Sunday 22 September 2019

Five things we learned from Ireland's 57-14 win over the USA: Clean sweep secured but tonight wasn't pretty

John Ryan of Ireland is congratulated by team-mate Rob Herring after scoring his side's eighth try during the Guinness Series International match between Ireland and USA at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
John Ryan of Ireland is congratulated by team-mate Rob Herring after scoring his side's eighth try during the Guinness Series International match between Ireland and USA at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Ireland stuttered at the beginning of the game before ultimately putting 43 points between themselves and the Americans. Here's what we gleaned from the game.

1 – Ireland finish impressive November Series on a high

It wasn't pretty but Ireland got the job done to finish what has been an outstanding November series on a positive note.

Ireland racked up their 12th win in-a-row against a USA side that made it difficult for the hosts but their class ultimately shone through.

Ross Byrne got more time than expected from the bench, which Joe Schmidt will have looked at as a positive, while in switching to full-back, Joey Carbery was sharp in stepping in as second receiver.

Garry Ringrose was a class apart in everything he did and it was interesting to watch him take on more of a leadership role.

The centre has spoken about finding his voice and then using it at the right times and he certainly did so during the first half after Ireland conceded a sloppy try.

Ringrose summoned the team under the posts and presumably spoke a few harsh truths. This is exactly what Schmidt wants from his younger players and Ringrose certainly stood up.

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The lineout creaked once again, which highlighted the importance of Rory Best and Devin Toner to the set-piece.

Dave Kilcoyne impressed and will feel that he is heaping the pressure on Jack McGrath as back up to Cian Healy. Strong in the scrum, Kilcoyne had a couple of big carries that really got Ireland on the front foot.

Overall, some players will feel that they could have done more, especially because some of them may not feature again until the World Cup warm-up games next summer but by and large this was another positive step along the way to the Japan.

2 – Disjointed hosts take a while to click into gear

Schmidt warned that this would not be as easy for Ireland as many expected and the head coach was proven to be right for the most part.

Ireland were sloppy throughout what was a scrappy first half display, and while they did score three tries, Schmidt will not be happy with having conceded two of their own.

The disjointedness was perhaps best summed after 23 minutes when the USA were awarded a penalty try and several Ireland players went under the posts awaiting the conversion.

It wasn't until referee Ben O'Keefe reminded them that the rule has been changed and a penalty try is now an automatic seven points. It wasn't a great look all told, especially not for Schmidt team that is so well drilled.

A serious injury to USA hooker Joe Taufete'e early in the second half didn't help either team's cohesion and while Ireland would have expected their superior fitness to tell, to the visitors' credit, they didn't throw in the towel despite being out-played.

3 – Hat-trick hero Conway stakes his claim

Andrew Conway has had to stay patient – too patient for his own good at times, as he explained in today's Irish Independent.

Against Italy in Chicago (his only other start this month), he was starved of possession while others around him carved up the Azzurri defence.

Getting five minutes at the end of the Argentina game didn't exactly give him much time to impress and then when he sat out last week's epic over the All Blacks, Conway knew how important tonight's game was.

The Munster flyer grabbed his opportunity with both hands with a fine display of counter-attacking rugby that included three tries as well as an assist for Jack Conan.

Conway's try after three minutes summed up exactly what he meant when he said:

“I need to be better at coming off my wing - bossing work and moving lads around and getting my hands on the ball."

He did just that as he darted in off the right flank, beat a couple of defenders before linking with Rhys Ruddock for what was a superb try.

He completed his hat-trick late in the day after a searing break from Ringrose to round off what were fine performances from two of the best players on the pitch.

Schmidt is a big fan of Conway and it's easy to see why. Injuries haven't helped his progress but when he plays for Ireland, he invariably delivers.

Conway also boasts a proud 100pc record at international level. Played 10, won 10. Not too shabby.

4 – USA show they are moving in the right direction

It was always going to take a major upset for anything other than a home win but USA made a decent fist of what was a competitive contest.

There was good shape to their attack, which former St Michael's and Ireland women's coach Greg McWilliams can take a lot of credit for.

Considering the USA were without their main play-maker AJ MacGinty, they varied the point of attack well but showed their vulnerability in defence by switching off too easily.

Cork native John Quill put in a big shift from the back-row and added plenty of physicality around the breakdown, while Inis Mor's Paul Mullen will be all the better for the experience at scrum time.

Former Blackrock College student Dylan Fawsitt, who hails from Wexford and won a Leinster Schools Senior Cup medal alongside Jordi Murphy and Conway, came off the bench and showed well.

They have a long road still ahead of them but there was enough in this performance to suggest that USA are at least on the right road.

5 – Arnold makes his debut in unfamiliar position

In making his debut from bench, Sammy Arnold became the 37th player that Schmidt has capped since the 2015 World Cup.

It's fair to say however, that the Munster centre wouldn't have envisaged his first appearance in green coming on the left wing.

The number 11 jersey was something of a poisoned chalice at the Aviva as firstly Darren Sweetnam was taken off in the first half and then after the versatile Will Addison switched from full-back to wing, the Ulster player was forced off with a HIA that he failed.

That meant that Arnold was summoned from the bench for the second half, and while he did sometimes play on the wing in his early days with Ulster, he hasn't done so since joining Munster.

In many ways it was harsh on the 22-year old, who would have been desperate to impress in his more familiar midfield position but the ball just didn't come his way out wide.

Arnold did manage to engineer a penalty for Ireland after the hour mark with a big tackle on Will Hooley after a good chase from Luke McGrath's box-kick.

It was the kind of intervention that Arnold would have craved but as it was, he had to take one for the team in an unfamiliar position.

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