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Dublin: 1 °C Tuesday 28 January, 2020


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Good morning and welcome to our latest Saturday start yet at this year’s Rugby World Cup.

The reason for the lie-in is, of course, typhoon Habibis which is lashing Japan as we speak. New Zealand v Italy and England v France were cancelled and a fixture with real ramifications for Ireland, Japan v Scotland, is under threat tomorrow.

Ireland can seal their place in the last eight today, however.

A bonus point win will mean safe passage. Whether that leaves us with a quater-final against New Zealand or South Africa will depend on (A) whether Japan-Scotland goes ahead and (B) what the result will be.

Images from Japan overnight are painting a picture of a very serious weather situation indeed. 

It will be a feat if tomorrow’s Pool A decider goes ahead.


And there are reports of an earthquake now to throw into the mix. Here’s hoping everyone stays safe.

Joe Schmidt’s not happy with the pitch in Fukuoka, he won’t be happy if we come to face New Zealand on a near-two-week turnaround, but he’ll be delighted to have Jonathan Sexton and Robbie Henshaw in his back-line as Ireland attempt to conjure up some form.


15. Jordan Larmour
14. Keith Earls
13. Robbie Henshaw
12. Bundee Aki
11. Jacob Stockdale
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Conor Murray

1. Cian Healy
2. Rory Best (captain)
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Iain Henderson
5. James Ryan
6. Tadhg Beirne
7. Josh van der Flier
8. CJ Stander


16. Niall Scannell
17. Dave Kilcoyne
18. Andrew Porter
19. Jean Kleyn
20. Peter O’Mahony
21. Luke McGrath
22. Joey Carbery
23. Andrew Conway  


15. Tim Nanai Williams
14. Ah See Tuala
13. Alapati Leiua
12. Henry Taefu
11. Ed Fidow
10. UJ Seuteni
9. Dwayne Polataivao

1. Logovi’i Mulipola
2. Seilala Lam
3. Michael Alaalatoa
4. Teofilo Paulo
5. Kane Le’aupepe
6. Chris Vui
7. TJ Ioane
8. Jack Lam


16. Ray Niuia
17. Paul Alo-Emile
18. Jordan Lay
19. Piula Fa’aselele
20. Josh Tyrell
21. Pele Cowley
22. Tusi Pisi
23. Kieron Fonotia

Referee: Nic Berry [Australia].

The teams are out in Fukuoka. The Pacific island supporters are bringing a nice splash of colour to the stands.

Here come the jaunty anthems.

Right, that’s all the formalities and talking over with, Ireland know what they need to do to reach the quarter-finals again, and by god, I think they’ll do it.

Official prediction: Ireland 33 Samoa 12.


KICK-OFF: Tim Nanai-Williams kicks off, short and Henderson gathers the ball around the 10.

Samoa showing early intent to ignore resourcing Irish rucks, instead fanning out wide and inviting long kicks.


A bit of kick-tennis ends with Nana-Williams finding touch on thee Samoa 10. Decent attacking platform for Ireland.


Ireland again go to the boot, Sexton lofting an up-and-under to the left corner on an advantage play.

It’s marked, so Sexton gets the ball back and kicks to the five-metre line.

This is very much scoring territory.


The TMO wanted a long review of that score, suggesting that CJ Stander was disconnected as he formed the spearhead of Ireland’s maul.

The set-piece sliced through Samoa’s pack and delivered a try for the skipper.

The vice-captain steps up and sends a beaut of a touchline conversion through the posts.

Ireland 7 Samoa 0


SIN-BIN: Seilala Lam

The hooker gets a yellow card for connecting with Jacob Stockdale’s jaw.

You can understand his frustration because he had his knees nicely bent and his back very low. Refereee Nic Berry shows some understanding of that as he mitigates the head contact down to a yellow due to a ‘significant drop’ in the height of Stockdale as he carried into contact.


There’s a signal loss in the broadcast feed between yellow card and Ireland’s attacking line-out, but we come back in time to see Schmidt’s pack bullocking up at the line.

And they go wide to find the most bullish of them all, Tadhg Furlong bounces off Alapati Leiua and spins with those ballet dancer’s feet before smashing through another hit to make the try-line.

Ireland 14 Samoa 0


Ireland looking strong and fluid in attack as they starve Samoa of possession… until Bundee Aki comes close to gifting the ball.

The centre is lucky not to be picked off for an intercept try. Wing Ed Fidow looked set to clamp two hands on the loose pass, but put it down.


And one error is compounded by another. Sexton aims for the corner on the penalty, but overcooks it and the ball goes dead.

Samoa’s scrum and they force a penalty, which turns into an attacking line-out in Ireland’s 22.


Back roar Ireland. 

No sign of them getting down on themselves after errors today. James Ryan comes up with a big line-out steal. Keith Earls brilliantly beats Nanai-Williams in an aerial contest and Murray kicks again instantly to pin Samoa back in their own third again.


They look like Ireland again.

There’s a little bit more cut, more thrust, more confidence and intent about how Ireland are going about their business.

Sexton gets the score thanks to a lovely step by Larmour out on the right flank. The young back tosses the pass back inside to his out-half to run in.

Ireland 21 Samoa 0



Ireland run a loop and Samoa read it like a pop-up book, Leiua absolutely smashed the Ireland playmaker after he passed the ball.

Sexton’s up and about after the collision. Great stuff.


A penalty, a mis-placed pass and a charge from lock Kane Le’aupepe gets Samoa on the front foot.

Lam touches down as Samoa show their mauling power down in Ireland’s left corner.

The conversion is missed though, so Ireland’s advantage remains 16 points.


Samoa’s dander is up and a loose pass from Henshaw forces a scramble between Stockdale and advancing blue shirts.

Aki goes chasing after Samoa regather and Berry calls a halt. 

The Connacht man could be in trouble for a head hit here.


We gave credit to Berry earlier and, carrying his logic forward, it’s hard to argue against the way he’s applied the framework.

It’s a huge blow for Ireland, who must now play with 14 men for the 52 minutes ahead.

UJ Seuteni is off for a HIA. It was a bad blow to the head.


Well, well, well. That is a seismic blow for Ireland. Even if they can hold off the Samoa comeback, Aki will miss the quarters and his team-mates will go to the last eight after a sapping 14-man effort.


Ireland haven’t reacted with as much shock as we have, mind. 

They’re on the attack after another line-out. Sexton and Larmour probing for haps and Healy and Ryan trying to punch their way over the line.

Flag 40Mins

TRY! Ireland 26 Samoa 5 (Sexton ’39)

Bonus point secured, now just to close out the win.

Flag 40Mins

HALF-TIME:  Ireland 26 Samoa 5

The conversion is missed, but Ireland made a statement with that fourth try just before the interval.

Sexton took the ball one-out and feigned to pass wide to Stockdale before breaking through himself.

Heartbreaking for Aki. No intent to do harm in the hit, but it was still a head hit.

nic-berry-gives-bundee-aki-a-red-card Source: Jayne Russell/INPHO


bundee-aki-after-receiving-a-red-card Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Right then, here comes the second half.

14 Ireland players against 15 Samoans and we have a 21-point head start.


Ireland showing trust in their maul and at this stage why not.

A penalty comes and they set up another rumble. Best charges at the line first, before the pick-and-go, pick-and-go towards the posts.

Furlong crashes over and Berry signals it’s held up. We’ll have a look.


TMO decision agrees with Berry’s call and so we go to an Ireland scrum V.


Penalty advantage coming on the scrum and Sexton grubbers through under the sticks.

Earls chases, but he’s checked on the way.

I’d say we’ll be back scrummaging again very soon.


Sexton attempts a quick raid on the short side, but Larmour and Earls are thwarted.


A quick-tap penalty keeps Ireland attacking and testing the structure of the blue defence. A beautiful Conor Murray pass off the base of a ruck hits Larmour in stride in the corner.

Sexton is still looking on form, nailing the conversion.

Ireland 33 Samoa 5


That conversion was Sexton’s last act of the day. Joey Carbery will come in for some valuable minutes at out-half and the lead playmaker can rest up for the knockout games.

Schmidt said the plan was to give him 60 minutes today, but he looked in decent fettle. As did Conor Murray, who is now headed ashore with Luke McGrath running the opposie way.


Ireland relishing being a man down now and attacking with minimal width while chasing a score.

Samoa giving away penalty after penalty, so it may soon be a 14-on-14 game.


Cian Healy now joins Tadhg Furlong and Rory Best in cotton wool. Scannell, Kilcoyne and Porter are in the game and leading another forward-led push for the whitewash.


That’s two occasions now when Ireland have sucked in a huge number of defenders in and Carbery has had a chance to whip it wide, but cuts himself.

It looks very much like this is a directive from Schmidt rather than Ireland playing as they see it.


SIN-BIN: TJ Ioane pays the price for persistent Samoa penalties.


Peter O’Mahony and Jean Kleyn have also been introduced in recent minutes and they may have just combined for another Irish try.

O’Mahony claimed a line-out and got the ball away to change the point of focus in the maul. After a ruck, Kleyn certainly got over the line. But is it down?


Replay is clear enough showing the ball held up. Penalty comes for Ireland, because CJ Stander was unmercifully smashed late after passing the ball away.


CJ was clearly intent on getting a score for all the physical punishment he has endured today. 

After going at the line off a scrum, he has a second go with O’Mahony on his shoulder and gets his reward. Carbery adds the extras now too.

Ireland 40 Samoa 5


TRY! Ireland 45 Samoa 5 (Conway ’70) 


Try number 7 for 14-man Ireland comes from Carbery’s grubber dotted down by Conway.

The Munster 10 delivers the conversion too.

Ireland 47 Samoa 5


Samoa push for a late consolation. They’ll be disappointed not to have caused the 14 men more problems, but this has been a very sure-footed Irish performance.


The TMO review of Samoa’s would-be try finds a double movement.

Current captain Peter O’Mahony makes sure that Berry knows the sanction is a penalty.

When the ref eventually gets to fully explain the decision, we can hear Jack Lam’s reaction.

‘aw, f**k off!’

And that’s it. A tumultuous pool stage comes to an end for Ireland they book a place in the quarter-finals.

Even with 14 men, today’s performance was a big step up from the loss to Japan and win over Russia. It might be just the up-take they needed ahead of a knockout clash with the All Blacks or South Africa.

As typhoon Habibis hits Japan, we’re could find out this evening which of those formidable opponents Ireland will face. 

About the author:

Sean Farrell


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