Player Ratings: Too Easy
OPINION: Eight points behind France with an inferior 36-points difference coming into this Six Nations Round Three fixture in Dublin, Ireland knew what they needed to do on Sunday at Aviva Stadium – win and win well.
This they did, cantering to a nine-try, 57-6 win that lifted them much closer to the unbeaten French on the table with a round four trip to England next on the cards.
Ireland were 7-3 ahead when the match was sadly rendered a farce. Bad enough for Italy that their sub hooker Hame Faiva was red-carded on 19 minutes for shouldering the head of Dan Sheehan, they were forced to concede another man two minutes later when the game went to uncontested scrums.
The floodgates opened for a time, the drinks queues for the Aviva Stadium bars being more contested than anything that took place out on the pitch. Ireland had their four-try bonus point bagged with over two-and-a-half first-half minutes still to play.
There were some momentum-stalling handling errors, but their 24-6, 18-point interval lead was eventually pushed out to a handsome 51-point win with a late scoring flourish during which Italy again shot themselves in the foot with a yellow card reducing them to twelve players.
Here are the RugbyPass Ireland player ratings live from Aviva Stadium:
15. Michael Lowry – 8
Don’t ever be suckered by the debut-making full-back’s frail statistics, Hugo Keenan’s replacement checking in at 20cms and 19kgs less than opposite number Edoardo Padovani. There was an enormous cheer on his first carry and while his positioning wasn’t at all your traditional full-back role as he was often up in the line on attack and defence, he skipped in for a lovely-taken try on 30 minutes with Italy exposed off scrum ball. Scored again off a scrum-ball move 27 minutes later, rounding off a dream start.
14. Mack Hansen – 6.5
Having impressively played left wing in his first two appearances, this was an opportunity to see what the Test rookie had to offer on the opposite flank. His awareness was evident in how he chased down Monty Ioane, forcing the Italians to concede the scrum-five that was the platform for Lowry’s score. Had some other encouraging moments but play was more usually down the other wing.
13. Garry Ringrose – 6.5
The midfielder had a habit of scoring against the Italians, running in tries in three different fixtures, but he drew a blank here in his sixth outing versus the Azzurri. Bloodied just three minutes in, he was back on five minutes later and had a busy presence in what unfolded despite getting dumped on his backside on halfway in one particularly bruising man-and-ball tackle. Had some bright moments with his footwork but left the field on 53 minutes with the result long since easily secured. Returned later for a while when Robbie Henshaw needed his HIA.
12. Robbie Henshaw – 6.5
It can’t have been easy in recent weeks for the 2021 Test lion to see his buddies Ringrose and Bundee Aki look so composed together and he will be left feating that he fell short of what was needed to shift one of his pals from the selection to face England. His cheap 35th-minute knock-on at the 22 butchered what should have been a score. Came through his HIA late in the second half to finish the game.
11. James Lowe – 8
When Ireland named their original squad last month and this guy’s name was missing, the assumption was that he had been axed. Only later did it emerge that he was injured and now back fit, he was composed and accurate enough to give Andy Farrell a headache with his wing selection for Twickenham if the rested Andrew Conway overcomes his bumps and bruises. Excellent under the high ball in defence, he capped his first half with a sweet canter down the left win to send in Jamison Gibson-Park on 21 minutes. Was amply rewarded with a walk-in try on 52 minutes and another four minutes from the end.
10. Joey Carbery – 6.5
Although an emergency inclusion in Paris, Farrell was 100 per cent correct leaving him in the No10 jersey for a second successive game. The pity was it became an armchair ride once Italy encountered their numerical difficulties. Before that, he began with a sloppy pass that hit the deck but he opened the scoring with 3:40 on the clock with a confident finish where he picked his moment nicely to support the attack. Then gave Lowry the assist for Ireland’s third try. He would have wanted more from this part of his contribution while his kicking has its issues as was just one from five off the tee when leaving on 53 minutes with the score at 29-6. That substitution suggested it will be Johnny Sexton who will be the Ireland No10 versus England as the veteran got Ireland motoring through to the finish.
9. Jamison Gibson-Park – 7.5
We never thought we’d be paid up members of the Gibson-Park fan club as he had for years only ever looked like a provincial level sub, but the way Ireland are playing off nine is so easy on the eye that the Kiwi is beautiful to watch in an attack that has so much activity going on. Scored his team’s second try and was a must-watch throughout his 62-minute appearance.
1. Andrew Porter – 6.5
The loosehead was his team’s busiest first-half tackler and he added a couple of determined carries to that action list, but his issue was the game going to uncontested scrums denied him of the opportunity to shine in an area of his game that is so important. Left on 44 minutes to give Dave Kilcoyne his turn.
2. Dan Sheehan – 8
With Ronan Kelleher laid up for the remainder of the championship, this was the cub hooker’s first Test start and he wasn’t out of place at all. Gave Carbery the assist for the opening try and his robustness was seen in how he leg-drove his way forward despite taking Faiva’s red-carded shoulder to the head. Very competent throughout his 69 minutes.
3. Tadhg Furlong – 7
As with Porter, this became an afternoon where his ruggedness in the contact and his creativity on the ball wasn’t needed away from not having scrums to contest. Curiously stayed on for 62 minutes when he should have left earlier as happened to Porter with a view to England.
4. Tadhg Beirne – 8
Before he shone with a turnover penalty to nullify Italy’s first visit to the 22, this athleticism was encapsulated by how he knocked a deflected aerial ball down on the Irish side and then carried from the ensuing ruck on halfway. He was at fault for the penalty that gave the visitors their first three points but his game intelligence otherwise shone through across his 62 minutes.
5. Ryan Baird – 8
Set the tone with the game’s first decent carry in the opening salvo and his enthusiasm from there was infectious as he looked to make a lasting impression. He has always loved a decent gallop and he was no different here. Scored a fantastic try on 70 minutes, charging down a kick and picking up the bobbling ball without breaking stride.
6. Peter O’Mahony – 7.5
In his ninth outing as the Ireland captain, the flanker had much to do to remind Farrell that he should be a more regular starter in a back row selection currently dominated by Leinster representation. It was his pop that ignited the move for the first try and his handling skills were again evident when finishing the move in the corner for the bonus point try on 38 minutes.
7. Josh van der Flier – 7
Having admirably found a way to survive and thrive against the bullying French, he encountered a couple of holding on penalties against him in the opening half here. A try chance was also lost with a 61st-minute knock-on but he was a bundle of energy throughout and was named the sponsor’s man of the match.
8. Caelan Doris – 8
With Jack Conan off the boil in France, this was an ideal opportunity to restore Doris to No6 instead of blindside and he quickly opened his arsenal with his central involvement in the creation of the first try. His one-handed catch of a pass on 20 minutes was exceptional, so too his nuisance value in constantly annoying the Italians. Exited on 55 minutes with his job very well done.
16. Rob Herring – 7
Arrived on with eleven minutes remaining to help fire Ireland to their late three try flurry.
17. Dave Kilcoyne – 6
He would have been heartbroken by Porter’s decision to quit tighthead and switch to loosehead last summer, nudging him down the Test pecking order. Arrived on for Porter on 44 minutes but this wasn’t really a game for props to stand out.
18. Finlay Bealham – 6
Sent on with 18 minutes remaining for Furlong but he has a similar experience to Kilcoyne.
19. Kieran Treadwell – 6.5
It’s been a slow-build Test career for the lock – this was just his fourth cap despite a June 2017 debut – but he will have enjoyed his 18 minutes here, a cameo capped with him scoring Ireland’s ninth try.
20. Jack Conan – 7
Much better here than in Paris when he was hooked early but that wasn’t hard against the outclassed Italians.
21. Craig Casey – 7.5
If Gibson-Park is the energetic style of play Ireland want, there needs to be more investment in Duracell-bunny Casey than having Conor Murray in reserve. A 62nd-minute sub, he helped up the tempo late to expose the tired Italians.
22. Johnny Sexton – 7.5
Showed his class after he came on with 53 minutes played. Gave Lowry the assist just minutes later and was also integral in Teadwell’s score with a carry to a ruck. Immaculate as well off the tee. Will be a starter against England.
23. James Hume – 6
A midfielder with a difference to Ireland’s other centre options, he was on as early as the third minute a blood sub and stayed for five minutes before returning on 53 minutes.
By Liam Heagney, @RugbyPass