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Superb Larmour hat-trick helps Schmidt's Ireland to big win over Italy

Second row Tadhg Beirne also impressed on his first start at Test level.

Ireland 54

Italy 7

Murray Kinsella reports from Soldier Field

OLD HABITS SEEM to die hard as Italy faded away in the second half in Chicago and proved powerless to stop Joe Schmidt’s Ireland from finishing with eight tries in a 54-7 victory.

Jordan Larmour makes a break Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Back at Soldier Field two years after beating the All Blacks here, Ireland’s encounter with the Italians was never likely to offer the same kind of thrills but there were many positive shoots for Schmidt to take away.

Jordan Larmour, for starters.

The fullback, making his first start at Test level, was man of the match for Ireland, with his footwork, pace and anticipation helping him to score a hat-trick of tries and also set up Luke McGrath for his first-half five-pointer.

Larmour’s third try, after the full-time hooter, was perhaps his best as he scorched home from well inside his own half, taking Tito Tebaldi and Guglielmo Palazzani apart with his dancing feet on the way.

The 21-year-old hadn’t scored in his previous six Ireland caps off the bench but he looks to have a prolific and influential future ahead in Test rugby.

While Ireland struggled somewhat in the first half and led only 14-7, they opened up in the second against Conor O’Shea’s poor Italy, who had named an understrength side and demonstrated that there is still work to do on their depth.

Tadhg Beirne goes over for the third try Tadhg Beirne was excellent for Ireland. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Tadhg Beirne was excellent for Ireland on his first start, with two tries from close-range just reward for a hard-working display that saw him consistently picking clever running lines off scrum-half Luke McGrath.

Jack Conan was impactful in the carry and tackle for Ireland, while starting props Jack McGrath and Andrew Porter also had a good day, the tighthead winning an impressive turnover penalty at one point in the second half, before subs Dave Kilcoyne and Finlay Bealham made an impression.

There were Ireland debuts for fullback Will Addison and out-half Ross Byrne off the bench, while former Leinster out-half Ian McKinley came on for Italy against his native land.

With Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton at home in Ireland, Joey Carbery and Luke McGrath had the opportunity to run the ship in the halfback positions, with their relative lack of control in the first half demonstrating that they are still learning at this level.

Ireland very nearly had the perfect start in the second minute as Garry Ringrose broke through the Italians at the end of a long passage of attack, only to knock the ball on as he attempted to finish – Johan Meyer’s desperate tap tackle proving vital.

Tadhg Beirne score his side's first try Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Schmidt’s side only had to wait another two minutes to grab their opener, Conan breaking off the back of a close-range dummy maul, before Beirne – on his first start for Ireland – battered over to score with Jack McGrath assisting him with a powerful latch.

Carbery converted but then had an ambitious long pass picked off the next time Ireland occupied the Italy 22, Giulio Bisegni’s defensive read seeming to finally spark the Italians into life.

With Ireland struggling to exit their defensive territory convincingly, the Italian pressure built towards flanker Brahm Steyn nearly scoring against the base of the right post.

Captain Rhys Ruddock and Larmour did enough to force a knock-on from Steyn, however, and Schmidt was able to breathe a sigh of relief.

A superb aerial take from Andrew Conway gave Ireland momentum for their second try, Carbery hitting Larmour in midfield and the fullback showing delightful footwork to step off his left, then turning on the acceleration to scorch past Luca Bigi, and linking with Luke McGrath in behind the line.

Jordan Larmour makes a break supported by Luke McGrath Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The scrum-half was rewarded for his typically excellent off-the-ball running as Larmour sent him over for a try converted by Carbery.

14-0 would have been a decent half-time scoreline but again Ireland struggled to exit their half of the pitch and Italy captain Michele Campagnaro made an excellent read on a set play from Schmidt’s side, picking off Ruddock’s inside pass intended for Larmour at the fringe of a ruck.

Campagnaro gleefully strode clear to finish and Canna’s conversion left the Italians trailing 14-7 at the break.

Schmidt may have had a choice word or two at half-time, with Ireland emerging strongly early in the second half. 

Beirne soon picked a superb line off scrum-half McGrath for his second try on the end of a dominant attacking set that featured hooker Sean Cronin making an impact after replacing Niall Scannell during the interval.

Carbery converted for the third time and then had an easy tap-over for his fourth, Larmour intercepting a wild looping pass from Campagnaro wide on Ireland’s left and sprinting home from inside his own half.

Jordan Larmour scores his second try Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The fifth arrived in the 56th minute, Ireland’s forwards applying set-piece pressure at scrum and lineout to drive over for a maul try with Cronin dotting down at the tail and Carbery converting.

Larmour bagged his second score when he danced through some sorry tackle efforts by Luca Sperandio and Steyn down the left-hand 15-metre channel, with debutant Byrne slotting his first two Test points with the conversion.

Ringrose got Ireland’s seventh, being sent clear down the right touchline by Bundee Aki after he broke from a sharp Byrne pullback pass, the out-half also adding a smart conversion. 

But it was Larmour who had the final say, dancing home for a stunning try to underline his talent.

Ireland scorers:

Tries: Tadhg Beirne [2], Luke McGrath, Jordan Larmour [3], Sean Cronin, Garry Ringrose.

Conversions: Joey Carbery [5 from 5], Ross Byrne [2 from 3]

Italy scorers:

Tries: Michele Campagnaro 

Conversions: Carlo Canna [1 from 1]

IRELAND: Jordan Larmour; Andrew Conway, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale (Will Addison ’60); Joey Carbery (Ross Byrne ’60), Luke McGrath (John Cooney ’65); Jack McGrath (Dave Kilcoyne ’51), Niall Scannell (Sean Cronin ‘HT), Andrew Porter (Finlay Bealham ’58); Tadhg Beirne (Devin Toner ’60), Quinn Roux; Rhys Ruddock (captain), Josh van der Flier (Jordi Murphy ’70), Jack Conan. 

ITALY: Luca Sperandio; Mattia Bellini, Michele Campagnaro (captain), Luca Morisi (Guglielmo Palazzani ’74), Giulio Bisegni; Carlo Canna (Ian McKinley ’60), Tito Tebaldi; Nicola Quaglio (Cherif Traore ’22), Luca Bigi (Oliviero Fabiani ’64), Tiziano Pasquali (Giosue Zilocchi ’60); Marco Fuser, George Fabio Biagi (Federico Ruzza ’55); Johan Meyer (Marco Lazzaroni ’64), Abraham Steyn, Renato Giammarioli (Jimmy Tuivaiti ’55).

Referee: Nigel Owens [WRU]. 

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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