Rampant Ireland finish on a high
Ireland 46 Argentina 24:For too many years loyalist attending Lansdowne Road, on wintry days like today, were only warmed by the contents of their hip flasks or the sight of Simon Geoghegan’s blonde mop jinking against the tide.
How Geoghegan would have prospered in Craig Gilroy’s boots behind this dominant Irish pack, that punched holes through an embarrassingly disinterested Argentina to secure top-eight status in the IRB rankings ahead of the World Cup draw on December 3rd.
The result left Ireland sixth in the rankings, one spot behind England, and they remained there this evening after Wales lost heavily to New Zealand (10-33) and Samoa failed to hold on to their lead against France in Paris (22-14).
It took our most bitter enemy in recent times all of 63 minutes to even start a row – with Maximiliano Bustos sin-binned for needlessly flinging the ball at Cian Healy. Very unlike the Pumas we know and love (granted, there was something darker happening to Keith Earls under the mass of bodies).
Anyway, this was a cake walk with the positive being the sight of Ireland’s newest recruits – Gilroy, Simon Zebo, Richardt Strauss and both flankers — impressing once again.
Initially, it seemed like Jonathan Sexton was merely bringing the debutant winger into the contest via the inside offload as the 21-year-old darted off his wing on pre-planned plays. But very quickly it became apparent that Gilroy was the most lethal weapon in Ireland’s attacking arsenal. His first of what promises to be many international tries came after just 11 minutes when Peter O’Mahony’s clean lineout take allowed Sexton to attack the gainline before Gilroy brushed past the awfully meek tackles of Nicolas Sanchez and Gonzalo Camacho.
Juan Martin Hernandez was the next to miss a head on tackle, beaten by Sexton after Gordon D’Arcy’s straight run and smart return pass.
It looked like the Argentinian backs were already thinking of another raucous end-of-tour-session on Harcourt Street.
The glimmer of hope that we might see a decent contest came from Ireland’s inability to secure their restarts, coughing up six points to Sanchez, but Donnacha Ryan’s lineout was providing an irresistible platform.
Strauss powered over in the right corner for the third try, after just 21 minutes, thanks to Ryan’s clean take and thin cover on the blindside of the Argentinian defence.
Sexton was off target with a few conversions but Sanchez also spurned two important penalties, necessary to keep the tourists afloat as the contest became a lame duck before half-time thanks to Zebo diving over in the left corner for try number four.
This came off Conor Murray’s clever reverse pass, again to the short side, which allowed Sexton take out three defenders before Zebo’s flamboyant finish.
At 24-9, the November series was already looking like a very profitable return for Declan Kidney; a bunch of young, and not so young, players bedded into the squad with a wealth of established internationals due back for the Six Nations.
And, clearly, there’s plenty of proof that when Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell finally retire others will manfully fill the void.
Argentina brought so little to the occasion. There was none of their usual nastiness at the breakdown, perhaps they were saving themselves for the gruelling Top 14 that awaits many of them.
Still, nothing to do with Ireland, who maintained their intensity with Sexton orchestrating a try for Tommy Bowe with a nice weighted chip, before stepping through another turnstile for his second try.
Bowe finished off the rout with his second before Argentina battled over for two late tries from Tomas Leonardi and Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe.
“We did some great things in training so delighted to see it come out on the pitch,” said man of the match Ryan. “Delighted to be in the top eight.”
Scoring sequence – 10 mins: C Gilroy try, 5-0; J Sexton conv, 7-0; 13 mins: N Sanchez pen, 7-3; 15 mins: J Sexton try, 12-3; J Sexton conv, 14-3; 18 mins: N Sanchez pen, 14-6; 21 mins: R Strauss try, 19-6; 30 mins: N Sanchez pen, 19-9; 32 mins: S Zebo try, 24-9. Half-time. 41 mins: N Sanchez pen, 24-12; 45 mins: J Sexton pen, 27-12; 46 mins: T Bowe try, 32-12; 50 mins: J Sexton try, 37-12; J Sexton conv, 39-12; 72 mins: T Bowe try, 44-12; R O’Gara conv, 46-12; 76 mins: T Leonardi try, 46-17; JM Hernandez conv, 46-19; 80 mins: JMF Lobbe try, 46-24.
Ireland: S Zebo; T Bowe, K Earls, G D’Arcy, C Gilroy; J Sexton, C Murray; C Healy, R Strauss, M Ross; D Ryan, M McCarthy; P O’Mahony, C Henry, J Heaslip. Replacements: D O’Callaghan for M McCarthy (60 mins), M Bent for M Ross (67 mins), I Henderson for P O’Mahony, E Reddan for C Murray, R O’Gara for J Sexton (all 71 mins), S Cronin for R Strauss, D Kilcoyne for C Healy, F McFadden for T Bowe (all 74 mins).
Argentina: JM Hernandez; G Camacho, M Bosch, S Fernandez, J Imhoff; N Sanchez, M Landajo; M Ayerza, E Guinazu, M Bustos; M Carizza, JF Cabello; JMF Lobbe, JM Leguizamon, L Senatore. Replacements: M Montero for N Sanchez (21-24 mins), T Leonardi for L Senatore (52 mins), M Montero for J Imhoff (53 mins), A Creevy for E Guinazu (56 mins), G Tiesi for N Sanchez (60 mins), N Lobo for M Ayzera, N Vergallo for M Landajo (both 68 mins).
Referee: J Peyper (South Africa).