Ireland 52 Canada 21: Five players who impressed
John O’Sullivan runs the rule over five players who impressed ahead of All Blacks
Ireland’s Ultan Dillane with Brett Beukeboom of Canada during the Autumn Test at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: Donall Farmer/Inpho
The overall performance resembled a curate’s egg, good in spots, partially attributable to a scratch side coming together under the umbrella of two training sessions but it doesn’t fully legislate for some of the individual and collective errors of the team.
There were times when Ireland patterns were more colour by number than heads-up. They didn’t commit defenders, went wide a little early, passed prematurely and allowed Canadian defenders to insinuate themselves between Irish ball carriers and supporting players.
Playing a little deep brought its own problems as the Canadians mixed up the tempo of their line speed between passive and aggressive. The visitors tended to fan out across the pitch. To counteract this, Ireland needed to be more dynamic round the fringes.
Some of this is understandable within the extremely limited preparation framework but there will have been disappointment both individually and collectively with some of the decision-making and execution. It was a little fractured.
Ireland still scored seven tries without getting a consistent fluency to what they were trying to do. There were shards of light especially in some of the individual performances.
Sean O’Brien carried with purpose and to effect, complementing his power with some good footwork to sit down defenders and allow him to take some tackles on his own terms. Peter O’Mahony was typically voracious in his work-rate and demonstrated his leadership in getting the team to refocus when Canada clambered back into the game in the first half.
Cian Healy was another to volunteer for the grunt, carrying into the traffic effectively while Finlay Bealham produced a couple of excellent cameos in attack and defence. Jack O’Donoghue started brightly, while each of the eight new caps can be pleased with their contributions, the bench lifting the tempo that allowed Ireland to escape still further on the scoreboard
Stunning performance, his try a fitting embellishment. His statistics reinforce the general opinion of his contribution; one pass, 12 carries, 36-metres made, one clean break, four defenders beaten and 10 tackles with none missed. At the tame when the game was a contest he demonstrated a massive work-rate, often appearing twice of three times in the one passage of play.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt spoke afterwards about Ireland’s failure to trouble the Canadian lineout and that’s certainly an area in which they pack would have expected to do a little better.
He ran a great line for the first try, understanding that Bealham would look for the offload, and that cameo was symtomatic of his performance in general. His timing and angles onto the ball are intuitive and they allow him to make ground even when the gaps appear less obvious.
His second try was a straightforward finish while he almost stopped Taylor Paris making up significant yardage to try and stop the Canadian wing.
The breaks he made are obvious and eye catching but it doesn’t camouflage the other aspects of his game that are of a high calibre. He has a great appreciation of what’s on around him and that vision allied to good habits invariably prompt him to do the right thing in possession. That quality can never be undervalued.
The Munster wing was sharp, aggressive and physical, using his feet and balance to carve out space and was a real handful for the Canadian defence. His intercept was down to reading the game intelligently. There were a couple of errors but that was the case for every single player on the night. His performance posed the question that Schmidt will answer next Thursday.
There were times when Ireland’s patterns were petering out or had become becalmed in terms of impetus; that is until the Leinster hooker took over and injected some direction and pace. He was a prominent presence throughout his time on the pitch and not just in the wider spaces where he tends to thrive but also in the more mundane chores.