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Aki red the only blot as Ireland secure World Cup quarter-final with big win over Samoa

Joe Schmidt’s men were back somewhere close to their best in a seven-try victory in Fukuoka.

Ireland 47

Samoa 5

IN VIRTUALLY EVERY aspect, this went perfectly for Joe Schmidt’s Ireland.

They guaranteed themselves a World Cup quarter-final by recording a very impressive bonus-point win over Samoa, meaning they don’t have to sit through a nervy Sunday to learn if they will have a knock-out game. 

jonathan-sexton-celebrates-his-try-with-james-ryan-conor-murray-and-keith-earls Ireland were impressive in Fukuoka. Source: Jayne Russell/INPHO

Ireland don’t know if they’ll be facing the All Blacks or the Springboks just yet, but this seven-try win over the Samoans gives them timely momentum ahead of their quarter-final next weekend, as they ground Steve Jackson’s side down with a superb showing up front and a masterful display from Johnny Sexton at out-half.

Crucially, Schmidt was able to take Sexton, captain Rory Best, scrum-half Conor Murray and the outstanding Tadhg Furlong off before the game entered the closing 30 minutes. 

James Ryan and Cian Healy followed soon after, meaning Ireland’s key players were all kept out of harm’s way after a cohesive showing from Schmidt’s side.

Even after the changes, Ireland continued scoring as Carbery showed some of his class off the bench as the replacement for Sexton, who had scored two first-half tries. 

Jordan Larmour put his hand up for quarter-final involvement with a superb try-scoring showing from fullback to be named man of the match, while Best, Furlong, CJ Stander, and Andrew Conway all got on the scoresheet too.

But there was one major blot on an otherwise extremely pleasing night for Ireland – Bundee Aki’s first-half red card.

That Ireland played for 50 minutes with only 14 men and still controlled this tie so convincingly was impressive but, given what we’ve seen with bans in this World Cup, Aki’s red card seems likely to see him miss the rest of this tournament.

bundee-aki-after-receiving-a-red-card Aki was sent off in the first half. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

This was a massive day for the Connacht centre and his family as he played against the nation where his parents were born. It lasted only 28 minutes, however, as Aki’s shoulder connected with the head of Samoa out-half UJ Seuteni in a powerful tackle and referee Nic Berry really had no option other than to send him off. 

Aki became the first Ireland player ever to be sent off at a World Cup and it was hard not to feel for him on what should have been a special occasion.

Ireland were already 21-5 to the good when Aki was red-carded and they barely let up even with the numerical disadvantage, squeezing the life out of the Samoans and squeezing an incredible 17 penalty concessions from them too.

Schmidt’s men were clinical down in the Samoan 22, though there was also a willingness to offload out of the tackle at times in what was easily Ireland’s best performance at this World Cup since they hammered Scotland in their opening game.

Now Schmidt’s men wait to see what happens in tomorrow’s final Pool A fixture between Japan and Scotland, which remains a big doubt to go ahead as Typhoon Hagibis prepares to batter Yokohama. 

If, as looks likely, the game is cancelled, Japan will top the pool and face South Africa in the quarter-finals, which would mean Schmidt’s men facing the All Blacks at Tokyo Stadium next Saturday.

rory-best-scores-a-try-as-josh-van-der-flier-celebrates Captain Rory Best opened the scoring for Ireland. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ireland were up and running as early as the fourth minute, captain Rory Best scoring at the back of a well-executed five-metre maul after Sexton had fired a perfect linekick right into the corner.

Henderson claimed Best’s throw, then Stander and Ryan led a smart shift back into the five-metre channel, the maul thundering forward and Best dotting down for Sexton to convert for the perfect start.

The Samoans had hooker Seilala Lam sin-binned from the restart after he connected with Jacob Stockdale’s face in a tackle, referee Nic Berry feeling that the very low height of both players was a mitigating factor to rule out red.

Ireland’s superb opening stanza continued with another successful visit into Samoa’s 22 in the ninth minute, a strong maul laying the platform before a powerful Aki carry. Furlong then swept onto the ball and rampaged his way through four would-be tacklers for an outstanding second try that Sexton converted again.

A big Ryan steal at the lineout relieved pressure for Ireland soon after and despite signs of Robbie Henshaw’s rustiness with an uncharacteristic knock-on, Schmidt’s men kept their momentum motoring with a third score in the 21st minute.

This was perhaps the pick of the bunch as Murray prompted Stander into a hole at the fringe of a ruck, the number eight throwing a return offload before Stockdale carried. Sexton then sent fullback Larmour haring into space in the Samoan defence, the Leinster man throwing a dummy and then firing up a fend before passing one-handed back inside to Sexton for the out-half to dot down and convert for 21-0.

jonathan-sexton-scores-ireland-fourth-try Sexton scored two first-half tries. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

A poor pass from Murray to Healy went to ground soon after, though, and Samoa flooded back at Ireland, ending with them scoring from a five-metre lineout after Henshaw had given up a breakdown penalty.

The Samoans peeled off the back of the close-range maul and captain Jack Lam battered through Stander and Josh van der Flier for an unconverted try.

It was another poor pass, this time from Henshaw over Stockdale’s head, that led to Aki’s red card as the loose ball bounced up for Ah See Tuala to flick back to Samoa out-half UJ Seuteni. Aki barely had time to adjust but hammered his shoulder into Seuteni’s face, with Berry calmly working through the TMO process to reach his red-card decision.

Ireland wobbled briefly after the card but composed themselves to seal their bonus-point just before half-time, battering away in Samoa’s 22 until Stander was held up over the tryline.

From the five-metre scrum, Ireland went into the blindside channel, where Sexton was able to slip through Dwayne Polataivao’s poor tackle attempt to score his second. 

Ireland led 26-5 at the break and they had a fifth try within 10 minutes of the restart, more Samoa indiscipline giving them a platform in the 22, where they were held up over the tryline twice – Furlong and Larmour – before winning a series of scrum penalties.

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jordan-larmour-scores-their-fifth-try Larmour crosses for Ireland's fifth try. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

They eventually quick-tapped and then Murray threw a beautiful cut-out pass to beat the defensively poor Samoa wing Ed Fidow, allowing Larmour to finish in the right corner, the fullback thankful for a selfless decoy line from Earls on his inside.

Sexton converted from wide right with his last action of the game, Joey Carbery coming on for the closing 30 minutes as Niall Scannell replaced Best, while Murray joined them in putting the feet up soon after – Furlong having departed just before Larmour’s try. 

Steve Jackson’s side continued to infringe and Ireland simply kept the pressure on, with Samoa openside TJ Ioane binned in the 59th minute for not rolling away as Ireland hammered away at their tryline. 

Jean Kleyn was denied a try with another hold up over the line very soon after replacing Ryan in the second row, but Stander deservedly powered over for Ireland’s sixth try having carried relentlessly all evening.

Andrew Conway, only fresh onto the pitch for Henshaw, was next to dot down as he chased a very clever Carbery grubber down the right-hand side for his ninth Test try, with the replacement out-half stroking over the conversion from out wide for the final scoreline of 47-5. 

Ireland scorers:

Tries: Rory Best, Tadhg Furlong, Johnny Sexton [2], Jordan Larmour, CJ Stander, Andrew Conway

Conversions: Johnny Sexton [4 from 5], Joey Carbery [2 from 2]

Samoa scorers:

Tries: Jack Lam

Conversions: Henry Taefu [0 from 1]

IRELAND: Jordan Larmour; Keith Earls, Robbie Henshaw (Andrew Conway ’63), Bundee Aki (red card ’29), Jacob Stockdale; Johnny Sexton (Joey Carbery ’50), Conor Murray (Luke McGrath ’53); Cian Healy (Dave Kilcoyne ’57), Rory Best (captain) (Niall Scannell ’50), Tadhg Furlong (Andrew Porter ’45); Iain Henderson, James Ryan (Jean Kleyn ’57); Tadhg Beirne (Peter O’Mahony ’60), Josh van der Flier, CJ Stander.

SAMOA: Tim Nanai Williams; Ah See Tuala, Alapati Leiua, Henry Taefu, Ed Fidow (Kieron Fonotia ’52); UJ Seuteni (Tusi Pisi ’29), Dwayne Polataivao (Pele Cowley ’70); Logovi’i Mulipola (Jordan Lay ’47), Seilala Lam (yellow card ’6 (Ray Niuia ’47)), Michael Alaalatoa (Paul Alo-Emile ’53); Teofilo Paulo (Ray Niuia ’14 to ’17)) (Piula Fa’aselele ’53), Kane Le’aupepe; Chris Vui, TJ Ioane (yellow card ’59) (Josh Tyrell ’70), Jack Lam.

Referee: Nic Berry [Australia].

About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium

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