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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 14 November, 2018

Farrell to the fore and more talking points from Ireland's win over Argentina

Joe Schmidt’s men secured a hard-fought win at the Aviva Stadium.

Sean Farrell and Gavan Casey report from Aviva Stadium

IRELAND COMPLETED THEIR November series with a victory over Argentina. Here’s our match report from the Aviva Stadium. And here are our player ratings.

Second-half struggles

Having given the majority of this team a rest for the visit of Fiji last week, the expectation was that Ireland would have more than enough in the tank to finish strong and pull away from whatever threat Argentina could muster.

Instead, it was the Pumas who finished a gruelling southern hemisphere season on the up and they won the second half 15 – 19.

Aside from Stockdale’s try two minutes in to the second half, it was the third time Ireland have struggled for fluency in the third quarter in this series. The new faces and combinations Schmidt has experimented with have undoubtedly contributed to that difficulty in hitting the ground running in the second 40. But opposition in the Six Nations may not be as forgiving as South Africa, Fiji and Argentina were this month.

Supreme Stockdale

There was considerable pressure placed on Jacob Stockdale coming in to this series — it was clear he was the best man to start on Ireland’s left-wing from a long way out. He lived up to all those expectations and added a little x-factor for good measure.

Jacob Stockdale celebrates scoring a try Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The 21-year-old has now dotted down four tries in four Test appearances since making his debut in New Jersey in June. He doesn’t want for confidence, but it certainly looks like he has used any assurance gained by those summer exploits to fuel this campaign and he now can boast seven tries in his eight starts for Ulster and Ireland this season.

Aside from the pace and power he showed to finish two opportunities tonight, he displayed some excellent timing on kick-chase and physicality in defence. If fit he will get the chance to carry that form into the Six Nations, because he has all the qualities to be a star in the Irish jersey for a decade to come.

Tough debut task for Byrne

If you consider how impressive Stockdale was in the late minutes against South Africa, tonight’s debutant Adam Byrne was perhaps the big loser from Ireland’s struggle to dominate the contest late on.

Adam Byrne after the game Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The Leinster flyer showed some promising touches early on and was unfortunate not to grab a try when Conor Murray’s glorious cross-kick spun viciously back off the turf just above his head. Another first-half opportunity to raid space saw him misplace his kick ahead to leave Joaquin Tuculet too much time to settle.

For a man who is often, and often unfairly, highlighted for defensive issues, Schmidt handed Byrne a very steep learning curve for the last 20 minutes by naming him as the outside centre when Chris Farrell went off injured. With Bundee Aki on the field, there was an experienced option on the field to fill the toughest hole to defend.

Chris Farrell is a more than feasible option at 13

Eddie O’Sullivan has told The42′s Rugby Show on a number of occasions that he feels Farrell, given his mass and physicality, might be best suited to playing 12 for his adopted province, where Rory Scannell possesses ball skills more akin to a 13. He’s not alone in that assumption, with many similar whispers to be heard down south.

Today, however, Farrell showed in green some of the traits which turned heads while impressing at Grenoble; there was a subtlety to much of his work which we’re yet to see consistently at provincial level, and in the first half in particular, the 24-year-old Belfast man made quite the impact.

His first involvement was a clever half-break on his own 22 to put Ireland on the march having collected a semi-dodgy Bundee Aki pass, which strayed slightly behind him. His second was a laser-like pass off his left hand that sent Adam Byrne down the right-hand flank on five minutes – delivered a split second before Farrell himself was swallowed up by a shooting defender. His third was a knock-on, which put Ireland under pressure, though again Aki’s pass from close range left much to be desired.

Marcos Kremer and Chris Farrell Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

His fourth, though, was particularly sublime: Farrell drew two tacklers before popping a perfectly weighted pass to Johnny Sexton, who exploited the resulting gap and put Jacob Stockdale in for Ireland’s opener. The Munster centre might not dislodge a fit Garry Ringrose, but despite fading somewhat before his withdrawal through injury, at least proved himself an adequate option at 13 for Joe Schmidt.

 Back row back-ups face a tall order

 The plethora of back row options in the country might be perceived to be the proverbial ‘nice type of headache’ for Schmidt, but if today’s victory proved anything, it’s that the six-seven-eight axis of Peter O’Mahony, Seán O’Brien and CJ Stander is our strongest collective as we approach spring.

Peter O'Mahony Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

O’Mahony’s display might have been more lauded had Ireland held out on the back of his two timely interventions — a trademark turnover deep in Irish territory on 50 minutes; a rousing hit off the back of a Puma scrum minutes later — but his partners-in-crime enjoyed career-top-10-type outings.

O’Brien was huge on the ground, one turnover moments before half-time notable both for its execution and the fact that he roared ‘IRELAND BALL’ before he’d even put mitts on it, and had made a joint-high 14 tackles when he went off after Ireland’s third try.

Sean O’Brien and Nicolas Sanchez Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

That was finished by Stander, who was a colossus: he led the team in carries – and by a huge margin – with 20, while also making 14 tackles of his own. Though Schmidt’s options in the area are plentiful with names such as Rhys Ruddock and Jack Conan knocking on the door, it’s going to take a monumental winter from any suitor to dislodge O’Brien and the Munster duo for the Six Nations.

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

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