Ireland escape to victory

USA 12 Ireland 15

Ireland escape to victory

Sighs of relief for the tourists, frustration for the hosts.

Mike Tolkin’s US Eagles had a rare opportunity to shock the rugby world but they conceded too many penalties and Irish debutant Ian Madigan was almost flawless with the placed kick.

He hit five of his six opportunities, just one more than US fullback Chris Wyles who closed the gap for his team with two successive scores that set up a tense final quarter of an hour.

Interim coach Les Kiss admitted his team probably left it too close for comfort.

“I think when you go away in these conditions, when you’ve got five new caps, when you have 119 caps against 285, we’re looking at a team that has improved in USA and there were moments there that it could have gone away from us,” Kiss said afterwards.

“There are a lot of little positives there, if anything the boys are a little bit disappointed we didn’t knock off a few of those chances or quite get the flow we would have liked at the breakdown. We couldn’t get the clinical edge there but USA were physical and they scrapped and they made it a scrappy game. Talking to their coaches afterwards they felt we were very physical and scrapped at the breakdown and didn’t allow them to get their flow either.”

US coach Tolkin insisted the defeat represented a lost opportunity for his side.

“We came out on our front foot and had a go,” the US coach said. “We played solid defence, kept our shape, we were competing, hitting hard tackles, getting beyond the gainline so the boys were definitely going after it. We just needed to create a few more turnovers in the second half.”

Robbie Henshaw, one of the five new Irish caps on display, had a huge opportunity to mark his debut with what would have been a game-clinching try midway through the second half. That Henshaw opportunity would have put Ireland 13 points ahead. Instead the hosts got their captain Todd Clever back from the sinbin before then closing the gap to three, leaving it all to play for in the dying minutes.

“We knew that would come in terms of the game,” said Kiss. “That a tough moment would come that we would have to live through. If we got a score early we might have just been able to break that down a bit but they were very good at the breakdown, that last 10 minutes just showed we had the composure and bottle to hold ourselves together and (not to) lose track of what we were there for.”

Kiss praised Madigan’s performance after the Leinster player backed up strong pre-game talk with a solid display overall.

“I think his goal-kicking was brilliant,” admitted Kiss. “He was also very patient about his game, it was static ball, it wasn’t flow ball but he still managed to push a few little bits of our game into spaces — the little kick to Ferg and shifting the ball to space out wide where we were making some little inroads out there, he managed the game well and they’re critical learning experiences to go out and start a game and finish it through to the back end of it, that will do him the world of good.

“Chris Henry showed some leadership out there. I thought between Madigan and Stuart (Olding), they really shored things up in the midfield nice and solid. Fair play to Robbie (Henshaw), he may have dropped that ball, but he put his body on the line a fair few times and he had a strong game for us as well.”

The one major concern which emerged out of the first half in particular was the lineout which failed to click again and again for Ireland.

“(Hooker) Richardt (Strauss) is disappointed he was just off his accuracy a little bit,” said Kiss. “Devin (Toner) and him are not panicking at all they were moving to the right places, just couldn’t nail the accuracy. There’s a little bit of work to do there — going forward we didn’t show them a lot so we can probably go back to the same menu against Canada.”

IRELAND: R Henshaw; F McFadden, D Cave, S Olding, S Zebo; I Madigan, I Boss; D Kilcoyne, R Strauss, M Ross; M McCarthy, D Toner; I Henderson, C Henry, P O’Mahony.

Replacements: F Jones for McFadden (blood sub, 36-40); T O’Donnell for Henry (blood sub, 52-58); J Hagan for Ross (55); T Court for Kilcoyne (58); P Marshall for Boss (72); F Jones for Zebo (75); M Sherry for Strauss (77); T O’Donnell for Henderson (77); D Tuohy for McCarthy (77).

USA: C Wyles; L Hume, S Kelly, A Suniula, T Ngwenya; T L’Estrange, M Petri; S Pittman, C Biller, E Fry; B Doyle, L Stanfill; S Manoa, S Lavalla, T Clever (capt).

Replacements: P Dahl for Doyle (blood sub, 13-26); S Kelly for Hume (58).

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