Ulster’s youngsters will have give Declan Kidney a few selection headaches as they moved seamlessly into the International Arena with an exhilarating performance against a hapless Fiji. Man of the Match Craig Gilroy made a mockery of the Grand Turnip’s selections to date as “Gillers” proceeded to steal the show, not just with his three tries, but with every aspect of his game.
It was a pleasure to see a relaxed Ireland side play with pace and precision making the ball do the work and “Kidders” really only has two decisions to chose from for the duration of his contract – either embrace the Irish youth that are coming through the system or resign early.
Ireland’s first try was wonderful in it’s simplicity setting the tone for the night. Three minutes after Patrick Jackson had put Ireland ahead, with a sixth minute penalty, Luke Marshall drew the defence and his wonderful pass gave Gilroy the simplest of run ins and while it sounds easy it was executed at such pace and the pass was so precise that it was practically undefendable.
Fergus McFadden was next on the score board as the ball was moved wide by Marshall and Cave and though the Leinster winger looked like he was running on treacle, compared to Gilroy, he did well to cut inside and make the line though I suppose better sides would have pulled him up well short. Sean Cronin barged over from close range shortly after with the Leinster hooker having his usual rumbustious game in the loose but he was one of a few players not to enhance his reputation as his darts were one of the few disappointments of the night.
The tries kept coming as Iain Henderson pounced on a loose lineout and drove Ireland up-field with Darren Cave finishing off the move with a delightful show and go to stretch over for Ireland’s fourth and with Jackson converting three of the four tries Ireland led 29 – 0 at the break.
Ireland picked up where they left off after the restart with Heaslip spotting space out right to send McFadden over for his second try but after a lengthy injury break for the unfortunate John Muldoon the game struggled to find it’s tempo.
A raft of substitutions helped raise the pace for a resounding finish with Simon Zebo and Paul Marshall impressive among he replacements. A well timed run from Zebo put Gilroy in for his second and Gliroy completed his hat trick shortly after Jackson invited him to run from his own 22. The Ulster winger showed his power and pace as he broke through the defence to sprint clear from forty yards out.
The final try of the night was made in Ulster with Jackson and Henderson combining to send Luke Marshall over in the corner. Jackson added two conversion in the second half to take the final score to Ireland 53 Fiji 0
Ireland XXIII: Denis Hurley, Fergus McFadden, Darren Cave, Luke Marshall, Craig Gilroy, Paddy Jackson, Conor Murray, David Kilcoyne, Sean Cronin, Mike Ross, Donncha O’Callaghan, Dan Tuohy, Iain Henderson, John Muldoon, Jamie Heaslip. Replacements: Richardt Strauss, Cian Healy, Michael Bent, Donncha Ryan, Chris Henry, Paul Marshall, Jonathan Sexton, Simon Zebo.
It must be noted that this was a pretty poor Fiji side but, as often mentioned in the commentary, you can only play what’s in front of you and the Ulster youngsters did that with a fair degree of success.
Henderson and Gilroy, in particular, put their hands up for a start against Argentina and Luke Marshall and Patrick Jackson should be included in the panel if Kidney is to show any thought for the future. To my mind Paul Marshall also showed enough, in his brief cameo at the end, to be considered for selection.