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Dublin: 9°C Tuesday 18 May 2021


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While the lads on ITV are grappling with a giant touchscreen television, we’d best get up to speed with the two teams.

Declan Kidney has “gambled” in the eyes of many, opting for nine changes from the team that beat Australia last week. But if he doesn’t test the peripheral players now, when will he?

Ireland: Kearney, McFadden, Earls, Wallace, Trimble, O’Gara, Boss; Healy, Cronin, Buckley, O’Callaghan, Cullen, Ryan, O’Brien, Heaslip.

Russia: Artemyev, Simplikevich, Kuzin, Trishin, Ostroushko, Rachkov, Yanyushkin; Popov, Tsnobiladze, Khrokin, Antonov, Byrnes, Fatakhov, Garbusov, Gresev.

We’re underway and, after an opening phase or two, a Russian kick to touch leaves Ireland with a lineout inside their own 22.

Ireland spin the ball right-to-left across the back line. The move amounts to nothing and a nonchalant O’Gara kicks to touch.

Note: unless my ears deceived me, the anthems were sung by the incredibly-named ‘New Zealand Oral Federation.’

Ireland have driven to within five metres of the Russian line. Excelling at the war of attrition, they’re… awarded a penalty.

O’Gara can’t miss (no, really: he’s right under the posts).

Ireland 3-0 Russia

Rachkov gets up to some mischief, halting an Irish move by slapping the ball out of the air. A yellow card results.

The cheek of him.

Try for Ireland! After looking content to allow the pack to grind their way over the line, Boss, whips the ball from the base of a scrum and tosses it to O’Gara. His perfectly-weighted cross-field kick finds the arms of Fergus McFadden, who collects the ball with a sliding, baseball-style lunge into the across the line.


Ireland 10-0 Russia

Russia have conceded four penalties inside the first twelve minutes. Ouch.

Good work from Keith Earls and Sean Cronin sends Ireland hurtling towards the Russian line. Sean O’Brien completes the move to claim Ireland’s second try.

O’Gara converts for another maximum return. Flawless.

Ireland 17-0 Russia

This has the air of a training exercise about it. Ireland aren’t meeting much opposition at the breakdown and, as a result, are largely free to ping the ball about the pitch.

Ooooh! First error from Ireland. And it’s from… Tony Buckley for– you guessed it!– poor binding at the scrum.

The ball’s back with Ireland. Everyone seem to be making yards.

Heaslip spills the ball forward, but the Craig Joubert was playing advantage and calls the ball back. Russia were offside (again). Ireland kick to the corner and, after claiming the lineout, promptly shoot themselves in the foot. Buckley and Ryan were deemed to be offside at the maul.

Russia enjoy their first spell of possession and, after Kuzin breaks the Irish line, succeed in spinning the ball out left towards McFadden. The charge is halted, but they’re awarded a penalty, which they duly kick to touch. The lineout, however, is crooked. That should shock the defensive complacency out of Ireland.

Russia go though a number of phases before Donncha Ryan decided enough is enough and wades through the ruck to claim the ball. He doesn’t leave with it, but Joubert awards him a penalty.

O’Gara attempts another cross-field kick, this time to Trimble, but the wing is beaten in the air and allowed to charge unopposed into the Irish half.

Rob Kearney, back to his old, twinkle-toed self dances about it midfield a bit before tossing the ball out right.

Metres short of the Russian line, the ball finds the arms of Kearney. His bid for the line is aided by O’Brien and Heaslip, but the Russians mount a stern defence and drive the trio backwards, winning a penalty in the process.

Mexican waves are rolling about the stadium. *sigh*

Sean O’Brien emerges from the base of a ruck in full, Incredible Hulk mode. He claims he was headbutted and points a threatening finger in the direction of an innocent-looking Russian.. too innocent-looking, methinks.

Try for Ireland!

A very flat pass from Andrew Trimble releases Keith Earls, who glides over in the corner.

The TMO, who can’t comment on the forward pass (hurrah!), gives the nod… and O’Gara converts.

Ireland 31-0- Russia

Try for Ireland! An Irish offensive move is capped by Andrew Trimble, who runs the ball in comfortably.

O’Gara doesn’t make the conversion, but it’s…

Ireland 36-0 Russia

Half-time: Ireland 36-0 Russia

The national side is turning in an utterly dominant performance in Rotorua. In spite of some persistant Russian infringement at the breakdown, Ireland have run in five first-half tries.

George Hook– believe it or not, folks– isn’t happy. Russia are being victimised! O’Brien is carrying too much ball!


Reason #13,276 why Stalin was a complete git: he banned rugby.

Ireland begin the half with some more enterprising running in the middle of the park. Again, Kearney and Healy are at the heart of the action.

Kearney’s got that “It would be annoying if he wasn’t Irish” bounce back in his step…

The only thing standing between Russia and the Irish try line is a defensive lineout…

… it’s claimed by Leo Cullen, and Boss pops the resulting box kick over the Russian line.

Russia are pinged for failing to release the ball and O’Gara biffs a kick downfield.

Earls is over for Ireland’s sixth try! Ireland are going through the phases, swinging contentedly from one side of the pitch to the other. Suddenly, Keith Earls comes onto a pass at pass, jinks to his left to avoid a would-be tackler and, slipping the challenge, lengthens his stride to run the ball in under the posts.

O’Gara makes the conversion.

Ireland 43-0 Russia

Try for Russia! Vasily Artemyev weaves his way through to the Irish defence, before sliding over the try line.

I was unreliably informed yesterday, by an ex-classmate of the Blackrock man, that he “wasn’t that good”. That was, I’m now certain, a complete pile of nonsense.

Russia have the conversion. It’s…

Ireland 43-7 Russia

Kearney appeared to twist his knee in the run-up to Artemyev’s try, staying down long after his opposite number crossed the line. Worrying.

Shane Jennings comes on to replace Sean O’Brien. The flanker jogs to the sideline, bopping his improbably large arms as he goes.

Another try for Russia! For the second time in a handful of minutes, Ireland are taken completely unawares by the pace and dynamism of the Russian backline. Ostroushko’s diagonal run across the midfield drags a number of Irish defenders in its wake, and his last-second offload grants Simplikevich the half-yard of space he need to side-step inside and power over into the right corner.

Ireland 42-12 Russia

Substituions: Ross for Healy; Leamy for O’Callaghan; Murphy for Earls.

Try for Ireland! After squandering two try-scoring opportunities in the space of a minute, a combination of quick hands and aggressive running allows Rob Kearney to jog over unopposed.

O’Gara, who’s been in phenomenal form this evening, slots the resulting kick from the left touchline.

Ireland 50-12 Russia

Substitutions: Reddan for Boss; Sexton for O’Gara.

It’s been a scrappy second half, marred  in somewhat by Irish complacency in defence and vulnerability in the scrum (I’m not looking at anyone in particular, but… *cough* Buckley *cough*).

Russia are granted a reprieve when Tony Buckley’s penalised for coming in from the wrong side of a ruck. The Eastern Europeans, who’re looking increasingly tired, are grateful for the free yards.

Try for Ireland! Shane Jennings opts to pick-and-drive when, given the decreasing Russian work-rate, a pick-and-slow-motion-roll would have sufficed.

Sexton gets his first points on the board.

Ireland 57-12 Russia

Russia find touch from the restart, gifting Ireland a scrum on the half-way line. Reddan tries to find an onrushing Geordan Murphy, by the ball’s recovered by Artemyev. He slips, but eventually finds touch.

With three minutes left on the clock, Ireland are probing the Russian defence in search of a final try.

Try for Ireland! The ball winds its way down the line before settling in the arms of Tony Buckley. The prop does what he does best and move in a straight line through/over three Russian defenders.

Sexton misses the conversion, prompting a sideways glance from Ronan O’Gara in the direction of an animated-looking Isaac Boss.

Ireland 62-12 Russia

Full-time: Ireland 62-12 Russia

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