The future is bright: Irish young guns turn on the style to overcome spirited Canada
Ireland 52 Canada 21
The kids are alright, but Joe Schmidt and Ireland’s focus has already switched to the big, bad men in black who come looking for revenge next weekend.
The Ireland coach handed out eight new caps at the Aviva Stadium as Ireland cruised - a little too much at times – to victory over a game Canada side but the debutants are likely to be filed away for the future ahead of next week.
They scored eight tries to Canada’s three and the concessions will be the focus of the head coach’s review.
He won’t dwell on it for long with the re-match looming and all eyes were on Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien, Paddy Jackson and Keith Earls who were looking to force their way into the match-day 23 that made history at Soldier Field last week.
Earls and O’Brien were to the forefront of the effort from the off, while captain O’Mahony and out-half Jackson steered the ship well.
The standout performer, however, was Ultan Dillane who followed up a fine impact off the bench last week with an all-action display here, while Garry Ringrose and Jack O’Donoghue enjoyed sharp debuts.
Whether they did enough to disturb the sleep of the 14 Soldier Field heroes rested remains to be seen, but they gave Schmidt food for thought.
The perfectionist in the Kiwi will rage at the sloppy play that allowed Canada draw in Ireland’s 14-0 lead and some of the loose play that undid good work. It was a long way from what he expects and the eight new caps will surely learn that in the video analysis room.
Not that Ireland will dwell too long on this one as the world champions come back into view.
Earls looked determined to grab his chance to put some heat back on Chicago star Simon Zebo and he scored Ireland’s first try after six minutes.
After two promising touches, his finish was a simple on as Ireland’s lineout maul sucked the Canadians in-field to allow Kieran Marmion peel off and draw Lucas Rumball to put the Munster wing over.
Paddy Jackson converted and, while Canada did upset the Irish scrum at the first set, the visitors lacked attacking nous and a huge Jack O’Donoghue tackle put Ireland back on the front-foot and superb clean breaks from Sean O’Brien and Ultan Dillane established good field position.
O’Brien knocked on an inside ball from Marmion with the line at his mercy, but Ireland didn’t dwell on their missed chance and continued to attack.
Garry Ringrose thought he’d marked his debut with a try, but Jackson’s pass was judged forward and they had to wait a few more minutes before good work from Cian Healy and O’Brien set up space for Earls who danced in between Conor Trainor and Connor Braid, off-loaded to Jackson and this time his floated effort was perfect for Luke Marshall to cross for his second Ireland try.
Again Jackson added the extras, but Marshall then undid his own good work as Ireland tried to attack from their own ’22 from the kick-off, but DTH van der Merwe picked off his pass and drew a try back for the Canadians.
Gordon McRorie converted and buoyed by their score the Canadians went and got another as Earls was penalised for holding on, before O’Brien had hands in the ruck and the tourists went for a 15-man maul that saw winger Taylor Paris touch down.
McRorie drew the sides level from the touchline and suddenly Ireland found themselves in a game they clearly hadn’t anticipated.
After a costly sloppy period, they became cagey as the Canadians warmed to their tasks.
But once the Irish re-gathered their composure as Earls sat down MacRorie and neat play from O’Donoghue and a beautiful Finlay Bealham off-load released Tiernan O’Halloran for his first international try.
Jackson converted to give his side a 21-14 lead and the half ended with a bit of a row as O’Brien and Evan Olmstead got to know each other a little better.
Ireland were noticeably sharper around the breakdown in the moments after half-time and with Dillane at the vanguard of a long series of attacking phases, they forced the Canadians offside.
Peter O’Mahony chose the scrum and, after the men in red collapsed the first effort, he went again with the same result as referee Marius van der Westhuizen awarded a penalty try.
Ireland’s momentum was checked when Billy Holland was harshly penalised for a neck roll on Kyle Baillie.
The Canadians again took advantage with a well-worked try from Evans who managed to dot down despite a fine O’Halloran tackle and MacRorie’s conversion kept the North Americans in touch.
That lasted a minute as Earls’ brilliant kick chase and tackle forced van der Merwe to knock-on and Ireland attacked.
O’Brien, Dave Kilcoyne and John Ryan all carried before Dillane got the try his display deserved with a powerful carry.
Jackson re-established the lead with the conversion and Ireland’s dominant scrum handed Kieran Marmion his first international try.
That was to be that as the benches emptied, the crowd went for a Mexican Wave and Ireland finished with a second O’Halloran try and a debut score from James Tracy to take the score past 50.
IRELAND – T O’Halloran; C Gilroy (N Adeolokun 66), G Ringrose, L Marshall, K Earls; P Jackson (J Carbery 68), K Marmion (L McGrath 66); C Healy (D Kilcoyne 57), S Cronin (J Tracy 60), F Bealham (J Ryan 48); U Dillane (D Ryan 74), B Holland; P O’Mahony (capt), S O’Brien (D Leavy 68), J O’Donoghue.
CANADA – M Evans; DTH van der Merwe, C Trainor, C Hearn (N Blevins 68), T Paris; C Braid, G McRorie (P Mack 70); D Sears-Duru (R Brouwer 71), R Barkwill (E Howard 62 – 68, 75), J Ilnicki; B Beukeboom, E Olmstead; K Baillie, L Rumball (M Heaton 67), A Carpenter (capt) (A Cejvanovic 46).
Referee: M van der Westhuizen (South Africa)