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Dublin: 11°C Monday 19 April 2021
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No party in the USA as Ireland labour to narrow win

Houston, we had some problems.

Image: ©Inpho/Billy Stickland

IRELAND LABOURED TO a 12-15 win over the US Eagles in the first Test of their summer tour of North America.

In a game reminiscent of the World Cup meeting between the sides two years ago, Les Kiss’ charges struggled to create openings or build momentum in attack.

All 15 points came via the boot of Ian Madigan with Paddy Jackson the only replacement left unused.

Yet despite a dominant scrum and some favourable calls at the breakdown, the playmaker could not navigate a route around the US defence led by Todd Clever and Samu Manoa.

Debutants Robbie Henshaw and Stuart Olding had contrasting opening nights in green. Henshaw would be left to rue two handling errors which cost Ireland a try at one end, and very nearly let Takudzwa Ngwenya in at the other.

At inside centre, Olding was quietly assured, making dangerous line-breaks and showing an impressive turn of pace to shut down US attacks at vital times.

Madigan opened the scoring in the ninth minute after the green scrum forced two penalties in quick succession to take the visitors from midfield to within 30 metres. The early penalties went Ireland’s way at the breakdown too; and there was breathing space for the tourists at 6-0.

However, the second set-piece, the line-out remains a problem for this side with communication between Richardt Strauss and his jumpers breaking down just as the visitors looked to set a base on the 22.

After 25 minutes, the hosts came close to taking the lead with a maximum score. Luke Hume showed his searing pace on the right flank, reading the bounce of his chip forward well before being caught by Olding. The Eagles swept across the 22, but could not find a gap and had to settle for a Chris Wyles penalty to get them off the mark.

Madigan restored the six-point lead, but the hosts hit back almost instantly with Manoa bursting through a ponderous tackle attempt from Devin Toner and Mike Ross before the scrambling defence was forced to concede another attempt on goal. Wyles found the sweet spot again.

Choke

The half ended with another scrum going the green pack’s way and Madigan, from 40 metres, opened up a 6-12 lead at the break.

The hosts came out all-guns-blazing for the opening minutes of the second half. But save for a half break from Ngwenya (quickly chopped down by Olding) the green line would not be breached and a trademark choke tackle led by Iain Henderson forced the turnover.

From an attacking maul on the 10-metre line. Ireland created their best move of the match. Fergus McFadden hit the ball at speed and stormed into the 22. Watching onrushing tacklers, he spun a looping pass left. There, however, the move ended with a knock-on that will trouble  Henshaw’s dreams tonight.

In the 52nd minute, Ireland were handed a golden chance to open the game up as Clever was given a yellow card after appearing to tip-tackle Toner.

Rather than exploit the advantage, though, the sin-bin period ended 3-3 and Clever returned with ‘USA, USA’ reverberating around the stadium after Ngwenya had forced another knock-on from Henshaw and, very nearly, a try. The scrum would yield another straightforward penalty for Wyles and Ireland’s advantage was a mere three points with 15 minutes on the clock.

With the introduction of Paul Marshall, there was an added threat. His breaks would not yield a try, but ensured the hosts remained on the back foot. In the dying minutes, Ngwenya looked to force things by running from his own 22. He was wrapped up and conceded a penalty.

To a chorus of boos, Madigan lined up the kick like a man unaccustomed to missing this kind of straightforward shot at goal. Miss it he did, however.

An unsatisfying end to a disappointing game.

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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