O'Gara sinks spirited Samoa
Ireland finally back to winning ways
Last Updated: 13/11/10 6:20pm
On the attack: O'Gara
Ireland ended a six-match losing streak with a 20-10 victory over Samoa at the Aviva Stadium.
Veteran fly-half Ronan O'Gara finished with a 15-point haul and it was his 66th-minute try that finally broke Samoa's resistance.
Jamie Heaslip had crossed for the hosts as they raced into an early 10-0 lead.
Samoa quickly responded with a try from Alesana Tuilagi but were unable to turn plentiful possession and territory into the points after the break and O'Gara eventually punished their profligacy.
The Irish scrum, anchored by props John Hayes and Tom Court, were overwhelmed in a department where they were supposed to have the ascendancy.
It was only when Cian Healy and Rory Best came on that the set-piece was sured up and it was this change in fortunes that preceded O'Gara's try.
Samoa, containing nine players from the Aviva Premiership and French Top 14, looked more dangerous when they abandoned the structured gameplan that blunted their attacking instincts and will view this as a missed opportunity.
The Pacific Cup holders' Haka was greeted by only a 30,955 crowd with pre-match fears of another low attendance proving correct.
O'Gara settled Irish nerves with a penalty moments into the game but it was due to sound defence from Tommy Bowe that their lead was not immediately overturned.
A fine tackle saw Bowe fell Tuilagi as the Leicester winger charged for the left corner, thwarting a strong attack from Samoa.
It was a competitive, finely-balanced opening quarter that was lit up when Ireland broke from their 22 through side-stepping full-back Luke Fitzgerald only to eventually run out of options in support.
Their tails up, the Irish renewed the assault through their pack and were rewarded when a series of pick and goes concluded with Heaslip driving over. O'Gara converted.
Samoa's response was emphatic with a second penalty against Court at a scrum enabling them to set up a superb field position.
A great pick-up by fly-half Tasesa Lavea and rapid hands from Seilala Mapusua released Tuilagi, who came marauding off his wing to cross under the posts with Lavea converting.
Ireland's problems at the scrum continued, a five-metre attacking platform ending when referee Keith Brown decided Hayes was guilty of collapsing.
With five minutes of the half remaining Ireland worked their way back into the opposition 22 and, spying acres of space on the left, O'Gara expertly changed the points of attack but ruined his quick thinking with a stray pass to Paddy Wallace.
The start of the second half saw some anxious moments for Ireland as Samoa probed close to their line.
The constant drizzle had made the ball slippery and this undermined the tourists on two occasions, the second seeing openside Manaia Salavea spill forward when 10 metres from the line.
But now it was Ireland who could not escape their 22 with their backpedalling scrum causing almighty problems.
Brian O'Driscoll eventually cleared the ball but Samoa were soon back on the offensive, ignoring one clear overlap before reducing the deficit to 13-10 with Lavea's first penalty.
Any time Ireland attempted to build some momentum, they were met by a brick wall that more often than not sent them hurtling backwards.
Winger David Lemi was lucky to escape punishment for an elbow on Stephen Ferris after Samoa had been shoved backwards at a scrum.
For all their possession, Samoa were struggling to trouble the scoreboard, and this time when Ireland escaped their 22 they struck.
A quickly-taken free kick saw Stringer pass to O'Gara, who jinked his way over the line with 14 minutes remaining before improving his own try.