Andrew Conway bags hat-trick as Ireland’s shadow stars earn their stripes
Eagles land with a bang as Joe Schmidt’s fringe run up a half-century of points
Garry Ringrose offloads to Andrew Conway for one of his his threee tries during Ireland’s autumn international against the USA at the Aviva stadium. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Ireland 57 USA 14
As with the first of their November quartet of games, Ireland bookended their autumnal programme with another commanding win over Tier 2 opposition. In the process they made it 11 wins out of 12 Tests in the calendar year, at the end of which they have an all-time Irish high ranking of second in the world.
In also extending the Irish record of consecutive home wins to 12, several of the fringe players availed of their opportunity to showcase their abilities. Although the spirited, well coached Eagles needed subduing, and were particularly troublesome when running straight and hard at Ireland in the opening half hour or so, it was a relatively entertaining affair.
There was a notable effort by Ireland to keep the ball off the ground with tip-on passes varying the point of attack and, ultimately, their greater ability to play at a higher tempo wore the Eagles down.
They also had some classy performers, none more so than Andrew Conway, who was a star of the show; running electrically from the back, coming off his wing to look for the ball as he vowed he would, providing a counter-attacking threat. He scored a hat-trick, created another and had briefly set up a second before it was chalked off.
Alongside him, Will Addison again impressed with his composure and running ability, as well as his versatility, before being replaced at half-time due to a head knock. Starting at fullback and then shifting to left wing, in one and a half Tests he has played in three different positions.
This was due to Darren Sweetnam being hauled off in the 27th minute, either for tactical reasons or due to injury – his knee had been heavily strapped and it did result in three changes to a reshuffled backline.
Garry Ringrose, who had nothing to prove, was outstanding, while inside him Stuart McCloskey carried hard, as he does, in a mixed bag, while Joey Carbery kicked ran and distributed smoothly in also reminding us of his undoubted ability from the back when switched to fullback. His place kicking was also very good.
Although the maul defence will not have pleased Simon Easterby, the scrum went well, all the more so when John Ryan came on, and although there were blemishes, Tadhg Beirne again really impressed with his athleticism, carrying and passing. A couple of lineout blemishes and a yellow card may count against Iain Henderson, although he too had some good moments, not least in defence, and Quinn Roux did add ballast off the bench.
Rhys Ruddock had a big game as captain, not least with one eye-catching carry to create the first of Conway’s tries, Jack Conan had some good carries and scored, while Jordi Murphy was very efficient and industrious in his all-round display.
Ireland were lightening quick into their stride, running the ball from inside their own 22 twice early one. They had already failed to convert one chance from distance when Carbery’s lovely pass released Sweetnam but his intended pass inside was picked off by Marcel Brache.
Soon going through quick fire phases in their own half again, Conway worked a switch back infield with Carbery and located a soft point between two frontrowers from which Ruddock took a lovely in and out line, stepping American outhalf Will Magie and evading the Youghal-born John Quill. He drew the fullback for Conway to work back onto his outside for the finish.
Magie missed a sitter of a penalty after McCloskey inadvertently played the ball with his feet from an offside position, but from a resulting lineout the ball was worked back to the blindside for the excellent Worcester hooker Joe Taufete’e to break Finlay Bealham’s tackle on the touchline. And though slowed down by Conway and then tackled, he bounced back to his feet to power on and score his 14 try in 19 tests. Magie converted.
A second steal by Henderson and good hands by Beirne and Carbery released Ringrose, and a few phases later Niall Scannell carried hard before Beirne popped the ball up for Addison to give Conway a walk-in with his one-handed pass out the back. Carbery landed a fine conversion.
However, having made one fine athletic take at a restart, Beirne mis-read the next one and when he was then pinged for taking out the man in a lineout, American went to the corner. Taufete’e found Nick Civetta and a well-controlled drive earned a penalty try and a yellow card for Henderson.
Despite an immediate penalty by Carbery, Ireland were then further disrupted when Byrne replaced Sweetnam who, curiously, ran off without any apparent injury. Byrne went to outhalf, Carbery to fullback and Addison to left wing.
Back to their full compliment, Ireland engineered another fine try, twice in succession going through 17 phases before Conway came in off his wing to take a good line off Byrne’s inside pass for the supporting Conan to score.
Ireland’s second scrum, near their own line, yielded a penalty, and the ensuing lineout, also a first after 37 minutes, led to a huge 40-metre drive, but for their second lineout, in the red zone, Scannell’s throw was caught in the breeze and missed Ruddock. And the half ended with Scannell’s throw to Henderson at the front being picked off.
Sam Arnold was intruded for his debut after replacing Addison as a HIA replacement which was subsequently made permanent, and the second half wasn’t long on when Taufete’e got his head on wrong side of Henderson’s knee, wrenching his neck.
He was taken off on a motorised stretcher to be replaced by Dylan Fawsitt, a Wexford man who played on the same team as his mate Conway in Blackrock and was in the Leinster Academy as well as playing for Greystones, became their third Irishman on the pitch.
To the backdrop of Mexican waves (well choreographed and loud it has to be said) and re-set scrums, Ireland applied repeated scrum pressure, which if anything was heightened by the introduction of John Ryan for an injured Bealham. After McCloskey trucked it up, Beirne crashed through a double tackle for a third international try in his fledgling but hugely promising Test career.
Conan extended himself to complete a fine charge down, and after good hands by Beirne and Byrne released Dave Kilcoyne, Byrne crosskicked deftly, as he does, for McCloskey to score in the corner. Carbery’s touchline conversion was his first miss of the day.
McCloskey then took Ireland over the gain line off a lineout, and strong carrying at a high tempo ended with replacement Roux plunging over for his first Test try.
Conway added to his classy night when worked clear on the right from Cian Healy’s pass, chipped and re-gathered before putting McGrath over, but the ‘try’ was called back for a forward pass against Healy.
No matter. Ringrose made a huge, weaving, elusive break to put Conway over for his third try and in the third minute of overtime, Ringrose and Arnold made inroads before Murphy took a good line and popped the ball off the deck for Ryan to dive over.
Carbery completed the scoring with his seventh conversion out of eight.
SCORING SEQUENCE: 3 mins Conway try, Carbery con 7-0; 12 mins Taufete’e try, Magie con 7-7; 17 mins Conway try, Carbery con 14-7; 23 mins penalty try 14-14; 26 mins Carbery pen 17-14; 34 mins Conan try, Carbery con 24-14; (half-time 24-14); 52 mins Beirne try, Carbery con 31-14; 59 mins McCloskey try 36-14; 66 mins Roux try, Carbery con 43-14; 77 mins Conway try, Carbery con 50-14; Ryan try, Carbery con 57-14.
IRELAND: Will Addison (Ulster); Andrew Conway (Munster), Garry Ringrose (Leinster); Stuart McCloskey (Ulster), Darren Sweetnam (Munster); Joey Carbery (Munster), John Cooney (Ulster); Dave Kilcoyne (Munster), Niall Scannell (Munster), Finlay Bealham (Connacht); Tadhg Beirne (Munster), Iain Henderson (Ulster); Rhys Ruddock (Leinster, capt), Jordi Murphy (Ulster), Jack Conan (Leinster).
Replacements: Ross Byrne (Leinster) for Sweetnam (27 mins), Sam Arnold (Munster) for Addison (half-time), John Ryan (Munster) for Bealham (48), Rob Herring (Ulster) for Scannell, Quinn Roux (Connacht) for Henderson (both 57), Cian Healy (Leinster) for Kilcoyne, Luke McGrath (Leinster) for Cooney (both 60), Josh van der Flier (Leinster) for Conan (67).
USA: Will Hooley (Bedford); Blaine Scully (Cardiff Blues, capt), Bryce Campbell (London Irish), Paul Lasike (Harlequins), Marcel Brache (Western Force); Will Magie (Glendale Raptors), Shaun Davies (Glendale Raptors); Titi Lamositele (Saracens), Joe Taufete’e (Worcester), Paul Mullen (Unattached); Greg Peterson (Glasgow), Nick Civetta (Doncaster); John Quill (Glendale Raptors), Hanco Germishuys (Unattached), Cam Dolan (Nola Gold).
Replacements: Dylan Fawsitt (Rugby United New York) for Taufete’e (44 mins), Chance Wenglewski (Lindenwood University) for Lamositele (55), Dino Waldren (London Scottish) for Mullen, Ruben De Haas (Free State Cheetahs) for Davies (both 60), Samu Manoa (Cardiff Blues) for Peterson (67), David Tameilau (Glasgow) for Quill (68 ). Not used: Gannon Moore (North Harbour), Ryan Matyas (San Diego Legion).
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand).