'We certainly learned more from this... There were some real positives'

Emerging Ireland boss Simon Easterby was pleased with his side’s narrow win over the Pumas.

Andrew Smith, Josh Wycherley, Cormac Izuchukwu, and Callum Reid.
Andrew Smith, Josh Wycherley, Cormac Izuchukwu, and Callum Reid.
Image: Steve Haag/INPHO

THE SWEEP PASS from Josh Wycherley to Cathal Forde out the back. The flat skip pass hitting Cormac Izuchukwu in the next pod of forwards. The clever running lines off the ball. The shape. The offloads once they got in behind. The finish from James Culhane.

It all looked familiar as Emerging Ireland flowed to their most impressive try of the evening in a 28-24 win over the Pumas in South Africa. That passage was virtually identical to some that Andy Farrell’s senior Ireland team have put together.

That was the point of this tour – to expose a whole new raft of players to the Irish coaching staff’s systems and methods. It wasn’t perfect in Bloemfontein against a plucky Pumas outfit, but there was again a good level of cohesion from Ireland in bursts.

The fact that they actually had to battle for the win was a positive too. Last Friday’s hammering of the Griquas was of no genuine value to anyone. This was more worthwhile.

“We certainly learned more from this than we did in some of the periods against the Griquas,” said Emerging Ireland boss Simon Easterby.

“When we held onto the ball and played our game, we were hard to deal with. That was a little bit few and far between. We coughed the ball up a little too much and therefore couldn’t sustain the pressure that you need at this level to put a side to bed.

“I will say there were still some really good tries. James Culhane’s try in the second half to the left of the posts, that was excellent. A lot of guys involved in it, a lot of good running lines, etc. So there were some real positives as well, as much as we’ll be disappointed with letting them back into the game.”

roman-salanoa-appeals-during-a-scrum The Pumas provided a much better test for Emerging Ireland. Source: Steve Haag/INPHO

With the effects of the altitude kicking in during a second half that was much quicker than the laborious, 58-minute first half, Ireland’s conditioning was tested. There was much better physicality from the Pumas too.

“We set out on this tour to test the players, challenge them in a different environment, a different game,” said Easterby.

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“There are loads of really good things we can learn from this performance. The group will only get stronger going into the last game of the tour.”

Culhane was among the impressive performers for Ireland today and now everyone one of the 34-man squad will be hoping to feature in Sunday’s final game of the tour against the Cheetahs, who are expected to provide a decent challenge.

“We saw the Cheetahs’ game against the Bulls last Friday and they’re probably more like the Pumas than the Griquas in terms of wanting to play a bit wider,” said Easterby.

“They also have a good forward pack who can mix it in the tight. It will be a really good challenge and we’re excited about that one. It’s a short turnaround but credit to the players, they’re already thinking about their recovery and making sure they’re available for selection on Sunday.”

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Murray Kinsella

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