Ireland 40 Samoa 9
Joe Schmidt will bring his victorious Ireland players down to earth with a bump at Carton House today as he reminds his squad the hard work has only just begun following a workmanlike win in the New Zealander’s maiden Test.
A five-to-nil try count against a team that had averaged three a game in its previous five outings had the immediate bump to Schmidt’s tenure of lifting Ireland over Samoa to seventh in the IRB world rankings. Yet, with Australia arriving hot on their heels in Dublin for Saturday’s showdown, the mistakes made in earning victory over an under-strength outfit that faded badly as the game progressed last Saturday will need to be rectified if Schmidt is to emulate his predecessor Declan Kidney’s victory over the Wallabies at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.
Ireland never looked like losing to a disjointed Samoan side, whose pack was on the back foot from the opening minute when referee Steve Walsh awarded the home side a penalty at the first engagement.
Yet they made heavy going of their dominance for most of the opening half, a failure to retain the ball resulting in a tackle count, according to Schmidt, nearly three times that of their opponents.
That will surely have far more dire consequences against an Australian side which hammered Italy 50-20 in Rome on Saturday than the 14-6 half-time lead Ireland possessed this time around.
“We’re going to have to be a lot better looking after the ball,” Schmidt concluded. “We can’t afford to be making twice as many tackles, in that first half almost three times as many tackles as our opponents, not with the Australians because they’ll be a little bit more cohesive. They’ve got an incredible ability to probe around the fringes with the likes of (Will) Genia and some of the big loose forwards who run off him, and some of the wingers who get in and around that sort of area.
“And at the same time, they have a fantastic ability to shift the point of attack, particularly with Quade Cooper. You know, people might think he’s an enigma but he’s got a fantastic skill set, his variations in his kicking game.
“We’re going to have to be twice as good as we were Saturday, because the Samoans — while they had some good individuals — were a little bit scattered in amongst some guys who hadn’t played as much for them in recent times. That made them a little bit vulnerable and we managed to profit from that.”
The high point in an otherwise fairly lacklustre first half had been an excellent lineout and driving maul that saw the Irish pack rumble across the Samoan backfield from just inside their 22 until Munster captain Peter O’Mahony planted the ball over the line for the opening try, his first in Test rugby, in the 25th minute.
It was after the break, though, that Ireland picked up the pace, benefiting from a yellow card to centre George Pisi after he tip-tackled Tommy Bowe on the stroke of half-time. The reward for Schmidt’s players was a try that put the game beyond the depleted Samoans. Fly-half Paddy Jackson’s kick upfield bounced backwards and wrong-footed covering wing Alapati Leuia, with Brian O’Driscoll first on the ball and scooping it backwards through his legs to Fergus McFadden, charging dow the left wing before recycled ball saw substitute Sean O’Brien at his dynamic powerhouse best to get over the line and push his side into an unassailable 21-6 lead once Jackson had added the conversion.
Samoa were further inconvenienced by a clash of heads between team-mates Tusi Pisi and Brando Vaalu, both backs needing to withdrawn in the 56th minute, any hope of a fightback disappearing on the stretcher that carried the concussed fly-half Pisi to the medical room.
Kahn Fotuali’i switched from nine to 10 and dispatched a penalty but it was time for Ireland to cut loose, substitute Dave Kearney marking his debut with a try in the right corner, McFadden adding another down the left, both converted by Jackson. The game was won but there was still time for Dave Kearney to grab a second, finishing off a wonderfully work sequence worked down a narrow channel on the right from Ireland’s own 22 to the Samoan tryline.
Ian Madigan, on for O’Driscoll after a successful 70-minute comeback for the former captain, danced his way out from the danger zone, moved it to Dave Kearney who passed out to elder brother Rob, before the full-back sent it back inside to Eoin Reddan and onto the debutant to rack up the 40th point, Jackson missing the final conversion.
It was a slightly disappointing moment to end a match that had left a similar feeling and Schmidt knows next week’s game will be harder fought with way less margin for error.
“I think we’ll be tidier just by making sure we look after the ball carrier and I don’t think we did either of those things particularly well, whether it was backs or forwards,” the Kiwi said, before adding: “I think you’ve got to crawl before you can walk before you can run.
“We just need to understand that we have to look after the ball first, and I think the other elements of the game can come.”
IRELAND: R Kearney; T Bowe (D Kearney, 60), B O’Driscoll (I Madigan, 70), G D’Arcy, F McFadden; P Jackson, C Murray (E Reddan, 60); J McGrath (C Healy, 60), R Best (S Cronin, 60), M Ross (D Fitzpatrick, 60); M McCarthy (P O’Connell, 60), D Toner; P O’Mahony (P O’Connell, 53-60), C Henry (S O’Brien, 34), J Heaslip (capt).
SAMOA: F Autagavaia; A Leiua, G Pisi (I Tuifua, 75), J Leota, B Vaalu (I Tuifua, 75); T Pisi (J Sua, 56), K Fotuali’i (capt); S Taulafo (V Afatia, 75), O Avei (Tii Paulo, 50), L Mulipola (J Johnston, 8); F Lemalu (J Tekori, 50), Teofilo Paulo; O Treviranus, J Lam, T Tuifua (A Faosiliva, 66).
Yellow card: G Pisi 40-50
Referee: Steve Walsh (Aus).
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