PLAYER RATINGS: Irish eyes are smiling

Sat, 10 Feb 2018 19:31

OPINION: Ireland picked up their second win of the Six Nations with a comprehensive 56-19 win over Italy.

A win for Joe Schmidt's side never looked in doubt with Ireland scoring four tries in the first half, with the same number again in the second. Robbie Henshaw and Jacob Stockdale both scored twice. The disappointment for Joe Schmidt will be three tries conceded in the second half, with the game becoming more open.

Injuries to Tadhg Furlong and Henshaw are a concern ahead of what will be a much sterner test against Wales in two weeks.

Nathaniel Cope rates the Irish players

15. Rob Kearney:
A quiet game from the Ireland full back, more involved in the first half from an attacking perspective but faded after that.

14. Keith Earls:
Earls has been in fine form for Munster and he took that into this contest. Came off his wing on several occasions and was a lively threat. He finished off a fine break from Bundee Aki to score a try in the 36th minute. Moved into the centre when Henshaw went off injured. Showed huge desire and wonderful pace to track back and tackle Mattia Bellini in the 80th minute, when the Italian looked a certainty to score.

13. Robbie Henshaw:
An excellent start to the game, making a few notable breaks. Scored Ireland’s opening try crashing over next to the posts. Scooped up a loose Sergio Parisse pass early in the second half and raced in from 30 metres. He landed awkwardly while trying to fend off a tackle and picked up a shoulder injury in the process, going off in a sling. Ireland missed him defensively after that.

12. Bundee Aki:
New Zealand born Aki carried plenty of ball in Ireland’s win over France and it was the same again here in Dublin. He recovered from a few early spills to barge over in 21st minute, for his first international try. Set up Ireland’s fourth try with an excellent break after spotting a mismatch, giving Keith Earls a run-in.

11. Jacob Stockdale:
Four tries in five appearances before this one and eager to add to his tally. Had a shaky opening half, a clearance from his 22 failed to make touch and also gave away a penalty in the 39th minute after getting isolated. He improved in the second half, scoring on the hour mark. The Ulster winger showed good poise for an intercept try in the 70th minute, picking up Tommaso Castello’s loose ball, racing in from his own half - he demonstrated electric pace to beat Jayden Hayward on the outside.

10. Johnny Sexton:
Faultless kicking display from the tee in the first half, including two conversions from tight to the right and left touchlines. Overcooked a grubber kick for Earls in the 31st minute, with the ball going dead. His trademark looping runs were plentiful, which helped open up the Italian defence. He was replaced by Joey Carbury in the 51st minute and Ireland lacked direction after that.

9. Conor Murray:
Another energetic performance from Ireland’s scrum half and a try scorer in the 14th minute. Dictated the pace of the game and he was missed when he was replaced by Kieran Marmion, with Ireland losing a measure of control.

8. Jack Conan:
His first ever 6 Nations start and brought in to give CJ Stander a break. A try assist for Conor Murray, but apart from that he failed to leave an impression. A shoulder injury saw him replaced at the break.

7. Dan Leavy:
With Josh van der Flier out for the rest of the season, this was Leavy’s chance to make his mark from the start. He provided the key turnover for Ireland’s fourth try. Looked sluggish as he tried to reach Tommaso Castello, when the Italian’s break set up their first try.

6. Peter O’Mahoney:
His usual industrious self, making himself a nuisance whenever Italy managed to gain possession.

5. Devin Toner:
Lost his place to James Ryan for the France game. Did little to suggest he should maintain the jersey for the Wales game.

4. Iain Henderson:
Carried plenty of ball in the first half, solid but not spectacular. Substituted at half-time by Quinn Roux.

3. Tadhg Furlong:
Went off in the fourth minute with a hamstring injury, replaced by his Leinster club mate Andrew Porter.

2. Rory Best:
line-out functioned without any problems. At the tail of a rolling maul to muscle his way over for a second half try. Replaced by Sean Cronin in the 61st minute.

1. Jack McGrath:
Preferred to Cian Healy for this one and did nothing wrong. Had a few carries and faultless at scrum time. Replaced in 68th minute by Healy.


16. Sean Cronin:
A lively hooker in the loose, but he didn’t get a chance to showcase this in his 20 minutes on the pitch.

17. Cian Healy:
A 68th minute substitute for Jack McGrath. Too little time to make an impression.

18. Andrew Porter:
Came far earlier than expected, because of a fourth minute injury to Furlong. Stood up to the test from the Italian front row at scrum time and also carried well, can be pleased with his performance.

19. Quinn Roux:
A half-time substitute for Iain Henderson. Not a notable game from the Connacht man, but did little wrong either.

20. CJ Stander:
His usual tireless workrate when he came on in the second half for the injured Jack Conan.

21. Kieran Marmion:
Replaced Conor Murray in the 51st minute. The game became far too open after that and he failed to take it by the scruff of the neck

22. Joey Carbery:
Slotted over all three conversions that he faced. Tried to force things and it didn’t always come off, Keith Earls won’t thank him for a pass which saw him throttled by two Italians deep in his own 22.

23. Jordan Larmour:
Came up too fast in defence and missed a tackle on Matteo Minozzi in the build up to Italy’s second try. Failed to stop Italy’s third try either, his defensive positioning was too narrow and was beaten in the corner by Minozzi again. He did show flickers of his dancing feet late on, cutting through the Italian defence in the final minute.