Ire­land cap re­ward­ing month with com­fort­able vic­tory

Con­way un­der­lines his try-scor­ing qual­ity with a hat-trick

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Front Page - Gerry Thorn­ley attheA­viva Sta­dium

When you know how to win, you know how to win. Ire­land haven’t al­ways had it easy this Novem­ber, but in­vari­ably have found ways to pull ahead or pull clear, usu­ally in the third quar­ter, and it was no dif­fer­ent here when sub­du­ing the USA to reg­is­ter their se­cond half-cen­tury of the month.

To some de­gree the game plan was de­signed to run the legs off the Amer­i­cans with a ball-in-hand ap­proach as Ire­land went wide, and also from deep in their own ter­ri­tory, more than nor­mal. They also scrummed them into sub­mis­sion in the third quar­ter, and there­after ran in an­other five tries to sup­ple­ment their three from the first half.

Hav­ing used 43 play­ers in this win­dow, and with Conor Mur­ray, Seán O’Brien and Chris Far­rell to come back into the mix, Joe Sch­midt ad­mit­ted that were he obliged to pick a World Cup squad now “it would cer­tainly take a while”.

“In the con­text of the lim­i­ta­tions around the World Cup, they give you 31 play­ers and give you six- and five-day turn­arounds con­sec­u­tively. Player wel­fare-wise it’s not ideal, but there­fore you need to be con­scious that you need ro­bust play­ers, play­ers who can back up week-to-week.

‘Bru­tal re­al­ity’

“That’s the bru­tal re­al­ity of go­ing to a tour­na­ment like the World Cup. I think we get some of the best games you can pos­si­bly get in the Six Na­tions be­cause you al­low play­ers to sprint, take a breath, sprint and take a breath again, then take the fi­nal sprint.”

Los­ing the first test in Aus­tralia “was prob­a­bly not the worst thing for us to ex­pe­ri­ence, although at the time you’re never happy to lose a Test, par­tic­u­larly when we had put a num­ber of wins to­gether,” said Sch­midt in ref­er­ence to the first Test de­feat in Aus­tralia with a slightly ex­per­i­men­tal side, but for which Ire­land might have set a new world record of 19 wins last Sat­ur­day.

“It was dis­ap­point­ing but you’re look­ing for growth and look­ing for the op­por­tu­nity to de­mon­strate that there’s re­silience, and I thought they were re­silient in Mel­bourne, kicked on and showed re­silience again in Syd­ney. And I think they were good in all four games enough of the time [this month] to ac­tu­ally de­serve the four wins that we got.”

Pat­tern

If any­thing the wa­ters have been fur­ther mud­died over this past four weeks, but in a pos­i­tive way, and this pat­tern was main­tained in Ire­land’s 12th suc­ces­sive home win here.

Most ob­vi­ously An­drew Con­way un­der­lined his try-scor­ing qual­ity with a hat-trick. Whereas Sch­midt de­scribed the per­for­mance of the last winger to achieve the feat, Craig Gil­roy off the bench in Rome two sea­sons ago, as “a mixed bag”, here the coach also praised Cow­nay’s “work off the ball”. His as­sists for Jack Co­nan and Luke Mc­Grath were just as classy, although the lat­ter (when gath­er­ing his own chip) was ruled out for Cian Healy’s for­ward pass.

Will Ad­di­son was an­other win­ner over the month even though a head knock con­fined him to the first 40 min­utes here. Ef­fec­tive as a late call-up at out­side cen­tre against Ar­gentina, he was good un­der the high ball at full-back, gave a trade­mark as­sist with an out-the-back off­load to Con­way, again looked com­posed on the ball and moved ef­fort­lessly to left wing.

That’s three dif­fer­ent po­si­tions in three caps.

Dar­ren Sweet­nam was un­lucky to miss out after ag­gra­vat­ing a back prob­lem in the open­ing half-hour, while along­side Garry Rin­grose – just ex­cel­lent in ev­ery­thing he did – Stu­art McCloskey ran hard in a good shift.

Joey Car­bery was pre­sum­ably play­ing to tac­tics in or­ches­trat­ing a run­ning game, and had some nice mo­ments at out-half be­fore also re­mind­ing us of his ver­sa­til­ity when shift­ing to full-back. His place-kick­ing has be­come a real strength too, and his eight from nine here made it 21 out of 23 for Ire­land in 2018.

Cross­kick

Sweet­nam’s mis­for­tune af­forded Ross Byrne an­other as­sured and seam­less 27th minute in­tro­duc­tion off the bench, punc­tu­ated with one of his trade­mark on-a-six­pence cross­kicks for McCloskey’s try.

Ditto Luke Mc­Grath of his third cameo off the bench, and John Cooney had a sharp first Test off the bench. Scrum-half is in­ter­est­ing, and Cooney does have the goal-kick­ing string to his bow, as well as a fa­cil­ity to cover “10”.

The front-row­ers all showed up well at scrum time and in their car­ry­ing, although David Kil­coyne over-ran the ball, picked the wrong pass and over car­ried on an­other oc­ca­sion, while Niall Scan­nell lost a cou­ple of throws and Fin­lay Beal­ham missed his tackle when Joe Taufete’e stormed over for his 14th Test try.

The lost throws may count against Iain Hen­der­son, as well as his bin­ning, but he had many good mo­ments, not least in de­fence, and while a missed restart and avoid­able penalty were blem­ishes on Tadhg Beirne, over­all he again demon­strated his all-round abil­ity, ath­leti­cism and skill set. For Con­way’s se­cond try the flick off the ground from the base was his fourth in­volve­ment.

Re­turn pass

In lead­ing Ire­land to a sixth win in six as cap­tain, Rhys Rud­dock was very good when Ire­land needed him most, namely in that first-half, and he’ll rarely have a bet­ter as­sist than with his sear­ing, in-and-out carry and try-scor­ing re­turn pass to Con­way for the opener.

There was a try for Jack Co­nan in an ef­fi­cient all-round per­for­mance and, typ­i­cal of him, Jordi Mur­phy be­gan an in­dus­tri­ous per­for­mance by win­ning a turnover and ended it with a good line and off­load for the fi­nal try by John Ryan.

And like Quinn Roux, who also scored his first Test try, Ryan pro­vided oomph off the bench.

A gen­er­ally in­for­ma­tive and widely re­ward­ing month.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: BILLY STICKLAND/INPHO

Ire­land cen­tre Garry Rin­grose makes a break dur­ing Sat­ur­day’s Au­tumn In­ter­na­tional match at the Aviva Sta­dium Dublin.

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