Unconvincing Ireland see off Russia
WORLD CUP REPORT: Ireland returned to winning ways at the World Cup but were far from impressive in a 35-0 victory over Russia in Kobe on Thursday.
For all Ireland, the victims of a shock 12-19 defeat by hosts Japan last weekend, had made 11 changes, the fact it took them more an hour to secure a bonus point against a gutsy but limited Russia side would have been a cause for concern.
Victory also came at a cost.
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Flyhalf Joey Carbery withdrew from his bench role shortly before kick-off with a longstanding ankle problem, while an injury-hit Ireland saw No.8 Jordi Murphy, who only arrived a few days ago after Jack Conan was ruled out, go off before half-time.
The result was rarely in doubt, with Rob Kearney scoring the first of Ireland’s five tries 90 seconds into the match.
Peter O’Mahony and Rhys Ruddock also crossed Russia’s line in the opening period with Jonathan Sexton, captaining Ireland for the first time, after the star flyhalf missed the Japan loss with a thigh injury, converting all three tries.
But Ireland’s display was not akin to their 62-12 thrashing of Russia at the 2011 World Cup or indeed reigning champions New Zealand’s 63-0 rout of Canada on Wednesday.
Instead this performance suggested Ireland, who could face either the All Blacks or South Africa in the quarterfinals should they beat Samoa in their concluding Pool A game on October 12, have work to do if they are to capture a maiden world title and become the first side to lift the Webb Ellis Cup after losing a group-stage match.
Being ‘nilled’ was tough on Russia, who again posed problems as they had done in 10-30 and 9-34 defeats by Japan and Samoa respectively.
It looked as if Ireland might be eyeing a rout when Kearney scored under the closed roof of the Kobe Misaki Stadium before two minutes were on the clock.
Lock Jean Kleyn’s clever inside pass released Kearney and, with centre Bundee Aki running a decoy line, the veteran fullback carved his way around Russia left wing Denis Simplikevich from 40 metres out.
➡️He made 48 metres (Most for a forward)
➡️Made 14 tackles without a miss (most for Ireland)
➡️Scored One try
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 3, 2019
Huge defensive effort
Sexton, one of the world’s leading goal-kickers when fully fit, made light of a difficult conversion.
But Russia, led by Dublin-educated fullback Vasily Artemyev, harried Ireland with good use of the Garryowen –the name given to high kicks in Rugby Union in honour of the Irish club that pioneered the tactic.
When Ireland, who started this tournament as the world’s top-ranked side, returned to Russia’s 22, however, they had their second try in the 13th minute with Sexton’s clever grubber kick through the defence allowing onrushing flanker O’Mahony to score by the posts.
To make matters worse for Russia, centre Kirill Golosnitskiy, desperately trying to cover, slammed into a post protector and was carried off on a stretcher.
Russia were forced into a huge defensive effort in near their own line and lost lock Bogdan Fedotko to a yellow card in the 34th minute.
Moments later, Ireland’s pressure told when blindside flank Ruddock powered over for a try.
Yet Ireland failed to make the most of their man advantage either side of half-time, although Russia flyhalf Ramil Gaisin was unable to reward good work by his forwards when he pushed a long-range penalty wide.
Ireland eventually raised their game in the 62nd minute with a rare backline move.
Replacement Jack Carty’s chip ahead was regathered by Keith Earls and he sent in fellow wing Andrew Conway, whose uncle Mark McDermott is a member of Russia’s coaching staff, from near half-way.
And four minutes from time Ringrose went in for a fifth try that flattered Ireland.
Man of the match: There were not a lot of standout players in this match. However, Rhys Ruddock gets the award for his work rate around the park and he scored one of his team’s five tries.
Moment of the match: There was surely some relief in Ireland when Andrew Conway scored the bonus-point try in the final quarter.
Villain: There were a couple of Russian players sent to the sin-bin, but other than that there was no real villain.
Tries: Kearney, O’Mahony, Ruddock, Conway, Ringrose
Cons: Sexton 3, Carty 2
Yellow cards: Bogdan Fedotko (Russia, 34 – repeated infringements, offside); Andrey Ostrikov (Russia, 51 – foul play, dangerous cleanout)
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Jonathan Sexton (captain), 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Jordi Murphy, 7 Peter O’Mahony, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Jean Kleyn, 4 Tadhg Beirne, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Dave Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Andrew Porter, 18 Tadhg Furlong, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Christiaan Stander, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Jack Carty, 23 Jordan Larmour.
Russia: 15 Vasily Artemyev (captain), 14 German Davydov, 13 Igor Galinovskiy, 12 Kirill Golosnitskiy, 11 Denis Simplikevich, 10 Ramil Gaisin, 9 Dmitry Perov, 8 Victor Gresev, 7 Tagir Gadzhiev, 6 Anton Sychev, 5 Bogdan Fedotko, 4 Andrey Garbuzov, 3 Kirill Gotovtsev, 2 Evgeny Matveev, 1 Andrei Polivalov.
Replacements: 16 Stanislav Selskii, 17 Valery Morozov, 18 Vladimir Podrezov, 19 Andrey Ostrikov, 20 Evgeny Elgin, 21 Sergey Ianiushkin, 22 Roman Khodin, 23 Vladimir Ostroushko.
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant referees: Mathieu Raynal (France), Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)