Pacey Irish romp to a record 13-try win

In the first minute of the secondhalf Eric Miller broke wide off the base of an attacking scrum in the left corner, tying in …

In the first minute of the secondhalf Eric Miller broke wide off the base of an attacking scrum in the left corner, tying in the Eagles out-half and inside centre. His fellow loose-forwards arrived on cue and the ball was recycled quickly for the halves to move it out, Mike Mullins straightening through a gap to score untouched.

An identikit move proved to be the pivotal moment in the defeat to Argentina last week, except that Mick Galwey took Peter Stringer's pass but was stopped short of the line, when he was wrongly adjudged to have knocked on, while the Irish backs screamed forlornly for the ball. A week on, the Irish management and players no doubt smiling ruefully to themselves, Ireland had learnt their lesson.

They had had little else to do all week but stew over the one that had got away in Buenos Aires. This was payback time at Singer Family Park in Manchester, New Hampshire, and the poor, unfortunate USA Eagles happened to be in the way.

Centre Mike Mullins led the scoring with a hat-trick of tries to his name, and there were also two touchdowns each for debutantes Geordan Murphy and Guy Easterby, as well as the latter's brother Simon. You could nit-pick, for Ireland could easily have hit 100, but the bottom line was that Ireland hurt feeble opposition where they were most vulnerable to post a record win.


They did so despite missing about half a dozen or more first choice players, making 10 changes before the start and six during the game, blooding five more new caps, maintaining their focus and their rhythm better as the match wore on.

Anything less would almost have been regarded as failure. Compared to Ireland's 53-8 win over the Eagles in the World Cup eight months ago, this try feast undoubtedly shows that the Americans have gone backwards. But it also shows that Ireland have progressed significantly.

Where then they relied on their set-pieces and David Humphreys' kicking game, scoring just two of their seven tries through their backs, this time they used a much higher tempo, continuity-based game through the hands, the backs accounting for nine of the 13 tries.

This was further vindication of team Ireland's new brand of rugby, the emphasis on pace, width and a high tempo proving particularly potent against part-timers with negligible defensive organisation at close-range lineouts, out wide or even off ruck ball when forced to turn and regroup once the initial first-up tackle had been missed.

In the first-half Ireland were guilty of over-complicating and over-driving their line-out ball, failing to make the expected inroads at scrum time, and also failing to take at least two guilt-edge chances. All of which was highlighted at the interval, whereupon Ireland quickened up their line-out and loose ball, increased the tempo and generally took their chances.

All had good games, some very good ones. The three recalled Lions were straining at the leash, Eric Miller, Jeremy Davidson and Paul Wallace making hungry returns. Malcolm O'Kelly was his usual mobile, hard-working self and checked out his football skills in scoring his third try in his last six tests.

Simon Easterby began to augment his solid, blindside game with his undoubted ball-carrying abilities and David Wallace was more prominent at the breakdown. However, this was a day for the backs to dip their bread and they all did. Mullins straightened the line and ran with his usual dynamism to lead the way with a hat-trick of tries.

Guy Easterby, given an armchair ride against the surprisingly stand-offish Eagles' fringe defence, showed the value of a scrum-half with a running threat and crowned an industrious display with two tries.

Ronan O'Gara ran the show classily and effortlessly, using his distribution both ways and making deft, creative use of cushioned chips or grubbers.

James Topping featured more prominently across the line than Tyrone Howe, who nevertheless added to his growing reputation with a good performance which deserved a try.

Most of all, with the possible exception of Guy Easterby, Geordan Murphy laid down a marker for the future. This kid has class. Even allowing for the opposition, he's looked the part from the moment he stepped onto the training ground last Tuesday. He has serious gas but is also a really balanced runner, who can veer either way without breaking stride better than most.

It's true that Mike Mullins laid his first try on for him on a silver salver, but his reverse pass for Guy Easterby's first try as he was being bundled into touch after first gathering O'Gara's chip ahead and then supporting Howe's inside pass, was sheer class.

His second try, and Ireland's 13th, was perhaps the individual try of the game, weighing up a last minute three-on-three outside his own 22 off turnover ball in an instant, and chipping ahead perfectly to gather at full tilt to sprint clear and touch down almost arrogantly.

This was an altogether friendly bow than the unfortunate Peter McKenna received in Buenos Aires, and Murphy was hardly tested defensively although the highlight of Ireland's 10-minute rearguard action mid-way through the second-half was his huge spear tackle which almost literally made one Eagle take flight.

In that spell Ireland survived five penalties and a couple of American line-outs on their line and a host of drives, making the `3' almost as satisfying as the `83'.

It had always been a question of how Ireland played, and in the final analysis they had delivered handsomely.

Scoring sequence: 2 mins: S Easterby try 0-5; 8 mins: Wells pen 3-5; 18 mins: Murphy try, O'Gara con 3-12; 20 mins: Mullins try, O'Gara con 3-19; 29 mins: G Easterby try 3-24; 31 mins: O'Kelly try, O'Gara con 3-31 (half-time); 41 mins: M Mullins try, O'Gara con 3-38; 47 mins: P Wallace try, O'Gara con 3-45; 48 mins: Mullins try, O'Gara con 3-52; 54 mins: G Easterby try, O'Gara con 3-59; 55 mins: Topping try, O'Gara con 3-66; 72 mins: S Easterby try, O'Gara con 3-71; 78 mins: Humphreys try 3-71; 80 mins: Murphy try, Humphreys con 383.

USA: K Schuman (NY Athletic Club); A Blom (Denver Barbarians), J Grobler (Denver Barbarians), P Eloff (Chicago Lions), M Delai (OMBAC, San Diego); G Wells (Golden Gate, San Francisco), K Dalzell (Clermont Ferrand); J McBride (St Louis Bombers), R Flynn (Golden Gate, San Francisco), R Lehner (Oxford Univ), M Kane (Univ of California, Berkeley), P Farner (Rovigo), D Younger (Indianapolis), D Hodges (Bridgend, capt), K Schubert (Univ of California, Berkeley). Replacements: L Wilfley (Denver Barbarians) for Grobler (56 mins), J Burke (Chicago Condors) for Lehner (50 mins), T Kelleher (Boston) for Kane (62 mins), J Clayton (Tarbes) for Schubert (50 mins), K Khasigian (Sydney Univ) for Flynn (62 mins).

Ireland: G Murphy (Leicester); J Topping (Ballymena), M Mullins (Young Munster), R Henderson (Wasps), T Howe (Dungannon); R O'Gara (Cork Constitution), G Easterby (Llanelli); J Fitzpatrick (Dungannon), K Wood (Garryowen, capt), P Wallace (Saracens), J Davidson (Castres), M O'Kelly (St Mary's College), S Easterby (Llanelli), E Miller (Terenure College), D Wallace (Garryowen). Replacements: D Humphreys (Dungannon) for O'Gara (57 mins), K Maggs (Bath) for Henderson (51 mins), A Ward (Ballynahinch) for D Wallace (53 mins), R Casey (Blackrock College) for O'Kelly (half-time), F Sheahan (Cork Constitution) for Wood (half-time), M Horan (Shannon) for P Wallace (57 mins).

Referee: C Thomas (Wales).

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times