Second string kill off Canada revolt and cruise home
Ireland 52 Canada 21
Not too much was expected of a team who were bottom of Ireland's pool in the World Cup - winless and pretty disappointing in the way they blew the games against Italy and Romania - and with only one game since then against a Tier 1 nation.
Which they lost. Rather this was about Ireland maintaining the head of steam generated in Chicago, and in the process welcoming a whole new band of players to the fold.
It took a while. From a position of 14-0 for Ireland after 22 minutes, to 14-14 after 30 minutes, a game that had been stuttering along towards a landslide suddenly arrested and took on a new complexion. A 31-point gap in the end was fair enough.
As the whistle went for half-time the home team were 21-14 up, and put the ball out of play to get off the field and regroup. Whereupon a scrap of sorts developed, started by Sean O'Brien reacting to Canada's Evan Olmstead who ploughed into the flanker as he was getting off the ground. All-out mills are largely a thing of the past in rugby, but at least this shoving-and-grabbing affair was well-attended.
That little interlude held out the prospect of some more nuggety stuff in the second half. At least it was competitive - so, useful enough for the home team without any obvious setbacks. Sean O'Brien got another hour under his belt, Ultan Dillane had the rare experience at this level of sustained action - and he made the most of his 73 minutes with a man-of-the-match performance - and Cian Healy marked his 60th cap with a huge effort before Dave Kilcoyne replaced him just before the hour.
Keith Earls too looked very sharp, and may well force his way in for round two with the All Blacks on Saturday. Joe Schmidt's selection here gave us the prospect of eight new caps. And between starters and bench that's what he delivered. Perhaps most interest would have been in Garry Ringrose, given that he was been on the radar for a full year now. He did well enough.
Ireland's start had been textbook: playing with tempo and making Canada work very hard before getting their second wind. By the time they could refill their lungs they were 0-7 after Earls got over easily enough in the corner following a driven lineout.
Ireland were still all over their opponents when O'Brien - who if anything looked over-eager to impress, carrying at times when he could have shifted the ball - spilled an inside pass from Jack O'Donoghue on a back-row move off a five-metre scrum. The number eight's debut probably wasn't as good as he would have hoped.
On 22 minutes, however, Luke Marshall got over out wide after an advantage play gave Ireland room to move. Jackson's conversion made it 14-0, but from the kick-off they put themselves in trouble.
The exit off the restart looked to be going according to plan only for Marshall to throw a gimme of an intercept to DTH ven der Merwe. It was the start of a poor run of events for the centre, who, on another night with a different ref, could have been carded subsequently for taking out Canada full-back Matt Evans in the air.
By that stage Canada had levelled through wing Taylor Paris getting over on the back of a maul, but order was restored a couple of minutes before the break when Tiernan O'Halloran scored a lovely try, taking a perfect offload out of the tackle from the excellent Finlay Bealham.
Ireland got the perfect start to the second half with a penalty try off a scrum, which had been very good all night, and that put them out to 28-14. But the Canadians wouldn't go away quietly. On 57 minutes Evans got over in the corner despite the best efforts of O'Halloran, who came within an inch of preventing the grounding.
That was as close as Canada would get, however. They spent most of the final quarter trying to plug holes. For the most part they did it well, for Ireland didn't shift far away from their fairly rigid structure. Still, the visitors would find themselves behind their own sticks four more times before the finish, with debutant James Tracy closing the show as he smuggled the ball over. It was a good way to finish.
Scorers - Ireland: O'Halloran 2 tries; Earls, Marshall, Dillane, Marmion, Tracy try each; Pen try; Jackson 6 cons. Canada: Van der Merwe, Paris, Evans try each; McRorie 3 cons.
Ireland: T O'Halloran; C Gilroy (N Adeolokun 67), G Ringrose, L Marshall, K Earls; P Jackson (J Carbery 68), K Marmion (L McGrath 67); C Healy (D Kilcoyne 58), S Cronin (J Tracy 60), F Bealham (J Ryan 48), U Dillane (D Ryan 73), B Holland, P O'Mahony (capt), J O'Donoghue, S O'Brien (D Leavy 68).
Canada: M Evans; DTH van der Merwe, C Trainor (N Blevins 68), C Hearn, T Paris; C Braid, G McRorie (P Mack 71); D Sears-Duru (R Brouwer 71), R Barkwill (E Howard 76), J Ilnicki (M Tierney 79), B Beukeboom, E Olmstead, K Baillie, A Carpenter (capt) (A Cejvanovic 46), L Rumball (M Heaton 67).
Referee: M ven der Westhuizen (South Africa).
Sunday Indo Sport