Fringe players make their mark as Ireland close out amazing 2018 with victory over the USA
IRELAND 57 UNITED STATES 14
Ireland closed out a historically successful 2018 with their 12th home win in a row as a much-changed side proved far too strong for the United States Eagles.
In front of a sold-out Aviva Stadium, Joe Schmidt’s team crossed for eight tries to hit the half-century mark and overcome a spirited first-half effort from the a team ranked 13th in the world.
They proved tricky customers in the first half-an-hour, but Ireland found a weakness in the visiting scrum and turned the screw after half-time.
Andrew Conway scored hat-trick of tries and added an assist, but it was the sole survivor last week’s win over New Zealand, Garry Ringrose, who stole the show with a classy performance.
Rhys Ruddock led well, while there were first international tries for Stuart McCloskey, Quinn Roux and John Ryan.
Ireland showed their intent within three minutes of kick-off with a superbly worked try that saw Andrew Conway put Rhys Ruddock through a gap and the captain rounded Will Magie and made big gains before drawing the last defender and returning the ball to the Munster winger who crossed for his third international try.
Joey Carbery converted, before Magie missed a chance to get the USA off the mark from right in front or the posts after a sustained attack.
But the visitors got off the mark with a well worked move at the front of their lineout that saw superb hands from Marcel Brache release Joe Taufete’e and the powerful hooker powered through Conway, Dave Kilcoyne and Niall Scannell to score.
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Out-half Magie nailed a much tougher second kick, but the Eagles found themselves back under their own posts within minutes as Conway crossed again; following up on an Iain Henderson turnover and superb Garry Ringrose break to take Will Addison’s neat flick to score in the corner.
Carbery made it 14-7, but the lead didn’t last long as Ireland pulled a maul down on their own ’22 and Magie kicked to the corner to let his forwards repeat the trick. They did just that and, when Henderson hauled it down, referee Ben O’Keeffe headed for the posts and sent the Ulster second-row to the sin-bin.
Ireland went back ahead almost immediately when Carbery punished a Taufete’e offside, but the home side’s cohesion was undermined by the decision to replace Darren Sweetnam with Ross Byrne which forced a complete backline rejig with Carbery moving to full-back and Addison shifting to the left wing.
They went through 20 attacking phases in the USA ’22 before Ringrose forced it and the visitors escaped for a moment before Byrne put Conway through a gap on the inside and he turned provider for Jack Conan to score.
Henderson returned with his team 10 points to the good and he had to be sharp to strip Taufete’e after Tadhg Beirne spilled the restart.
And the Six Nations champions moved into position through scrum and lineout penalties to set up an attacking platform in the ’22 but Scannell’s throw went astray and the USA could clear their lines.
Another attacking lineout was picked off before the whistle for half-time and Ireland led 24-14 at the break.
The US lost Taufete’e to a serious looking head injury and, after a long stoppage for treatment, and Ireland’s dominance at scrum-time continued as they turned down successive kickable penalties ]
Finally, they got their reward as Beirne barrelled his way over from close range and Carbery added the extras.
Conan’s block-down on Shaun Davies set up a Dave Kilcoyne charge into enemy territory that finished with a neat Byrne cross-kick for Stuart McCloskey’s to score, before Roux joined him on the score-board with a close-range finish.
Luke McGrath thought he’d scored a seventh try only to be called back for a Cian Healy forward pass, but Conway got over after a stunning mazy run from Ringrose.
Carbery converted, before Ireland worked their way into position for Ryan to crash over after good build-up play from Ringrose, Arnold and Jordi Murphy.
The No 10's seventh conversion brought the game to a close.
IRELAND – W Addison (S Arnold 41); A Conway, G Ringrose, S McCloskey, D Sweetnam (R Byrne 27); J Carbery, J Cooney (L McGrath 62); D Kilcoyne, N Scannell (R Herring 58), F Bealham (John Ryan 47); T Beirne, I Henderson (Q Roux 58); R Ruddock (capt), J Murphy, J Conan (J van der Flier 67).
UNITED STATES – W Hooley; B Scully (capt), B Campbell, P Lasike, M Brache; W Magie, S Davies (R de Haas 61); T Lamositele (C Wenglewski 56), J Taufete’e (D Fawsitt 44), P Mullen (D Waldren 61); G Peterson (S Manoa 68), N Civetta; J Quill (D Tameilau 68), H Germishuys, C Dolan.
Ref - -B O’Keeffe (New Zealand)