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Connacht influence strong as Schmidt's Ireland run eight tries past Canada

Ultan Dillane was man of the match as Tiernan O’Halloran shone at fullback.

Ireland 52

Canada 21

Murray Kinsella reports from the Aviva Stadium

IT WAS NEVER likely to be error-free from Ireland but Joe Schmidt would surely have been a frustrated figure at times during Ireland’s eight-try win over Canada.

That said, the Kiwi head coach would also have been pleased to see his men pull clear emphatically in the closing stages against the ambitious Canadians.

With a completely-changed starting team from last weekend’s win over New Zealand and eight players in total making their debuts, Ireland were disjointed for large spells of what proved to be a more entertaining contest than expected.

Kieran Marmion celebrates scoring his sides sixth try with Craig Gilroy and Luke Marshall Kieran Marmion celebrates his second-half try. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

There were many positive moments in the Ireland performance, of course, particularly from creative fullback Tiernan O’Halloran, explosive second row Ultan Dillane – who was man of the match – and skillful tighthead prop Finlay Bealham.

The Connacht influence was strong.

The best try of the game came from Bealham’s offload sending O’Halloran clear for the first of his two, while Keith Earls, Luke Marshall, Dillane, debutant James Tracy, and Kieran Marmion all dotted down for tries, as the Ireland scrum added a penalty try.

Paddy Jackson was flawless off the tee and solid in open play, providing some sharp passes, while returning openside flanker Sean O’Brien was muscular throughout and served an empthatic reminder of his ball-carrying explosiveness.

Captain Peter O’Mahony, playing for Ireland for the first time since rupturing his ACL at last year’s World Cup had some excellent moments too, and one turnover at the breakdown will have been especially heartening.

Ireland finished strongly, as expected, but had many sloppy moments during the course of the first 60 minutes or so, allowing Canada to be in the contest at 28-21 with only the final quarter left.

Mark Anscombe’s men deserve credit for their part in ensuring Ireland didn’t run away with the game from early on, as they consistently looked to play with width and move the ball, leading to tries for DTH van der Merwe, Taylor Paris, Matt Evans.

For Ireland, eight new caps in the form of Garry Ringrose, Billy Holland, Jack O’Donoghue, Dan Leavy, try scorer Tracy, Niyi Adeolokun, John Ryan and Luke McGrath was a form of satisfaction and excitement for the future.

The game started ominously for the Canadians, with a powerful maul from seven metres out providing the platform for Marmion to snipe back down the blindside, draw in Lucas Rumball and fire a short pass to Earls for a sixth-minute try, converted by Jackson.

Ireland’s Keith Earls scores a try Earls scored Ireland's first. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

With O’Brien looking set to go on the rampage with two big breaks soon after, one of them finishing with an outrageous one-handed offload, and O’Donoghue, Cian Healy and Bealham hitting hard, Ireland looked set to dominate.

Dillane’s burst of acceleration and explosive fend near the halfway line allowed him to break 35 metres against a disorganised Canadian defensive line in the 15th minute, providing the territory for Ireland’s second.

It almost came from a five-metre scrum, but O’Donoghue’s clever pass back inside to O’Brien was just too far in front of the openside and he spilled forward.

Ringrose then had what looked like his first Test try chalked off for a forward pass from Jackson on the assist, but Ireland kept on coming against Anscombe’s ill-disciplined outfit.

Finally, after a long series of bullocking one-out carries, Marmion found Jackson out the back door play from left to right in the Canada 22.

The Ulsterman hit Earls, who danced in between two rushing defenders, drew them into the tackle and offloaded back to Jackson, who appeared on his right shoulder. The Ireland out-half floated a pass wide right to Marshall, who burst for the right corner and strecthed out to finish through Gordon McRorie’s despairing tackle.

14-0 down in the 22nd minute, a hammering looked to be on the cards for the visitors, but Ireland then produced an incredibly sloppy six minutes.

Luke Marshall scores his sides second try despite Gordon McRorie Luke Marshall with Ireland's second try. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Direct from the restart, Schmidt’s men looked to width but Marshall’s pass was picked off by the predatory van der Merwe in the Ireland 22 and he finished to the right of the posts, with McRorie converting.

Two penalties against Ireland then gave the Canadians a five-metre lineout and their backs joined in against a rather soft Irish maul defence to allow wing Paris to burst clean through the middle of the mass of bodies to score.

McRorie converted impressively from wide on the left to level proceedings with 30 minutes played.

It was the Connacht men who delivered a timely boost for Ireland just before the half-time break, with fullback O’Halloran picking a sumptuous line back against the grain to Bealham’s right shoulder close to the Canada 10-metre line.

The impressive tighthead prop dropped off a delicate offload to allow O’Halloran to get into his sprinting stride as he broke an arm tackle and scorched home for Ireland’s third try. Connacht rugby, converted by Jackson for a 21-14 lead at the interval.

Ireland emerged for the second half with a more aggressive edge, and a Jackson linebreak into the Canadian 22 setting them into their attacking flow again.

Tiernan O’Halloran breaks free to scores his sides third try Tiernan O'Halloran bursts clear to score Ireland's third. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Ireland opted for the scrum when awarded a penalty five metres out and, after one penalty reset at the set-piece, referee Marius van der Westhuizen headed under the posts for the penalty try as the Canadians collapsed under extreme pressure a second time.

Jackson converted for a fourth time, before a delicious offload from O’Halloran almost sent Earls over in the left corner, but the Munster wing couldn’t gather in the ball with the tryline begging.

A harsh penalty against Holland ended Ireland’s next visit to the away team’s 22, before a Healy knock-on spoiled a superb jackal turnover by O’Mahony. O’Donoghue and debutant Ryan then strayed offside to allow the Canadians to kick up the line for a close-range lineout on the right.

Anscombe’s side struck impressively out on the other edge, working the ball into fullback Evans’ hands, and he jut about finished through the tackle of O’Halloran, the tip of the ball making contact, as confirmed by the TMO.

McRorie’s conversion made it a seven-point game, but Ireland found a spark after Earls hounded down van der Merwe on the restart, slamming into the tackle and forcing the ball loose for a turnover.

Several brutal carries later, Dillane barged over for a fifth try with men in space outside him on the left. Jackson maintained his 100% record from the tee.

With 15 minutes left, Ireland’s scrum again dismantled the Canadian pack, marching them over their tryline and allowing Marmion to fall on the ball just before making way from debutant McGrath.

Ultan Dillane scores his sides fifth try Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The Leinster scrum-half followed new caps Ryan, Tracy and Adeolokun into the fray, while Leinster’s Leavy was next of the debutants.

O’Halloran finished wide on the left for Ireland’s seventh try, before new cap Tracy fittingly ended the night’s work by barrelling over from close range for the eighth.

Ireland scorers:

Tries: Keith Earls, Luke Marshall, Tiernan O’Halloran [2], Penalty try, Ultan Dillane, Kieran Marmion, James Tracy

Conversions: Paddy Jackson [6 from 6], Joey Carbery [0 from 1]

Canada scorers:

Tries: DTH van der Merwe, Taylor Paris, Matt Evans

Conversions: Gordon McRorie [3 from 3]

IRELAND: Tiernan O’Halloran; Craig Gilroy (Niyi Adeolokun ’67), Garry Ringrose, Luke Marshall, Keith Earls; Paddy Jackson (Joey Carbery ’68), Kieran Marmion (Luke McGrath ’67); Cian Healy (Dave Kilcoyne ’58), Sean Cronin (James Tracy ’61), Finlay Bealham (John Ryan ’48); Ultan Dillane (Donnacha Ryan ’73), Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony (captain), Sean O’Brien (Dan Leavy ’68), Jack O’Donoghue.

CANADA: Matt Evans; DTH van der Merwe, Conor Trainor, Ciaran Hearn (Nick Blevins ’68), Taylor Paris; Connor Braid, Gordon McRorie (Phil Mack ’70); Djustice Sears-Duru (Rob Brouwer ’70), Ray Barkwill (Eric Houward ’62 to ’68, permanent ’75), Jake Ilnicki (Matt Tierney ’79); Brett Beukboom, Evan Olmstead; Kyle Baillie, Lucas Rumball (Matt Heaton ’67), Aaron Carpenter (captain) (Admir Cejvanovic ’46).

Replacement not used: Pat Parfrey.

Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen [SARU].

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Murray Kinsella

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