Irish rugby’s wonder year: Ruaidhri O'Connor rates the 43 tries and one drop goal
Whether it was beating the All Blacks in Dublin for the first time, claiming a Grand Slam in Twickenham or winning a series in Australia, 2018 was an unforgettable season for Irish rugby. Ruaidhri O'Connor rates the 43 tries – and 1 memorable drop goal – that delivered historic success for Joe Schmidt’s team
1 Jacob Stockdale
Try 1: Ireland 16 New Zealand 9
Ireland needed a moment of inspiration to give their dominant performance the score it deserved and they went deep into their play-book for this one. Peter O’Mahony secured Rory Best’s throw and popped it down to Kieran Marmion. The scrum-half found Johnny Sexton who pulled it back to Bundee Aki on the reverse. The centre drew a defender and found the waiting Jacob Stockdale who had Best for support. Spotting space, the winger opted to chip over the defence, beating Aaron Smith to the bounce and crashing over for an unforgettable try that had the Aviva Stadium on its feet and took the team towards a historic first home win over the All Blacks.
2 CJ Stander
Try 2: England 15 Ireland 24
In the highest pressure game of the year, Ireland produced a score of stunning quality as they launched one of Joe Schmidt’s trademark power-plays off clean lineout ball just inside the English 10-metre line. Johnny Sexton passed to Tadhg Furlong who used his out-half’s wrapping line as a decoy and instead found the onrushing Bundee Aki. The centre powered through the gap and ignored Garry Ringrose on his right shoulder for the more difficult pass to CJ Stander who was charging inside him. The No 8 took the ball at full pelt and carried a couple of English defenders over the line.
3 Jordan Larmour
Try 8: Ireland 54 Italy 7
Not the most important try, but probably the most jaw-dropping. There didn’t look like there was much on when John Cooney found Larmour on the left wing in his own half as the match went into injury time, but the full-back once again showed his magic feet as he stood Federico Ruzza up, rounded Luca Sperandino and sidestepped Tito Tebaldi and Guglielmo Palazzani to score a stunning try.
"Agility isn't just about change of direction, it is about a change in speed." Prof Jeffreys @USW_SandC— Setanta College (@SetantaCollege) November 3, 2018
Congrats to @RhysRuddock and @IrishRugby on a great performance in Chicago.
📹 @eirSport 👀 #JordanLarmour pic.twitter.com/5YPTJwymzh
4 Jacob Stockdale
Try 1: Ireland 37 Wales 27
This score was all about Johnny Sexton’s pass. The out-half hadn’t much space to work with, but he hit winger Stockdale with a hard, flat ball that took three defenders out of the game for the Ulster man to score.
5 Jacob Stockdale
Try 5: Ireland 37 Wales 27
The Aviva Stadium was growing increasingly nervous after Wales’ second-half comeback, but Stockdale ended the game as a contest when he gambled on Gareth Anscombe’s long, floated pass and ran in his second intercept try of the campaign.
6 Andrew Conway
Try 1: Ireland 57 USA 14
The Munster winger came in off his wing to accept Joey Carbery’s switch-pass and drew the defence towards him before releasing Rhys Ruddock into space. The Leinster flanker did brilliantly with an arcing run before he returned the ball to Conway to finish a score of huge quality.
Andrew Conway saunters over for the opening try against the USA after being put through by Rhys Ruddock pic.twitter.com/ech2UEhiUq— RTÉ Rugby (@RTErugby) November 24, 2018
7 Jacob Stockdale
Try 3: England 15 Ireland 24
A record-breaking score for the young Ulster flyer who became the first player to score seven Six Nations tries in one tournament. Conor Murray sent him down the short-side and with space at a premium, he chipped over Mike Brown’s head and availed of the recently expanded in-goal areas to race on to the kick and score.
8 Jacob Stockdale
Try 2: Ireland 28 Scotland 8
Having worked their way into the Scottish ’22, Ireland needed inventiveness from Garry Ringrose to secure the score. The centre worked a neat wrap-around on Bundee Aki before picking out Stockdale on the left wing. He stepped inside Blair Kinghorn to score.
9 Conor Murray
Try 2: Ireland 56 Italy 19
Jack Conan played an important role in this excellent score as Conor Murray wrapped around Dan Leavy before putting the ball through the hands of Keith Earls and Jacob Stockdale. Conan cleverly arced his run inside to draw the last defender and put his scrum-half into the clear for an excellent score.
10 Keith Earls
Try 4: Ireland 56 Italy 19
Dan Leavy won a superb turnover on the Italian 10-metre line and Ireland punished their visitors ruthlessly. Bundee Aki arced through the defensive line before drawing the last defender and putting Earls over in the corner.
11 Andrew Conway
Try 7: Ireland 57 USA 14
Garry Ringrose received the ball inside his own half and after a mazy run across the defensive line, he dummied and went through a gap in the Eagles’ defence and turned on the pace. He made it into the ’22 before being snagged, but his quick thinking saw him find Conway on his shoulder to score.
Andrew Conway has his hat-trick but all the work was done here by Garry Ringrose who made a glorious break as Ireland bring up the half century of points pic.twitter.com/su2EmCoWZJ— RTÉ Rugby (@RTErugby) November 24, 2018
12 Jacob Stockdale
Try 8: Ireland 56 Italy 19
Intercepts are a speciality of Stockdale’s, but the winger had plenty to do when he rushed on to Tommaso Castello’s pass. He had to slip through Tomasso Benvenuti’s tackle before backing himself to beat Jayden Hayward to the line.
13 Luke McGrath
Try 2: Ireland 54 Italy 7
The scrum-half was rewarded for a clever ‘cheat-line’ as Joey Carbery worked the ball to Jordan Larmour and the full-back broke the Italian line. When presented with the last defender, Larmour had McGrath on his shoulder and the Leinster man scored.
Here's that cracking step from Jordan Larmour again— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) November 3, 2018
Luke McGrath with a nice support run too pic.twitter.com/x5R9yzj0jG
14 Jordan Larmour
Try 6: Ireland 54 Italy 7
Larmour had it all to do when Garry Ringrose found him wide on the left midway through the second half, but he showed some typically quick feet to leave a couple of poor tackles behind and score from the 10-metre line.
15 Andrew Conway
Try 1: Australia 21 Ireland 26
Smart-thinking Conor Murray created this try for his Munster team-mate. The scrum-half peeled off a forward marching maul and sent a long cut-out pass to the right wing where Conway dived past Dane Haylett Petty to score. Unfortunately, he connected with the winger and was forced off soon after.
16 Garry Ringrose
Try 1: England 15 Ireland 24
The centre got the Grand Slam ball rolling with an opportunistic effort as Rob Kearney’s challenge forced Anthony Watson into spilling Johnny Sexton’s bomb and Ringrose pounced.
17 Tadhg Furlong
Try 2: Australia 21 Ireland 26
The tighthead prop has had plenty of big moments but this was his first international try. After Jack McGrath and Keith Earls had scores disallowed, the Campile man wasn’t going to be stopped by Nick Phipps as he took Murray’s neat pass and crashed over.
18 Jack Conan
Try 3: Ireland 57 USA 14
Ross Byrne created an opening for the rampant Conway who burst through the defence, drew the last defender and found No 8 Conan on his shoulder to score.
19 Jacob Stockdale
Try 7: Ireland 56 Italy 19
The Ulster phenomenon opened his Six Nations account with a simple finish after Devin Toner’s super pass out the back put Joey Carbery into space and the out-half found his winger on his shoulder to score under the posts.
20 Garry Ringrose
Try 7: Ireland 54 Italy 7
Having missed out on an early score, the Leinster centre finally got over as he popped up on Bundee Aki’s shoulder to tip-toe down the right wing and score.
21 Jacob Stockdale
Try 1: Ireland 28 Scotland 8
This was Stockdale’s third intercept try in as many games as he rushed up on Peter Horne’s pass and was rewarded with a clear run-in to the posts.
22 John Ryan
Try 8: Ireland 57 USA 14
Rhys Ruddock found Jordi Murphy running a hard line and, after he was tackled, the Ulster flanker popped the ball up for Munster prop Ryan to score.
23 Tadhg Beirne
Try 1: Ireland 54 Italy 7
Munster’s new second-row marked his first international start with a try as he took Luke McGrath’s pass and fought his way through the Italian defence, reaching for the line.
24 Andrew Conway
Try 2: Ireland 57 USA 14
Will Addisons’s sleight of hand saw him take John Cooney’s pass and go out the back door to the waiting Conway in one movement and the winger had a simple finish.
25 Conor Murray
Try 3: Ireland 28 Scotland 8
The scrum-half has become something of a sniper and he peeled off a stalling maul to power through Hamish Watson with more than a little help from the supporting Bundee Aki.
26 Robbie Henshaw
Try 1: Ireland 56 Italy 19
Leinster centre Henshaw spotted the opportunity to hit a hard line off Conor Murray to score the first try of the year from close range.
27 Bundee Aki
Try 2: Ireland 37 Wales 27,
Ireland developed a habit of scoring just before half-time and Aki obliged this time around with a hard line off Conor Murray to go over from close range.
28 Kieran Marmion
Try 1: Ireland 28 Argentina 17
This one was all about the dominant Irish scrum which drove forward to earn penalty advantage before the Connacht scrum-half picked the ball up and skipped over.
29 Robbie Henshaw
Try 5: Ireland 56 Italy 19
Not a score the Athlone native will want to recall as he intercepted Sergio Parisse’s poor pass and ran home, only to cause serious damage to his shoulder as he dove over under pressure from Tomasso Benvenuti.
30 Bundee Aki
Try 3: Ireland 56 Italy 19
The New Zealand-born centre celebrated his first international try with a trademark hard carry from close range.
31 Jordan Larmour
Try 4: Ireland 54 Italy 7
The Leinster man availed of a gift from Italy captain Michele Campagnaro whose wayward pass fell perfectly and Larmour raced home from inside his own half.
32 Dan Leavy
Try3: Ireland 37 Wales 27
Flanker Leavy emerged as one of the stars of the Six Nations and ended another multi-phase effort in the ’22 by using his considerable strength to power through Ross Moriarty’s tackle to score from close range.
33 Luke McGrath
Try 3: Ireland 28 Argentina 17
Like Marmion before him, scrum-half McGrath picked from the base of a dominant scrum to dive over and score.
34 Bundee Aki
Try 2: Ireland 28
Ireland had penalty advantage and were going through their phases when Kieran Marmion popped the ball up to Bundee Aki who, despite a standing start, drove through the heart of Argentina defence to score.
35 Stuart McCloskey
Try 5: Ireland 57
The big Ulster centre was on hand to take Ross Byrne’s perfectly weighted cross-kick to cross.
36 Cian Healy
Try 4: Ireland 37 Wales 27
Another close-range effort that came about after Ireland turned over a five-metre lineout but Johnny Sexton nailed Ross Moriarty behind his own goal-line.
37 Rory Best
Try 6: Ireland 56 Italy 19
The Ireland captain peeled off the back of a dominant maul and, with help from Kieran Marmion and Quinn Roux, powered his way over.
38 CJ Stander
Try 1: Australia 16 Ireland 20
Niall Scannell’s lineout throw to Jordi Murphy at the tail was spot on and Australia had no answer to the Irish maul as Stander touched down.
39 Tadhg Beirne
Try 3: Ireland 54 Italy 7
The Kildare native picked an excellent line to power on to Luke McGrath’s flat pass and double his own tally in Chicago.
40 Seán Cronin
Try 5: Ireland 54 Italy 7
The hooker powered over from the back of a strong maul with help from Luke McGrath.
41 Tadhg Beirne
Try 4: Ireland 57 USA 14
A closer-range effort saw the second-row take John Cooney’s pass and force his way over.
42 Quinn Roux
Try 6: Ireland 57 USA 14
The big Connacht lock picked from the base of a ruck and with the help of two team-mates forced his way through a couple of USA defenders.
43 Seán Cronin
Try 4: Ireland 28 Scotland 8
Another dominant Irish maul got the team within range and the replacement hooker peeled off the back and crawled over to score.
And one drop-goal . . .
France 13 Ireland 15
No trip down the 2018 memory lane would be complete without the score that got the ball rolling on a truly remarkable year at the end of one of the two tryless performances from Joe Schmidt’s side. After Anthony Belleau’s penalty had drifted wide, Ireland had one last chance to get a late winner in Paris and Iain Henderson collected Johnny Sexton’s ’22 drop-out to set things up. Through 41 phases, they edged their way into position for the out-half to seize his moment and kick an unforgettable drop-goal to beat France.