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The three fixable factors behind Eddie Jones' England stagnation

Eddie Jones' England weren't far away from making the grade.

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England star Marcus Smith shines as Harlequins thump London Irish

By PA
Marcus Smith /PA

In-form Harlequins moved a step closer to the Gallagher Premiership play-offs after they produced a clinical seven-try showing to beat London Irish 41-14.

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Paddy Jackson gave Irish the lead, racing over in the corner following a turnover in front of the Quins try-line, but their advantage was short lived.

Jack Walker was driven over from a surging maul while Cadan Murley and Huw Jones followed with tries soon after.

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Walker and Hugh Tizard then combined from a smartly executed line-out, Danny Care and Andre Esterhuizen both touched down and, after Benhard van Rensburg added a second Irish score, Jones rounded off the scoring with his second try.

Tabai Matson’s side sit third in the table after a fifth straight win.

The hosts came out firing at the Brentford Community Stadium in front of a partisan derby-day crowd, with Jackson keen to keep the ball in hand as often as possible.

He had a willing ally in Curtis Rona and it was the midfield pair who combined to turn Irish’s early exuberance into points as the Jackson went over unscathed following a turnover.

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If the defending champions needed a wake-up call, that was it. Just two minutes later they were on level terms.

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Walker’s feed into the lineout was unerring, and it was the former England Under-20s skipper who was driven over from the resulting maul, with Marcus Smith slotting home an awkward conversion.

Rona was again at the heart of everything positive for Irish, putting away Ollie Hassell-Collins who inexplicably lost control of the ball in the act of scoring.

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And it was costly as three Quins tries in the following 10 minutes securing the four-try bonus point.

Alex Dombrandt and Esterhuizen did the heavy-duty work ahead of Smith superbly releasing Murley with a long, looping pass which the Quins man gobbled up ahead of comfortably dotting down.

Smith was at it again minutes later, his deft hands allowing Jones to wriggle over in the opposite corner.

When Walker went over for his second – sent on his way by Tizard’s pass back to him five metres out – Irish were in danger of being overrun at 22-7 down.

Care was hauled over for a fifth Quins try, capitalising on Joe Marchant’s line-break, and after Irish’s Lucio Cinti lost control in the in-goal area when all he had to do was get to the floor, Esterhuizen eased past two half-hearted tackles to underline his side’s superiority.

Van Rensburg crept over the line five minutes from the end as Irish rallied but, fittingly, Quins had the final say when Will Edwards ghosted one into the path of Jones to cross.

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