Ireland prove too powerful for southern hemisphere visitors

Possession kicked away too often by home side

Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony jumps to win a high ball in the early stages of the match against Samoa on Saturday in which the home side, despite a patchy 

performance, emerged victorious. 

Photograph: Colm O’Neill/Inpho

Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony jumps to win a high ball in the early stages of the match against Samoa on Saturday in which the home side, despite a patchy performance, emerged victorious. Photograph: Colm O’Neill/Inpho

 

Ireland 40 Samoa 9: Ireland coach Joe Schmidt agreed with the analogy that the side had spent the last two weeks cramming for their first exam under his reign.

Understandably therefore, not only was there the normal first-day rustiness but the pupils, as it transpired, were guilty of initially trying too hard to impress teacher. And Schmidt being an exacting, unforgiving task master, was unimpressed.

Nearing the half-hour mark, after another reset scrum consumed yet another irretrievable minute of our lives, Ireland ran the ball from left to right inside their 10m line. It was a well-choreographed set move straight off the Carton House “prunty” pitch. Paddy Jackson had three runners around him which checked the Samoan defence, passing the ball behind Gordon D’Arcy to the widest of those receivers, Brian O’Driscoll.

The great one went ahead with the preordained move, then passing inside to Fergus McFadden up the middle even though there was more space for Rob Kearney and Tommy Bowe on the outside.

McFadden ran into traffic and a thunderous side-on hit from the Samoan blindside flanker Ofisa Treviranus. From static ball, Mike McCarthy trucked it up, Peter O’Mahony and Devin Toner struggled to effect the clean-out, and O’Mahony was a little harshly judged for going off his feet; Tusi Pisi landed the three-pointer.

Running game
In this, and much else, Ireland were authors of their own difficulties. Indeed, by then, to relieve the tedium of the first-half, the near 40,000 crowd opted for a Mexican Wave. A total of 16 scrums, including resets which took an age and generally wiped off a minute of play, was a huge contributory factor.

Too much of Ireland’s running game was also too late, although that said, their work when Samoa carried the ball into contact was good – chopped tackles and well-timed entries by the second and third man in – and this would be rewarded with two long-range tries in the second half. But Ireland’s ball retention, in the first-half especially, was sloppy. And when not bringing training ground moves to the Aviva, they too often opted to kick possession away.

This contrived to ensure Ireland had to make three times as many tackles as Samoa in the first half.

Some of the kicks were either too long or too far into the middle of the field, prompting Schmidt to imagine Israel Folau and Quade Cooper being the recipients, which would not have been comforting thoughts.

Steve Walsh, in one of his more pedantic days, didn’t help, one wrongly called forward pass against Murray when McFadden came charging into a soft fringe being a case in point. But the surfeit of handling errors from both sides was the primary fault.

There were also three defensive misreads, by Paddy Jackson, O’Driscoll and a combination of Chris Henry and Fergus McFadden – all in the outside channels where Folau invariably makes hay like no other fullback in the world right now. To his credit, O’Driscoll turned and showed a fair turn of speed to atone by hauling down Faatoina Autagavaia.

Patchy display
Schmidt wasn’t shy about publicly noting a couple of defensive lapses by the great man, as subsequently he would slip off a tackle on Fautua Otto. But his performance mirrored that of the team.

There were some lovely touches on the ball and he will have benefited hugely from this outing.

With Rory Best continuing his impressive post-Lions’ rehabilitation, Ireland won all six of their throws and stole four of Samoa’s eight. Yet despite the kind of set-piece superiority the home side could only have dreamed of against a disrupted and disjointed Samoan pack, they struggled to maximise this advantage in the first half, although the pack’s set-piece proficiency accounted for eight points in the 11-6 interval lead.

In the first 20 minutes especially, Jack McGrath threw down a huge marker on his test debut, and they led 14-6 at the break thanks to a 20m lineout drive by the Irish pack which emanated in turn from a scrum penalty; Peter O’Mahony’s touchdown being a fair individual reward for his efforts at the breakdown, in carries and in the tackle.

Yet there were many plusses too. Toward the end of the first half, Rob Kearney accepted a gaping invitation to counterattack, leading to George Pisi’s sinbinning for tip-tackling Tommy Bowe and another unerring strike from Paddy Jackson.

Precision turnover timing by Devin Toner (tackling Jack Lam), McGrath (turning the Samoan flanker) and Best (effecting the steal), saw Jackson kick long and the bounce deceive Brando Vaaulu.

Cue O’Driscoll’s visionary pass between his legs for Fergus McFadden. Heaslip was on hand in typically alert and selfless fashion for the clear-out and Conor Murray calmly picked out Seán O’Brien’s run from deep for the game-turning try.

O’Brien made a big impact, and likewise Cian Healy and Paul O’Connell will have benefited from their run-outs.

Their introduction, as the already depleted Samoans suffered a double whammy when Tusi Pisi and Vaaulu clash heads, contributed to Ireland scoring three tries in the final 15 minutes.

Golden Kearney moment
Two of them, too, were from set moves, McFadden and D’Arcy making inroads off a scrum before a recycle off Healy’s carry saw Murray and O’Driscoll enable Dave Kearney to mark his debut with a neat finish off big bro’s pass. That will be a moment to cherish, for ever more, for the Kearney brothers and the rest of their watching family.

Ireland manufactured another directly from a scrum when changing direction for D’Arcy, reverting to his outside centre days after the departure of his celebrated sidekick, to use his wondrous footwork to take out two men and put McFadden over.

Back to back tries finished off by pairs of Clongowes’ men, and Dave Kearney would nab a second from a break-out off an excellent O’Brien steal after good footwork by Ian Madigan, Eoin Reddan and Rob Kearney.

Scoring sequence: 4 mins: Jackson pen 3-0; 8: T Pisi pen 3-3; 21: Jackson pen 6-3; 25: O’Mahony try 11-3; 31: T Pisi pen 11-6; 40 (+1): Jackson pen 14-6; (half-time 14-6); 46: O’Brien try, Jackson con 21-6; 66: D Kearney try, Jackson con 28-9; 71: McFadden try, Jackson con 35-9; 79: D Kearney try 40-9.

IRELAND: R Kearney ;T Bowe, B O’Driscoll, G D’Arcy, F McFadden; P Jackson, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best, M Ross, M McCarthy, D Toner, P O’Mahony, C Henry), J Heaslip. Replacements: S O’Brien for Henry (35 mins), P O’Connell for O’Mahony (54-60 mins) and for McCarthy (60 mins), C Healy for McGrath, D Fitzpatrick for Ross, E Reddan for Murray, D Kearney for Bowe (all 60 mins), S Croninfor Best, I Madigan for O’Driscoll (both 70 mins).
SAMOA: F Autagavaia, A Leuia, G Pisi, J Leota, B Vaaulu; T Pisi , K Fotuali’i (capt); S Taulafo, O Avei, L Mulipola, F Lemalu, T Paulo, O Treviranus, J Lam , T Tuifua. Replacements: J Johnston for Mulipola (8 mins), T Paulo for Avei, J Tekori for Lemalu (both 50 mins), J Sua for T Pisi, F Otto for Vaaulu (both 57 mins), F Levave for Tuifua (67 mins), V Afatia for Taulapo, I Tuifua for G Pisi (both 75 mins).
Referee: Steve Walsh (ARU).

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