland have won a penalty for obstruction and kick to touch, presenting them with a gilt-edged opportunity to respond to May’s first try minutes previously.
This is their third lineout of the game. The first, a shortened set piece, was won with a throw to the middle. Ronan Kelleher’s second effort, aimed towards the tail, skewed off the straight.
Ireland call a six-man set-up with CJ Stander in the scrum-half role. Note that blindside wing James Lowe is lingering around the 15-metre line with scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park and fly-half Ross Byrne. Bundee Aki and Chris Farrell are beyond that.
It is a decent bet that the visitors were planning to launch their explosive wing, perhaps flanked by their powerful centres, towards Owen Farrell and Ollie Lawrence:
There is a dummy lift, with Caelan Doris bouncing out and offering himself at the front. Kyle Sinckler appears to have that option covered and Maro Itoje beckons a lifter, in this case Tom Curry, towards him:
Itoje is poised to go up as Kelleher releases the ball and Peter O’Mahony springs…
…but stays down and remains in the game as the throw evades its intended recipient. This is crucial.
Note that Joe Launchbury, one of England’s best maul defenders, is poised in case Ireland do secure possession:
The ability to move a loose ball towards space is so often a source of tries. Here, after both Byrne fails to control it under pressure from the typically alert Sam Underhill, three slick England passes completely alter the situation.
Itoje feeds Ollie Lawrence, who finds Henry Slade. Around seven seconds after Kelleher lets go of the lineout throw, May has the ball in his hands:
Slade’s pass, which sends May on an ‘overs line’ – essentially a fade from in to out – is particularly sweet because it stretches Ireland.
Aki, Stander and Chris Farrell are all drifting, hoping to shepherd England towards the far touchline but already conceding ground:
Next comes May’s footwork. A sublime, in-out hitch-kick beats Farrell:
Keith Earls has to stay wide to cover Elliot Daly, giving May a one-on-one. Key to the initial break is how May treads water for a fraction of a second before pushing off his right foot towards the far touchline (B).
Farrell, who has slowed his path across-field, appears to be banking on the carrier cutting back inside (A).
The defender drops his weight on to his heels and then cannot recover when May accelerates away:
May’s left-footed chip ahead is testament to the work he has put into his kicking game at training. Leicester Tigers teammates have told stories of him staying behind to chase the ball down the touchline at Oval Park.
Last year in Dublin, a left-footed chip set up Slade:
Twelve months later at the Stade de France, a right-footed effort sparked the comeback towards a losing bonus point that helped win the Six Nations Championship:
Here, his strike comes fairly early, just as Ireland full-back Hugo Keenan enters the shot:
It gives him time and space to stretch his legs, and May’s pace in an open-field foot-race is blinding:
He reaches the ball first, poking it through with his left foot…
…before regathering ahead of a diving O’Mahony…
…and dotting down with one hand:
Just below his Freddie Mercury moustache, a beaming grin beams out of England’s celebrations:
Rory Underwood is 18 ahead at the top of England’s all-time try-scoring tally. His remarkable haul of 49 may never be beaten.
But you can be sure that May, 30 years old and intensely motivated, will give it a very good run.
Match images courtesy of Amazon Prime Video