Ireland wore down a disappointingly understrength Samoa at The Aviva Stadium last night to run out winners by 40 – 9 in the first match of the Joe Schmidt era.
The tries, for Ireland, came from Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien, David Kearney (2) and Fergus McFadden with Paddy Jackson adding three conversions and three penalties.
I’d been quite looking forward to this game during the week but, as I was travelling between Larne, Derry and Birmingham throughout the week, I hadn’t really been keeping up with team developments and so was quite disappointed, not only with the Ireland side, but also, with the understrength Samoa that ran out.
Gone were my hopes of a big biff, bash, bosh fest with Ireland’s pedigree back line eventually winning the day after countless thrills and spills! Instead we had a pedigree racehorse on one wing, McMuffin the Mule on the other plus a couple of centres who should be out enjoying a few years at stud. I know it’s Joe’s first game in charge but what were we going to learn about O’Driscoll and D’Arcy in the centre against Samoa. Nobody, especially the opposition, give a fiddlers about these autumn internationals and I don’t know why Ireland continually fail to use them for genuine development. How much more interesting this game would have been with Madigan and Cave in the centre!
Interestingly enough the only true débutante’s stole the show with Jack McGrath putting in an excellent shift at loosehead and David Kearney bagged a couple of tries in a brief cameo at the end of the game. Unfortunately Samoa were so disinterested by then the young Kearney only had to fall over the line so nothing really learned about Kearney the younger’s prowess but he’s still a long, long way behind the likes of Trimble and Gilroy in my book.
That McFadden was pushing for man of the match speaks volumes for the standard. He does fairly clippty clop about the pitch like Muffin the Mule on speed but his whole posture and timing always looks to me a few seconds out of sync from the rest of the game and looks largely out of control.
As for the Ulster contingent, Rory Best was my own man of the match with a return to his best form, a constant thorn in the side of the Samoan pack I’d guess that the Ulster man completed more turnovers than anyone else this weekend.
Chris Henry looked to be making a good fist of his opportunity before he had to limp of early with hamstring problems. He’d probably tackled every member of the Samoan side, including a few on the bench, before he went off on the 35th minute and was pushing for MotM before his departure.
The cool, calm and composed Paddy Jackson was coolness, calmness and composure personified. Still only 21 he, yet again, served notice that he is going to be something very special indeed, controlling the game with consummate ease and making his back row look good with his exceptional defence. Have a look at the game again on the BBC iPlayer and see how often his ginger noggin is getting in the way of the Samoan attacks compared to say O’Mahoney!
Gorgeous pouting Tommy Bowe, largely selected for this one to to make sure that the IRFU filled up the lower tiers with a few screaming schoolgirls, played like that was the only reason he was there. Largely uninvolved in a scrappy first half he was probably happy enough to take an early bath and wait for the real challenges ahead. He may well have done something during the 60 minutes he was on but I can’t remember.
Declan Fitzpatrick came on for the last 20 and coped comparatively easily in the scrum. However Samoa were on the way out by then and I hope that Fitzy gets a few more meaningful minutes in the weeks ahead.
Ireland: Rob Kearney,Tommy Bowe, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Fergus McFadden, Paddy Jackson, Conor Murray, Jack McGrath, Rory Best, Mike Ross, Devin Toner, Mike McCarthy, Peter O’Mahony, Chris Henry, Jamie Heaslip. Replacements: Sean Cronin, Cian Healy, Declan Fitzpatrick, Paul O’Connell, Sean O’Brien, Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan, Dave Kearney.
Samoa: Faatoina Autagavaia, Alapat Leiua, George Pisi, Johnny Leota, Brando Vaalu; Tusi Pisi, Kahn Fotuali’i, Sakaria Taulafo, Ole Avei, Logovi’i Mulipola, Faatiga Lemalu, Teofilo Paulo, Ofisa Treviranus, Jack Lam, Taiasina Tuifua. Replacements: Tii Paulo, Viliamu Afatia, James Johnston, Joe Tekori, Alafoti Faosiliva, Jeremy Su’a, Isaia Tuifua, Fautua Otto.
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
There are a few more interesting challenges ahead for Ireland over the next few weeks and hopefully we will find out if Joe is the Messiah or just a very naughty boy!