Sean Dougall (finger), Paddy Butler and JJ Hanrahan (both leg), Mick Kearney and Luke McGrath (both head) were all on the treatment table last night after coming up against a hugely-competitive Uruguay.
The South American side couldn’t match Ireland for skill, nor were they good enough to take much from the physical changes, but they tried their best. After romping to victory over Russia on day one, yesterday’s was another very good win but it was less impressive overall.
“We knew they would have a big emphasis on their chop tackle,” admitted captain Johne Murphy.
“There were a few occasions when we thought we were through and they had guys regrouping. It was a lot more physical than Friday and we weren’t always great out there. I know we scored a decent amount of tries but our accuracy wasn’t great.
“I suppose you could say there was a bit of a mid-tour lull, not with our prep as such but, maybe after Friday, we didn’t quite expect how tough it would be. Now we know and Romania on Sunday will be much tougher again. They are probably the best of our opponents. It’s their home ground and they will be looking to finish off with a flourish. They’re another very physical side so it’s probably a good lead up to it.”
Head coach Dan McFarland rightly described the match as “far more competitive” than the opening day.
“They were able to disrupt us a lot more and caused us a lot of trouble at the breakdown, not all of it was legal mind you.
“That disrupted our continuity but we also made a lot of our own errors and that was in contrast to the first game when we couldn’t put a foot wrong; we turned ball over in really good positions. I told the boys afterwards that we coughed up too much ball, but we still managed to score 50 points and that can’t be taken away from them.”
One of the standout players was Munster loose head John Ryan who finally, at the fifth time of asking, got his first start in this Nations Cup tournament. He was in Tbilisi for last year’s event but got no game time and was frustrated in Friday’s game with Russia when called on just seconds before the match was abandoned as the heavens opened.
“I didn’t feature last year and when the storm hit on Friday I was only just on the pitch. That was particularly disappointing. This one was a great experience, I’ll take the 80 minutes and I was grateful for the weather,” he said.
“It was tough out there though. They tore into the rucks and we struggled sometimes in the breakdown area but it was great to be back, I hadn’t played since the game with Ulster six weeks back so it was a good blow out.”
Uruguay took a snap lead with a penalty from captain Joquin Prada but gradually ran out of steam and Ireland powered into a 22-3 lead with tries from Craig Gilroy, Mick Kearney and Paddy Butler, two conversions and a penalty from the impressive Hanrahan.
Butler got his second try 11 minutes into the second half, Hanrahan converted that, a penalty try and a score from the industrious Billy Holland before Paul Marshall nabbed Ireland’s seventh in injury time for a 48-3 lead. With only seconds left, replacement Ian Keatley opted for kick for goal and take Ireland past the half-century mark.
C Gilroy (Ulster), J Murphy (Munster, capt), B Macken (Leinster), E Griffin (Connacht), M Allen (Ulster), JJ Hanrahan (Munster), L McGrath (Leinster), J Ryan (Munster), B Byrne (Leinster), R Lutton (Ulster), M Kearney (Connacht), B Holland (Ulster), T O’Donnell (Munster), S Dougall (Munster), P Butler (Munster).
R Copeland (Munster) for Dougall (14), P Marshall (Ulster) for McGrath (42), D Foley (Munster) for Kearney (48), C Black (Ulster) for Lutton (49), I Keatley (Munster for Griffin (57), J Tracey (Leinster) for Butler, 66), A Conway for Gilroy (74).
J Etcheverry, F Favaro, P Deal, J Prada (capt), G Gibernau, R Silva, A Duran, M Sanguinetti, C Arboleya, J Echeverria, C Soares, M Beer, A Alonso, F Bascou, M Braun.
S Selskiy for G Tsonobiladze, A Bezverkhov for V Tsnobiladze, D Antonov for Igretsov (all 48), S Laniuskin for Babaev (49).
M Mitrea (Italy)