England wing Jonny May said he had been running on instinct after scoring a stunning solo try in an 18-7 Autumn Nations Cup win over Ireland on Saturday.
The 30-year-old produced one of the all-time great Twickenham tries after bursting clear from near his own line before beating the Ireland cover, chipping ahead and then chasing down his own hacked kick for a score between the posts.
It was a score that deserved to be cheered by a capacity 80,000 crowd but May, who only minutes earlier had put England 5-0 up with the first of his side’s two tries, had to settle for the congratulations of team-mates in a fixture played behind closed doors because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Everything happened really quickly, I can’t really remember it at the moment,” May told reporters.
“Off the back of good work defensively it creates the turnover and gives us the ball in space, so credit to the pack,” he added.
Asked if the sensational score was purely a matter of instinct, May replied: “A hundred percent. I don’t have enough time to think about it when it’s like that off a quick turnover ball.
“It is awesome scoring tries for England,” added May, whose 17th-minute opening try saw him outjump Ireland full-back Hugo Keenan to catch England captain Owen Farrell’s cross-kick.
May has now scored 31 tries in 59 Tests, equalling the England tallies of Ben Cohen and Will Greenwood, with only retired wing Rory Underwood (49 in 85) ahead of him in the all-time Red Rose list of try-scorers.
But May said breaking records was not a motivating factor in his career.
“Tries are great and I love scoring them, but they come and go and every week I have to make sure I defend well, my basics have to be brilliant.”
Meanwhile Eddie Jones, appointed England coach five years ago this week, rated May as one of the best finishers he’d seen.
“Jonny is right up there if you consider he’s 30 and is still improving every aspect of his game,” said Jones.
Veteran Australian coach Jones, recalling May’s tendency to run cross-field to no effect early in his Test career, added: “I remember watching him in the 2015 World Cup and at one stage he was going to end up in Row K. Now he’s a serious finisher.”
May, a member of the England side beaten 32-12 by South Africa in last year’s World Cup final, returned the compliment by saying of Jones: “He’s one of a kind, very charismatic there is no one else like him. He’s obsessed with getting better and I think that is shown with what we do… We really do shoot for the stars with Eddie.”
For all that England’s colossal defensive effort meant Ireland didn’t score until replacement Jacob Stockdale’s try seven minutes from time, they only managed six second-half points via two Farrell penalties.
Jones, however, had no complaints after his Six Nations champions’ fourth successive win over Ireland.
“I’m never disappointed when we beat Ireland. I know how hard it is to beat Ireland,” he said.
England will be assured of topping Pool A with victory away to Wales next weekend.
Wales had lost six matches in a row prior to Saturday’s 18-0 win over Georgia, yet to score a point in this tournament following last week’s 40-0 defeat by England.
But a wary Jones said: “They (Welsh rock band Stereophonics) wrote a song about how the only game that counts is beating England, so we’re anticipating a different animal next Saturday.”