Encouraging signs for Schmidt’s men

INTERNATIONAL TEST:

Encouraging signs for Schmidt’s men

The victory, never in doubt in humid conditions, continues the winning run and Joe Schmidt and his men will be anxious now to wrap up a superb season next weekend by completing the double over the Pumas.

Three more guys, none of them born in Ireland, became Irish senior internationals in this northern Argentina outpost on Saturday evening, on a night when several players availed of the opportunity to make a claim for further inclusion.

Robbie Diack, the only starting debutant, turned in a rock solid display, where his lineout ability will give Ireland plenty of options, while Kieran Marmion, the only unused player on last summer’s tour to Canada and the US, finally made his bow and impressed as well.

His Connacht teammate Rodney Ah You, only called up at midnight the previous Saturday, is now an Irish international, after coming off the bench in the final quarter.

The likes of James Coughlan, packing his bags to head to Pau and ending any real hopes of an elusive Irish cap, must surely wonder how some guys have all the luck.

Darren Cave started and finished well as he donned Brian O’Driscoll’s No. 13 shirt but beside him Luke Marshall was targeted relentlessly and will be doing well to hold his place.

Felix Jones was rock solid at full-back, Conor Murray Jonathan Sexton controlled the game at half-back, while Damien Varley impressed when introduced for his third cap.

Jordi Murphy, starting for the first time, also turned in an impressive display while the reputation of Jack McGrath continues to grow with each game, leaving Schmidt with plenty of positives to chew over.

“I thought our set-piece was very good. We put some good pressure on their lineout and scrum and managed to get all of our own lineouts and scrums, which was great. Once we got a few phases going one of the frustrations was we didn’t quite get the continuity of quick ball we would have liked, and that made it difficult.

“You have got to take your hat off to Argentina. They were massively combative. Part of why we came out here was to make sure we gave guys a bit of an opportunity. I thought some of the lads took those opportunities well and other will learn from the experience and hopefully put their best foot forward next time.

“Robbie Diack and Jordi Murphy worked really hard in that first half. Iain Henderson is growing all the time and getting better. Some of the experienced guys made it a little easier for them. I thought Paul O’Connell did a great job, as did Rory Best. Then in the back line I thought Darren Cave did pretty well a few times, slipped a couple of tackles that he maybe would have made or preferred to have made. I think Andrew Trimble continued his pretty good form.”

And Simon Zebo? “Yeah, Simon was alright,” said Schmidt.

Zebo, back from the international wilderness, was eager to please and produced a performance he will be happy with, at one stage almost putting Cave over in the left corner with a sublime pass, moments after denying a certain score at the other end when he nabbed Puma centre Jeronimo de la Fuente.

Both sides may have been understrength but it was an enjoyable encounter and, as Schmidt pointed out, Argentinian rugby will benefit from these two tests, with the early indicators that the game is in good health here.

Ireland needed to avoid an ambush and a couple of early penalties from Sexton settled them but it was Argentina who crossed for the first try even when they had a man in the bin for an aerial challenge on Trimble.

The video review will not make for pleasant viewing for Marshall or Sexton as their tackles were evaded as monstrous winger Manuel Montero charged over.

Ireland got a grip and their maul, despite changes, continues as an effective weapon, with Chris Henry touching down for his second try as Ireland led 11-10 at the break.

Sexton combined with Marshall to score a cracking try just after the restart and an emphatic victory seemed on the cards when Trimble intercepted. The Pumas, perhaps with a hint of what might be to come in Tucuman on Saturday, never gave up though and deservedly got a second try with the impressive Tomas de la Vega crossing in the closing moments.

Scorers for Argentina: M Montero, T De La Vega try; N Sanchez pen, con; S Gonzalez Iglesias con.

Scorers for Ireland: C Henry, J Sexton, A Trimble tries; J Sexton 2 pens, con; I Madigan 2 pens.

ARGENTINA: J Tuculet (S Cordero 74); S Cordero (L Gonzalez Amorisino 65), J De La Fuente, G Ascarate, M Montero; N Sanchez (S Gonzalez Iglesias 70), M Landajo (T Cubelli 64): L Noguera Paz (B Postiglioni 74), M Cortese (J Montoya 58), R Herrera (N Telaz Chaparo 57); M Carizza (M Alemanno 40), T Lavanini; R Baez (J Ortega Desio 61), T De La Vega, B Macone.

IRELAND: F Jones; A Trimble, D Cave, L Marshall (F McFadden 57), S Zebo; J Sexton (I Madigan 64), C Murray (K Marmion 57): J McGrath (D Kilcoyne 61), R Best (D Varley 68), M Ross (R Ah You 68); I Henderson P O’Connell (D Toner 68); R Diack, C Henry, J Murphy (J Heaslip 57).

Referee: Glen Jackson (NZRU)

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