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But first-half replacement Delon Armitage’s try after the interval sealed England’s first win in Ireland since 2003, when they last won the World Cup.
Declan Kidney’s men have now lost all four of their warm-up encounters ahead of their first World Cup clash with U.S.A on September 11.
And in difficult conditions at the Aviva Stadium both sides were keen to head down under on a high but it was England who struck the first blow.
A simple number No.8 pick-up off the back of a scrum by James Haskell set up Mike Tindall and his pass freed midfield partner Tuilagi to scorch past Keith Earls and touch down, Wilkinson adding the extras.
O’Gara and Wilkinson then exchanged penalties to make it 10-3 before both sides then spurned presentable opportunities at crossing the whitewash.
Ireland turned down a number of makeable kicks at goal, only to be denied a try by a Mark Cueto interception while England butchered an obvious overlap after another blistering Tuilagi break.
Two more penalties for O’Gara either side of a Wilkinson effort meant that England went in at the break 13-9 ahead.
After the interval Chris Ashton was almost immediately sent to the sin-bin but despite being down to 14 men it was England who scored again as Armitage collected Tindall’s perfectly weighted grubber kick to dab down.
Both sides pushed late-on but in worsening conditions neither could find a way to break through as Martin Johnson’s men defended resolutely.
But in truth it will be the growing injury list for each side that concerns the two coaches most of all as England had to take off Cueto and Hendre Fourie before half-time while Ireland lost David Wallace and Jamie Heaslip.