Munster youngster Jack Crowley produced a classy all-round performance as Emerging Ireland recorded a resounding 54-7 win over Griquas on Friday to make an impressive start to their three-match Toyota Challenge tour to South Africa.
Dry and warm weather had greeted the Emerging Ireland side for this mid-afternoon clash in Bloemfontein, and during the early exchanges it was Griquas who certainly made the most of the conditions as they enjoyed a fair chunk of territory and possession.
Yet, the visitors held firm defensively and slowly but surely grew into the game, with Scott Penny eventually barging over from close range for the first try in the 14th minute.
During the pre-match build-up to this encounter, assistant coach John Fogarty had said they primarily wanted to see composure and cohesion from Emerging Ireland in this first hit out on tour. With that in mind, the coaching staff would have certainly been pleased with the patience displayed from their charges as they calmly contended with the initial charge from Griquas, before beginning to assert real authority of their own, particularly at the breakdown.
Emerging Ireland also continued to pounce on turnover opportunities, which in fact directly led to a try out wide for Robert Baloucoune as the visitors settled any nerves as they established a 14-0 lead after 26 minutes.
Griquas did hit back through a try to Niel Otto when opposite number David McCann was in the sin bin after repeated infringements at the lineout, but Emerging Ireland finished the half with all the ascendancy on their side as Penny and Josh Wycherley scored to make it 28-7 at the break.
The tourists notably had to make 41 tackles to Griquas' 28 in the opening stanza, while conceding seven penalties as ill-discipline proved to be an area of concern, but they were ultimately far more clinical when opportunities were presented on attack.
The experience of Munster man Crowley certainly aided the cause of Emerging Ireland, while his kicking at goal and out of hand was a standout feature of his play. The 22-year-old featured prominently in the build-up to the most memorable try of the match as some superb interplay among the backs led to a well-finished five-pointer to Stewart Moore.
Crowley continued to marshal proceedings with immense class as he also created the sixth try for Emerging Ireland with a perfectly-timed grubber that set up Munster teammate Shane Daly for the simplest dot down next to the posts.
That took the score out to 42-7, while further tries to McCann and Calvin Nash certainly enabled Emerging Ireland to go beyond a half century of points after a highly productive afternoon of work.
Try - Niel Otto. Conversion: Eddie Fouche.
Tries - Scott Penny (2), Robert Baloucoune, Josh Wycherley, Stewart Moore, Shane Daly, David McCann, Calvin Nash. Conversions: Jack Crowley (6), Jake Flannery.
M Jaer; R Oranje, JC Nel, T Kruger, L Obi; E Fouche, B Alexander; K Dube, S Westraadt, J Forwood; J Retief, A Liebenberg’ N Otto, W Gouws, J Venter.
J Uys, M Mthabela, J Botha, G Muzanargwo, M Amiras, J Mulder, G Whitehead, A Davids, F Staples, T Ndimande, V Isaacs.
S Daly; C Nash, J Osborne, S Moore, R Balacoune; J Crowley, N Doak; J Whycherley, T Stewart, T Clarkson; J McCarthy, T Ahern; D McCann, S Penny, M Deegan.
D Barron, M Milne, R Salanoa, B Deeny, J Hodnett, M McDonald, J Flannery, A Frische.