Ireland cruise past Samoa in autumn opener
Last Updated: 09/11/13 8:36pm
Class act: Brian O'Driscoll
New Ireland boss Joe Schmidt's tenure got off to a winning start as his side secured a 40-9 win over Samoa in Dublin.
After a subdued and stuttering first period, which saw both sides make a string of unforced errors, Ireland exposed the gaping holes in the visitors' depleted defence to score three tries including two for debutant Dave Kearney.
In truth, it was a lot more straightforward than many of the 45,000 in attendance would have predicted. The visitors did not provide the level of opposition and resistance which their pre-match tag of potential giant killers or indeed current seventh placed ranking had indicated.
Nonetheless, with sterner tests on the horizon in the shape of Australia and New Zealand, this was an adequate start to an new era and in the process, laid a solid foundation for what is to come.
In the absence of Jonny Sexton, Ulster's Paddy Jackson added further weight to his case for the number ten jersey for next week's visit of the Wallabies with a composed display behind the scrum as he finished with 15 points to his name including three first-half penalties.
However, his performance is unlikely to wrestle the starting berth off the Racing Metro fly-half while it was memorable evening for prop Jack McGrath who marked his international bow with a man-of-the-match performance in the scrum.
Peter Mahony set the ball rolling after a largely lethargic opening half hour when he rounded off a fine rolling maul to cross the line before the introduction of Sean O'Brien, for the injured Chris Henry, provided the sparks the hosts and those in the stands required.
However, the game's defining moment came on the stroke of half-time as referee Steve Walsh decided to justifiably sin-bin George Pisi after using the TMO to determine the centre had committed and dangerous and unnecessary tip-tackle on Tommy Bowe.
Ireland took full advantage of their numerical advantage as they scored 10 points during Pisi's absence to all but end Samoa's brave effort, with O'Brien crossing the line after another piece of individual brilliance from the evergreen Brian O'Driscoll.
With one eye on the forthcoming fixtures, Schimdt utilised his bench and underlined the strength in depth he has at his disposal with the introduction of British and Irish Lions duo Cian Healy and newly appointed captain Paul O'Connell.
Kearney was one of those replacements and wasted no time in making an impact in a green shirt. The winger, younger brother of Rob, ducked into the corner in incisive fashion before Fergus McFadden scored his eighth international try in the opposite corner after aesthetically pleasing approach play.
There was enough time left for Kearney to score his second and Ireland's fifth try to seal a comfortable win.
Victory ensures Ireland will leapfrog their opponents into seventh in the IRB rankings thanks to their third successive victory, the first time that has been achieved since October 2011. However, all eyes will be on the task in hand when they welcome Australia and then the All Blacks to Dublin.