Uninspiring Ireland labour to victory against Russia

Rugby World Cup 2019

Pool A

Ireland 35-0 Russia

Ireland got back on track in Pool A with a bonus-point victory but the fluent, accurate performance they would have wished for after their shock defeat to Japan never quite materialised. It was a victory that will hardly have sent a chill down the spines of either New Zealand or South Africa, their likely quarter-final opponents.

Russia may have been ultimately outclassed, but in frustrating Ireland for long periods they were never less than massively committed. They left the field to a huge ovation from both the neutrals and the Ireland supporters. It was fully merited.

Amid conditions not as oppressive as feared, Ireland showed early determination to put the Japan defeat in the rear-view mirror. After only 90 seconds, a familiar training ground move from the Joe Schmidt playbook created acres of space for full-back Rob Kearney to gallop clear for the perfect start.

To roars of approval from the neutrals, Russia rallied. Kearney, generally commanding and ultra reliable in the back field, was uncharacteristically hesitant under a huge punt from fly-half Ramil Gaison. He eventually scrambled the ball into touch and Ireland went back on the attack.

Rob Kearney scores Ireland‘s first try.

The difference in class between the sides was evident on 13 minutes when Ireland made their second big thrust in the Russian 22 and came away with another seven-pointer. After prop Dave Kilcoyne crashed over the gain line, Johnny Sexton saw space in behind and sent Peter O’Mahony in pursuit of a lovely grubber kick. The flanker won the race and scored beside the upright, with Russian centre Krill Golosnitskiy injured in the act of trying to stop him and forced off.

It was O’Mahony’s first score for his country since the day he became the first try-scorer of the Schmidt era, which began almost six years ago.

So far, so good for Ireland but they began to find their momentum halted by handling errors. If that was frustrating, what came next will have caused anguish in the Ireland coaching box. Jordi Murphy, thrown into the fray just a few days after arriving as a replacement for the injured Jack Conan, left the field in some distress after a 26th-minute collision, with a suspected rib injury. CJ Stander replaced him.

Ireland ramped up the pressure and another big surge led to lock Bogdan Fedotko being yellow-carded for an illegal entry. The third try looked inevitable and Player of the Match Rhys Ruddock produced it, after being propelled forward by prop John Ryan.

By half-time Russia had conceded eight penalties to Ireland’s three.

Ireland’s Andrew Conway scores his side’s fourth try.

Four minutes after the interval Sexton was replaced by Jack Carty and added to Irish concerns when seen with an ice pack on his thigh.

Russia had a second man sent to the bin when replacement Andrey Ostrikov was guilty of  a dangerous clearout, but Ireland could do little with their second numerical advantage.

Gaisin had a chance to put some Russian points on the board but kicked a long-range penalty wide.

Not before time, on 62 minutes, Ireland worked a nice try for the bonus point, with Carty’s clever kick being picked up by Keith Earls, who found his Munster team-mate Andrew Conway with all the space he needed.

If the performance was far from convincing, it at least had a finishing flourish of some class, with Jordan Larmour and Earls combing beautifully to send Garry Ringrose in for the fifth try.

Ireland: Rob Kearney, Andrew Conway, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Keith Earls, Johnny Sexton (capt), Luke McGrath; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, John Ryan, Jean Kleyn Tadhg Beirne, Rhys Ruddock, Peter O’Mahony, Jordi Murphy.

Replacements: Sean Cronin, Andrew Porter, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, CJ Stander, Conor Murray, Jack Carty, Jordan Larmour.

Russia: Vasily Artemyev (capt), German Davydov, Igor Galinovskiy, Kirill Golosnitskiy, Denis Simplikevich, Ramil Gaisin, Dmitry Perov; Andrei Polivalov, Evgeny Matveev, Kirill Gotovtsev, Andrey Garbuzov, Bogdan Fedotko, Anton Sychev, Tagir Gadzhiev.

Replacements: Stanislav Selskii, Valery Morozov, Vladimir Podrezov, Andrey Ostrikov, Evgeny Elgin, Sergey Ianiushkin, Roman Khodin, Vladimir Ostroushko.

Referee: Jerome Garces (Fra)

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