Schmidt's Ireland ease past Samoa
Ireland began the Joe Schmidt era with a convincing five-try, 40-9 victory over injury-stuck Samoa at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.
The hosts led 14-6 at the break, and four second half tries put a gloss on the scoreline, but there was little to thrill the freezing fans before a frantic last 20 minutes.
Debutants Jack McGrath, who gave a man of the match performance, and Dave Kearney, who scored two tries, impressed, but Schmidt will demand more from his 'work in progress' if they are to emerge victorious against Australia next week, or the All Blacks the following Sunday.
In the end, Samoa failed to front up as expected, with injuries before -? and during the game — wrecking the plans of the side ranked seven in the world.
Though they beat Wales, Italy and Scotland in the last 12 months, it was difficult to judge this result given coach Stephen Betham had five first choice players unavailable through injury.
Census Johnston, Gavin Williams, Maurie Fa'asavalu, David Lemi and Daniel Leo were absent, while neither Alesana Tuilagi nor James So'oialo travelled.
Prop Logovi'i Mulipola withdrew injured after just seven minutes, and a sickening clash of heads saw both Tusi Pisi and Vaaulu leave the field before the hour.
Schmidt, by contrast, had a stronger squad to toy with than predecessor Declan Kidney managed in his last 24 months in charge, and he could afford to leave Racing Metro's Jonny Sexton in the stand and still name six British and Irish Lions in the starting XV, with another three on the bench.
Paddy Jackson kicked the first points of the Schmidt era in the third minute after some good ground work by Peter O'Mahony to win the penalty, but Tusi Pisi leveled the scores four minutes later after an Irish player strayed offside.
Jackson struck his second penalty of the night on 21, as the game was slowed to a halt by scrum infringements and indiscipline.
Ireland were clearly eager to implement Schmidt's running game, but when the try breakthrough arrived it came thanks to an old fashioned maul.
O'Mahony took possession from the line-out, and the pack surged toward the Samoan line with such momentum that the flanker was carried almost 20 metres over the line.
Pisi cut the gap to five points on the half hour, only to squander a simple chance from the tee moments later, which he hit against the upright.
Ireland threatened again just as the half time whistle approached, but neither McFadden nor Brian O'Driscoll could finish, and ultimately the return was a yellow card for George Pisi for a dangerous tackle on Tommy Bowe in the build up.
Jackson made it 14-6 at the break, but with Pisi off the park, Ireland forced home their advantage thanks to a try from replacement O'Brien.
Jackson's long kick caught out Vaaulu, and after some NFL handling from O'Driscoll to keep the ball alive, Murray eventually fed the rampaging Leinster flanker who stretched home.
Both benches were emptied as the clock ticked, but it was Ireland's that wreaked havoc with Kearney, twice, and Fergus McFadden touching down to put a flattering light on the scoreline.
Tries: O'Mahony, O'Brien, Kearney 2, McFadden
Cons: Jackson 3
Pens: Jackson 3
Pens: Pisi 2, Fotuali'i
Yellow card: George Pisi (Samoa, 40 – foul play, spear tackle)
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Fergus McFadden, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip (captain), 7 Chris Henry, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Mike McCarthy, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Declan Fitzpatrick, 19 Paul O'Connell, 20 Sean O'Brien, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Dave Kearney.
Samoa: 15 Fa'atoina Autagavaia, 14 Alapati Leuia, 13 George Pisi, 12 Johnny Leota, 11 Brando Vaaulu, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Taiasina Tuifua, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Ofisa Treviranus, 5 Teofilo Paulo, 4 Fa'atiga Lemalu, 3 Logovi'i Mulipola, 2 Ole Avei, 1 Sakaria Taulafo.
Replacements: 16 Ti'i Paulo, 17 Viliamu Afatia, 18 James Johnston, 19 Joe Tekori, 20 Alafoti Faosiliva, 21 Jeremy Sua, 22 Isaia Tuifua, 23 Fautua Otto.
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Luke Pearce (England)
TMO: Carlo Damasco (Italy)