Murray Kinsella reports from the Aviva Stadium
14 CHANGES TO the starting XV meant it was always likely Ireland would take their time to justify the 35-point favouritism, but Joe Schmidt’s side ended up scoring eight tries as they completed a clean sweep of the November Tests for the second year in a row.
The Eagles, as expected, proved to be competitive for the opening 40 minutes and while they have made strides of progress under Gary Gold in 2018, they’re still some distance off winning on Irish soil, even with Schmidt resting his front-liners.
Conway scored a hat-trick for Ireland. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO
Chief among this auditioning Irish cast was right wing and man of the match Andrew Conway, who scored two tries and assisted a score for Jack Conan in an excellent performance.
Tadhg Beirne had some big moments in the second row again, while replacement out-half Ross Byrne showed up well in an unexpectedly long second cap off the bench for Ireland.
There was a debut a 40-minute for Munster’s Sammy Arnold after an injury to Will Addison, albeit on the left wing rather than in his preferred midfield slot.
Though he only played a half before departing for a HIA he failed, Addison showed his value by starting at fullback and moving to the left wing after Darren Sweetnam’s injury, meaning Addison has now played in three positions for Ireland in three caps.
Wearing their unfamiliar ‘Moroccan blue’ jersey, Ireland struggled to create cohesion at times in front of a lively Dublin crowd, but Tadhg Beirne, Stuart McCloskey, Quinn Roux and John Ryan all scored tries to go along with Conan’s effort and Conway’s brace.
After the Eagles initially lined up in the wrong place for the anthems pre-match, they were good in the opening half, scoring through hooker Joe Taufete’e and a penalty try from their maul, an incident that also saw Iain Henderson sin-binned.
As ever, Schmidt will pinpoint a range of errors Ireland can learn from, but they rounded out an impressive November Test series by adding this victory to those against Italy, Argentina and the All Blacks.
Garry Ringrose offloads to John Cooney. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO
Schmidt’s men were off to a flyer as Conway and Ruddock linked for a superb third-minute score.
The Munster wing cut in from the right-hand side and popped a pass for Ruddock to burst through the USA defence near the halfway line, the Ireland captain swerving delightfully around Will Magie and then drawing in final defender Will Hooly to feed a return pass to the hard-working Conway sprinting up on his left to finish.
Carbery converted for 7-0 but the Eagles worked their way into the game and although Magie missing a straightforward penalty shot when Stuart McCloskey was pinged for rolling into scrum-half Shaun Davies post-tackle, the visitors soon equalised.
A clever lineout move saw Davies bounce down the blindside and wing Marcel Brache sent hooker Joe Taufete’e hammering through Finlay Bealham’s tackle down the left touchline.
Though Conway and Dave Kilcoyne combined to tackle Taufete’e, he wasn’t held and immediately bounced back to his feet to barrel through Niall Scannell and score his 14th try in 19 Tests, Magie converting to level.
Ireland’s response was swift and again Conway was the try-scorer for the second time.
Andrew Conway was a constant threat with ball in hand. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO
Henderson pounced on a loose ball at the back of a USA ruck 35 metres from their tryline, allowing Tadhg Beirne and Carbery to pass wide left for Ringrose to make great headway. Ireland out-worked the Eagles at close-range, their phase play creating space for Beirne to act as scrum-half and Addison’s one-handed offload put the unmarked Conway over.
Carbery converted but again Ireland failed to build on their lead. Ringrose was choke tackled, then Beirne gave up a lineout penalty, the Eagles going back to touch and generating huge momentum with their driving maul.
Henderson was among the guilty parties as Ireland collapsed it metres out, referee Ben O’Keeffe heading under the posts for a penalty try and binning Henderson.
Adding to the discomfort was the departure of left wing Darren Sweetnam, presumably injured, meaning out-half Ross Byrne came on for his second cap and Carbery shifted to fullback, Addison moving onto the wing.
Despite the numerical disadvantage from minutes 25 to 35, Ireland scored 10 points to move into control before the break.
First, Carbery slotted a penalty after Ringrose’s half-break resulted in Taufete’e coming offside, then Conway turned provider as he broke from Byrne’s clever inside pass, drew in the last man and fed Jack Conan to dot down.
Jack Conan crosses for Ireland in the first half. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO
Carbery’s conversion left Ireland 24-14 to the good at the interval, after their lineout twice failed in the final minutes of the half to miss the closing two opportunities.
Ireland’s opening two efforts off set-piece in the second half also came up short, Conway knocking on before Cooney threw a forward pass on the next one, then a worrying delay followed as Taufete’e received treatment on the pitch and was carted off, replaced by Ireland native Dylan Fawsitt.
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The US’ discipline began to slip thereafter, with a series of scrum penalties preceding Beirne driving over from close-range for Ireland’s fourth try, just after a big McCloskey carry, and with a Mexican wave sweeping around the Aviva Stadium.
Carbery’s 100% record continued off the tee and Ireland’s fifth five-pointer came as the game headed into the final quarter.
Conan blocked down Davies’ box kick, Kilcoyne surged up the right and into the USA 22, before Byrne fired a typically accurate kick pass wide left to McCloskey on penalty advantage, the Ulster centre dotting down for his first Test try.
From the left touchline, Carbery had his first missed kick at goal but Ireland weren’t finished yet.
Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO
Some superb direct carrying from a lineout platform – after a Beirne turnover penalty – resulted in replacement lock Quinn Roux barrelling over from a couple of metres out, with Carbery slotting the extras.
Conway was at the centre of what appeared to be Ireland’s next try in the 72nd minute, as Schmidt’s men counter-attacked out of their own half, Conway scorching up the right wing, chipping ahead and regathering to feed replacement scrum-half Luke McGrath.
But as Carbery lined up the conversion, TMO Ian Davies called in to check on an earlier pass from Cian Healy to free Conway, the replays showing that it travelled forward.
It was Conway himself who finished the seventh try for Schmidt’s side though, Ringrose making a brilliant break as he cut back against the grain near the halfway line, beat Hooley and then offloaded for Conway to complete his hat-trick with ease.
Ringrose was key again as Ireland ended the game with another score, sub tighthead Ryan finishing and Carbery converting.
Tries: Andrew Conway , Jack Conan, Tadhg Beirne, Stuart McCloskey, Quinn Roux
Conversions: Joey Carbery [7 from 8]
Penalties: Joey Carbery [1 from 1]
Tries: Joe Taufete’e, Penalty try
Conversions: Will Magie [1 from 1]
Penalties: Will Magie [0 from 1]
IRELAND: Will Addison (Sammy Arnold – HIA ‘HT); Andrew Conway, Garry Ringrose, Stuart McCloskey, Darren Sweetnam (Ross Byrne ’27); Joey Carbery, John Cooney (Luke McGrath ’61); Dave Kilcoyne (Cian Healy ’61), Niall Scannell (Rob Herring ’58), Finlay Bealham (John Ryan ’47); Tadhg Beirne, Iain Henderson (yellow card ’25) (Quinn Roux ’58); Rhys Ruddock (captain), Jordi Murphy, Jack Conan (Josh van der Flier ’67).
USA: Will Hooley; Blaine Scully (captain), Bryce Campbell, Paul Lasike, Marcel Brache; Will Magie, Shaun Davies (Ruben de Haas ’61); Titi Lamositele (Chance Wenglewski ’56), Joe Taufete’e (Dylan Fawsitt ’44), Paul Mullen (Dino Waldren ’61); Greg Peterson (Samu Manoa ’67), Nick Civetta; John Quill (David Tameilau ’68), Hanco Germishuy, Cam Dolan.
Replacements: Gannon Moore, Ryan Matyas.
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe [New Zealand].
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