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Johnson: We tried to play a bit too much

ENGLAND manager Martin Johnson believes his side paid the price for trying to please their detractors in the defeat to Ireland that wrecked their Grand Slam hopes.

A late try from Tommy Bowe killed England’s 100 per cent record in this year’s competition and handed Ireland a dramatic 20-16 victory at Twickenham on Saturday.

And Johnson believes his men made the mistake of trying to play too expansively in difficult conditions, having been criticised in previous weeks for using a drab kicking game.

“Maybe we did try and play a little too much when we had lost momentum and Ireland will turn you over when you try to do that,” Johnson said yesterday.

“You have to play the game in front of you and the game was wet and muddy. It’s hard when there are six minutes on the clock, you’re there and you lose. We didn’t help ourselves – when you get ahead you need to stay there, the game turns on those things. It was good play from them and not good defence from us.

“Maybe we should have pegged them back and put them under pressure, it comes back to the same old things – if you take chances and score tries you’ll probably end up winning.”

Johnson again leapt to the defence of under-fire fly-half Jonny Wilkinson, brushing off suggestions the 2003 World Cup-winner was to blame for a lack of efficiency, with England scoring just one try to Ireland’s three despite enjoying 60 per cent of the possession.

“Some of his critics may have their own agenda and others, who don’t know too much, have jumped on it,” he added.

“I don’t have to defend Jonny Wilkinson in the world of rugby. He does what he does and he does it tremendously well.

“There are lots of good things we did yesterday, that’s the key thing. We didn’t finish them all off again and that ultimately cost us the game.”