Schmidt Off To Winning Start


Ireland 40 Samoa 9

To many of those that were involved, it was old hat, been there done that but for debutants Jack McGrath and Dave Kearney, it will be a day to remember for the rest of their lives. The Leinster pair did exactly what they set out to do and firstly made an impression, the latter crossing over the line for two tries and McGrath was awarded the man of the match award, hard to expect much more on your debut. In a game that started as a scrum fest, McGrath must have been the happiest man on the field as he imposed himself on his opposite number, time and time again. There were ten scrums in the first twenty minutes of the game. Dave Kearney, who took to the field as a second half substitute made an immediate impact, finishing expertly a move from the backs that the All Blacks would have been proud of. The other debutant, lets not forget was the new man in charge, Joe Schmidt and he will be delighted to get off the ground with a win, although, there is plenty of work to wade through before the superpowers of Australia and New Zealand run out into the Aviva.

It wasn’t until the last quarter that Ireland’s dominance came to the fore. The battle weary Samoans seemed to drop down a level as the obvious superior conditioning of the Irish squad paid dividends. Ireland led 21-9 going into this stage of the game but two tries from the afore mentioned Kearney, one from the industrious Fergus McFadden and a couple of conversions from the ever improving Paddy Jackson put much more than just daylight between the teams. The Samoans were visibly tired in the final fifteen minutes and Ireland took full advantage nearly scoring at will.

Their first half performance was dogged to say the least, handling errors from the more experienced , poor decision taking and crucial moments ensured the game remained a contest, longer than it should have been. If Jack McGrath wasn’t awarded the man of the match, well then Peter O’Mahony surely would have been. His first half try may have been a team effort but if anyone deserved to be the one to touch the ball down, it was definitely O’Mahony. His hunger for work is second to none and he is certainly a captain in waiting. It came down to individual work rate that ultimately led to breaking the Samoans down and eventually the constant pressure wore them out. O’Mahony’s try was obviously a training ground move which will also have Schmidt in good form.

There is one man that constantly comes up with the magic on this Irish team and today was no different. Although he made some great breaks, competed savagely in the rucks, tackled continuously, it was that magic pass back through his legs that will be remembered most. A fortuitous bounce of the ball from a clearing kick down the line made it possible for Brian O’Driscoll to again show his genius and quick thinking. The pass was exquisite and although it didn’t lead directly to a score, when the ball was again recycled, Sean O’Brien crossed the line. Game over.

It was good to see Sean O’Brien get game time but maybe not as early as we would have liked to see him introduced. Chris Henry was replaced after just 34 minutes and was doing well. Paul O’Connell was also introduced and replaced O’Mahony after 53 minutes. Overall it was a performance that highlighted some rustiness but a win is a win and five tries is a good return in any game against any opposition. The bar will be raised next week and the Aussies will be high on confidence after racking up fifty points with their win over Italy. The All Blacks will only have England on their minds next week but when that is out of the way, they will be coming to Dublin with nothing but victory on their minds. They limped over a poor French side this past weekend and like all great teams seem to be able to do, they just did enough. Can Ireland just do enough against Australia next week? A bit of improvement and yes they have a serious chance.

(Read our round up of this weekend’s other Autumn International fixtures here.)

Scores: 4 mins: Jackson penalty, 3-0; 8 mins: T Pisi penalty, 3-3; 20 mins: Jackson penalty, 6-3; 27 mins: O’Mahony try, 11-3; 31 mins: T Pisi penalty, 11-6; 40 (+1) mins : Jackson penalty, 14-6. Half-time: 14-6. 46 mins: O’Brien try, Jackson conversion, 21-6; 64 mins: Fotuali’i penalty, 21-9; 66 mins: D Kearney try, Jackson conversion, 28-9; 71 mins: McFadden try, Jackson conversion, 35-9; 79 mins: D Kearney try, 40-9.

Ireland: Rob Kearney, Tommy Bowe, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Fergus McFadden, Paddy Jackson, Conor Murray; Jack McGrath, Rory Best, Mike Ross, Mike McCarthy, Devin Toner, Peter O’Mahony, Chris Henry, Jamie Heaslip (capt).

Replacements: S O’Brien for Henry 34 mins; P O’Connell for O’Mahony 53mins; C Healy for McGrath 59 mins; D Fitzpatrick for Ross 59 mins; D Kearney for Bowe 59 mins; E Reddan for Murray 58 mins; O’Mahony for McCarthy 59 mins; Cronin for Best 69 mins; Madigan for O’Driscoll 69 mins.

Samoa: Faatoina Autagavaia; Alapati Leuia, George Pisi, Johnny Leota, Brando Vaaulu; Tusi Pisi, Kahn Fotuali’i; Sakaria Taulafo, Ole Avei, Logovi’i Mulipola; Faatiga Lemalu, Teofilo Paulo, Ofisa Treviranus, Jack Lam, Taiasina Tuifua.

Replacements: Viliamu Afatia for Mulipola 8 mins; Tii Paulo for Ole Avei 50 mins; J Tekori for Lemalu 50 mins; Jeremy Sua for T Pisi 56 mins; Fautua Otto for Vaalu 56 mins; F Levave for Tuifua 67 mins; J Johnston for Taulafo 74 mins; I Tuifia for G Pisi 74 mins.

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