Rugby World CupMatch report

Ireland survive Samoa scare as Cian Healy injury makes him worry for World Cup

Lineout misfired horribly in what has become a disconcerting trend in recent matches

Ireland 17 Samoa 13

The weekend that shook the world of rugby a fortnight out from the World Cup threatened to deliver again on a decidedly uncomfortable night for Ireland on a rain-drenched night in the Basque Country.

This wasn’t so much the Battle Of Bayonne being revisited, more it had decidedly uncanny echoes of the ensuing night in Bordeaux in the 2007 World Cup when the home crowd adopted Georgia and Ireland clung on to avoid what would have been a humiliating defeat.

The night was also blighted by what seemed a serious injury to Cian Healy’s calf which severely imperils his dreams of a fourth World Cup, and there’s no doubt his 21st-minute departure definitely unhinged Ireland psychologically.

After a well-worked ninth minute try for Jimmy O’Brien, following on from Healy’s departure the first half increasingly became an ordeal for Ireland.


Ireland could not build any sustained pressure, not least as their lineout again misfired horribly in what has become a disconcerting trend in their three warm-up games. All told, five Irish throws – not so much down to Tom Stewart’s throwing but more due to the slippery pill. and particularly the pressure which Samoa put on the Irish throw.

Once again you were left wondering whether Ireland were keeping much of their lineout manual under wraps.

The Irish scrum had started strongly but buckled under pressure from the put-in which led to Healy’s departure and wilted increasingly after Jeremy Loughman’s introduction.

All of this led to an aerial bombardment from the former Wasps, Lyon and All Blacks outhalf Lima Sopoaga, which O’Brien and Jacob Stockdale struggled to deal with under the rain, lights and a posse of chasers.

The 13,000 capacity crowd weren’t long in adopting the underdogs for the night, and Ireland compounded all of this by coughing up an intercept try which gave the Samoans a huge lift. What’s more, when the scrum was marched backwards, Sopoaga even kicked Samoan into a 10-7 lead in first-half overtime.

As feared and forecast, the incessant rain made for a slow-paced, stop-start game. Ireland didn’t protect the ball particularly well and, as well as being inaccurate, weren’t as patient in possession as they needed to be in order to dampen Samoa’s spirits.

Most of all they couldn’t get their maul going until the introduction of first Rob Herring and soon after James Ryan and Peter O’Mahony, whose arrival changed both the maul and the momentum of the game until a squeaky finish.

Before kick-off, Keith Earls was withdrawn from the game as a precautionary measure with what the Irish head coach Andy Farrell described as a “minor niggle”.

Jacob Stockdale was called up to start on the left wing but Earls’ injury is not expected to endanger his chances of being chosen to compete in his fourth World Cup.

The pre-match anthems were preceded by a more rousing rendition of La peña baiona, the Basque hymn which the Bayonne supporters sing before home games, and were followed by Michael Ala’alatoa leading the Samoan war dance, Siva Tau.

As the rain continued to teem down, the 13,000 capacity weren’t long in adopting the Pacific Island underdogs, and they threatened to strike first off an attacking scrum when Jonathan Taumateine wrapped off an attacking scrum but Stockdale did enough to stop Ed Fidow.

But the latter was poor under the high ball and after a monster rumble by Caelan Doris when steaming on to lineout ball from inside the Irish 22, Fidow dropped a towering box kick by Conor Murray, the ball was recycled for Crowley to locate Hansen with a well weighted and angled cross kick which bounced once for the winger to draw the last man and give the try-scoring pass inside to the supporting O’Brien.

Sopoaga and Crowley each found touch within five metres of the opposition corner flag with superb penalties from inside halfway, but Seilala Lam overthrew and although Stewart located Baird, the Samoan defence was fierce.

Crowley had to make a good covering tackle on centre Tumua Manu after he pierced the Irish defensive line. The outhalf also had one lovely step and chip into space but Doris was denied a try when the ball ran dead after he charged down Taumateine’s kick.

But after a good break by Hansen when coming off his wing in trademark style on to a pass inside by Crowley, off the recycle McCloskey’s flat to the line was blocked by Paia’aua’s upper body before he regathered and went the length of the pitch from his own 22.

Sopoaga converted and after landing that scrum penalty with the last kick of the half, extended Samoa’s lead with a close-range penalty against Henshaw for not rolling away, albeit not a bad three-pointer to concede as Samoa had built up a head of steam.

All began to change with Herring’s introduction. Immediately he lofted a throw to Baird at the tail for the Irish maul to finally gain some traction. Murray dummied to the open side before pivoting wide to Stockdale in space, and then followed up the winger’s chip to score.

The Irish maul went up another gear after the introduction of Ryan and O’Mahony, first winning a penalty which Ross Byrne – on for O’Brien with Crowley switching to fullback – nailed in the corner. Herring hit Ryan and was at the sharp end of the drive when it spun blind and over the Samoan line.

But after missing his previous conversion, Crowley’s kick was charged down, who had to have started his run prematurely.

In any event, that left Ireland at danger of losing to a try, all the more so as two penalties in the corner and a succession of drives went unrewarded before Crowley knocked on when Ireland had created space. That spell when failing to close out the game will have annoyed Andy Farrell and co acutely.

Ultimately, as the crowd twice chanted “Sa-moa” when they twice went to the corner, Ireland were indebted to Sopoaga overkicking the first to touch-in-goal and, after Craig Casey’s ill-advised attempt at a poach when Tadhg Beirne was trapped and couldn’t roll away, James Ryan did enough in the air to force an invaluable turnover.

Scoring sequence – 9 mins: O’Brien try, Crowley con 7-0; 36 mins: Paia’aua try, Sopoaga con 7-7; 40+2 mins: Sopoaga pen 7-10; (half-time 7-10); 47 mins: Sopoaga pen 7-13; 51 mins: Murray try 12-13; 65 mins: Herring try 17-13.

Ireland: Jimmy O’Brien (Leinster); Mack Hansen (Connacht), Robbie Henshaw (Leinster), Stuart McCloskey (Ulster), Jacob Stockdale (Ulster); Jack Crowley (Munster), Conor Murray (Munster); Cian Healy (Leinster), Tom Stewart (Ulster), Finlay Bealham (Connacht), Iain Henderson (Ulster, capt), Tadhg Beirne (Munster), Ryan Baird (Leinster), Josh van der Flier (Leinster), Caelan Doris (Leinster). Replacements: Jeremy Loughman (Munster) for Healy (21 mins), Rob Herring (Ulster) for Stewart (50 mins), Ross Byrne (Leinster) for O’Brien (52 mins), James Ryan (Leinster) for Henderson, Peter O’Mahony (Munster) for Baird (both 60 mins), Tom O’Toole (Ulster) for Bealham (63 mins), Garry Ringrose (Leinster) for Stockdale (65 mins), Craig Casey (Munster) for Murray (72 mins).

Samoa: Duncan Paia’aua (Toulon); Ed Fidow (Rugby New York Ironworkers), UJ Seuteni (La Rochelle), Tumua Manu (Pau), Nigel Ah wong (Moana Pasifika); Lima Sopoaga (Shimizu Blue Sharks), Jonathan Taumateine (Moana Pasifika); James Lay (Blues), Seilala Lam (Perpignan), Paul Alo-Emile (Stade Français), Chris Vui (Bristol Bears, co-capt), Theo McFarland (Saracens), Taleni Seu (Toyota Shuttles), Fritz Lee (Clermont), Steven Luatua (Bristol Bears). Replacements: Jordan Taufua (Lyon) for Vui (42 mins), Sama Malolo (San Diego Legion) for Lam, Neria Foma’i (Moana Pasifika) for Fidow (both 50 mins), Michael Alaalatoa (Leinster) for Aloe-Emile (52 mins), Jordan Lay (Blues) for James Lay, Miracle Fai’ilagi (Moana Pasifika) for Luatua (both 63 mins), Ereatara Enari (Moana Pasifika) for Taumateine (67 mins). Not used: Christian Leali’ifano (Moana Pasifika).

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England).

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times