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Schmidt's Ireland labour to bonus-point win over Russia in error-strewn performance

Ireland scored five tries but many supporters will be worried by their poor showing in Kobe.

Ireland 35

Russia 0

A BONUS-POINT win means Ireland are still on track for a World Cup quarter-final, but a worryingly poor performance will leave many supporters with concerns about the state of Joe Schmidt’s squad.

The conditions in Kobe Misaki Stadium made for a slippery ball but the sheer scale of Ireland’s error count – 22 turnovers conceded – and the apparent lethargy and lack of conviction are cause for pessimism following on from last weekend’s shock defeat to Japan.

andrew-conway-celebrates-scoring-their-fourth-try-with-tadhg-beirne Andrew Conway scored Ireland's bonus-point try. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Playing against the 20th-ranked team in the world in Russia, who spent 20 minutes of the game with only 14 players due to two yellow cards, Ireland genuinely struggled at times. Add in the fact that Russia rested several frontline players for this game. 

To be fair, even teams as good as the All Blacks have struggled with their handling in the humid conditions in Japan, but the Kiwis still managed to put 63 points on Canada last night, whereas Ireland finished well short of their 52-point favouritism in Kobe.

The errors weren’t limited only to handling, with Ireland conceding scrum penalties and breakdown turnovers, as well as failing to take chances in the Russian 22.

Certainly, prospective quarter-final opponents New Zealand and South Africa won’t be quaking in their boots as Ireland followed up their upset against hosts Japan with another poor showing. 

Adding to the worries, Johnny Sexton played only 40 minutes before being replaced at half-time and was then spotted with ice on his quad on the bench, according to ITV commentary, that injury having kept him out of the Japan clash.

Jordi Murphy, who only linked up with the squad on Monday to replace the injured Jack Conan, lasted just 26 minutes before being forced off in some pain with what looked like a rib injury.

jordi-murphy-goes-off-injured Jordi Murphy was forced off with a worrying injury. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ireland’s back row options now look seriously threadbare, with CJ Stander forced to play 53 minutes as a result of Murphy’s injury, the Munster man having already played the full 160 in the two opening games.

Joey Carbery, who had been set to wear the number 21 shirt, didn’t even make kick-off as he was withdrawn after aggravating his ankle injury at yesterday’s captain’s run. That he is still having issues with the ankle almost eight weeks after initially injuring it is a real concern. 

Ireland did manage five tries and had some good moments in attack, with Rob Kearney, Peter O’Mahony, Rhys Ruddock, Andrew Conway, and Garry Ringrose all dotting down.

Scrum-half Luke McGrath and blindside flanker Ruddock were perhaps the pick of the bunch from an Irish point of view, while Russia deserve credit for beating the expected margin with another hard-working performance in Japan, fullback and captain Vasily Artemyev surely enjoying playing against some familiar faces.

But, all in all, it was a dispiriting evening for Irish supporters even with a bonus-point secured.

This showing leaves Schmidt with plenty of work to do ahead of Ireland’s final pool game against Samoa in nine days’ time when another bonus-point victory would assure them of a quarter-final.

rob-kearney-celebrates-scoring-their-second-try-with-garry-ringrose-and-jonathan-sexton Rob Kearney dotted down Ireland's first try. Source: Jayne Russell/INPHO

Ireland notched three of their tries in the opening half to lead 21-0, the scoring having started as early as the second minute when Rob Kearney finished a classic Schmidt power play from a lineout. 

After strong carries from Bundee Aki and Tadhg Beirne, Ireland bounced back to their right and scrum-half McGrath ran a dummy loop around Murphy, who instead passed back inside to Kearney steaming onto the ball, the fullback rounding Denis Simplikevich for his third try in three games – having been on a drought since 2015 before that.

Ireland weren’t error-free following that good start, but O’Mahony had their second try in the 13th minute as Sexton nudged a clever grubber behind the Russians after lock Andrey Garbuzov knocked-on inside his own 22.

Wearing the number seven shirt, O’Mahony scampered onto Sexton’s invitation and grounded just inside the left post for his second Test try, with his first having come all the way back in 2013 against Samoa – the very first try of the Joe Schmidt era.

Sexton attempted a sneaky quick cross-field kick on a penalty soon after but Keith Earls couldn’t gather as the Russians scrambled. 

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Again, Ireland had a scrappy few minutes after O’Mahony’s score as they botched a five-metre maul when Dave Kilcoyne was pinged for joining ahead of the ball, Kearney was turned over under a high Russian kick, O’Mahony conceded a lineout penalty, and Kilcoyne threw a forward pass.

rhys-ruddock-scores-their-third-try-of-the-game-supported-by-john-ryan-and-peter-omahony Rhys Ruddock scored Ireland's third try. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ireland lost Murphy in the 27th minute but their pressure game eventually told as flanker Bogdan Fedotko was sin-binned due to the Russians’ repeated infringing. Ireland opted for the scrum from the ensuing penalty and battered their way over the tryline, John Ryan latching onto Rhys Ruddock, who showed great leg drive to fight over.

Sexton converted for the 21-0 lead Ireland held at the break, though their final attack was a disappointment as Aki knocked-on from a lineout play.

Connacht man Jack Carty replaced Sexton for the start of the second half and began with an error, spilling a high ball, while Ireland soon wasted a superb opportunity after Garry Ringrose scythed into the Russian 22, only for German Davydov to win a clean turnover at the breakdown.

Aki had another knock-on as Russia exited poorly, compounding Irish frustration. 

Russia came up with a morale-boosting scrum penalty to bring themselves into the Irish 22 but Schmidt’s pack managed to dismantle the Russian maul.   

Ireland’s cause was aided by a second yellow card for the Russians, as replacement lock Andrey Ostrikov was binned for an illegal clearout within a minute of coming onto the pitch, his arm making direct contact with John Ryan’s neck. 

jonathan-sexton-kicks-through-to-set-up-peter-omahony-to-score-their-second-try Sexton only played 40 minutes for Ireland. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Again, though, Ireland were wasteful in the 22 as Earls knocked-on in a tackle after Schmidt’s side played off a maul. 

The Russians had a shot at goal when impressive openside flanker Tagir Gadzhiev won a breakdown turnover penalty, but out-half Ramil Gaisin was wide of the mark in the 57th minute. 

The fourth try did finally arrive with 62 minutes played as Carty chipped a clever kick in behind the Russian defence, Earls thundering forward to collect it on the bounce and slip a pass to Andrew Conway on his right shoulder, the Munster wing finishing past Gaisin from 35 metres out. Carty converted for 28-0.

Iain Henderson, on in the second row, knocked-on over the tryline following a big surge from Stander off a lineout in the 69th minute, denying Ireland a fifth for the time being.

That did come in the 76h minute, however, as Ireland were sparked by Carty and sub fullback Jordan Larmour for perhaps their best score of the evening, breaking from within their own half, with Earls and Larmour handling before Ringrose was sent clear.

Carty added his second conversion to add a little extra gloss to the scoreline before Ringrose had a possible second score chalked off for a knock-on. 

Ireland scorers:

TriesRob Kearney, Peter O’Mahony, Rhys Ruddock, Andrew Conway, Garry Ringrose

ConversionsJohnny Sexton [4 from 4], Jack Carty [2 from 2]

IRELAND: Rob Kearney (Jordan Larmour ’50); Andrew Conway, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Keith Earls; Johnny Sexton (captain) (Jack Carty ‘HT), Luke McGrath; Dave Kilcoyne (Andrew Porter ’57), Niall Scannell (Sean Cronin ’57), John Ryan (Tadhg Furlong ’57); Tadhg Beirne, Jean Kleyn (Iain Henderson ’61); Rhys Ruddock, Peter O’Mahony, Jordi Murphy (CJ Stander ’27).

Replacements: Conor Murray.

RUSSIA: Vasily Artemyev (captain); German Davydov, Igor Galinovskiy, Kirill Golosnitskiy (Vladimir Ostroushko ’15), Denis Simplikevich (Sergey Ianiushkin ’71); Ramil Gaisin, Dmitry Perov; Andrei Polivalov (Valery Morozov ‘HT), Evgeny Matveev (Stanislav Selskii ‘HT), Kirill Gotovtsev (Vladimir Podrezov ’68); Andrey Garbuzov (Andrey Ostrikov ’50 (yellow card ’51)), Bogdan Fedotko (yellow card ’34) (Evgeny Elgin ’68); Anton Sychev (Roman Khodin ’71), Tagir Gadzhiev, Victor Gresev.

Referee: Jerome Garces [France].

About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from Kobe Misaki Stadium

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