Joey Carbery suffers injury scare as Ireland start World Cup preparations with win over Italy
Ireland 29 Italy 10
These warm-up games are fraught with danger and the sight of Joey Carbery, head in hands, coming off the Aviva Stadium pitch on a stretcher was exactly the kind of sight Joe Schmidt didn’t want to see as he arrived back from New Zealand in time to take charge of this win over Italy.
The out-half’s performance had been one of the real highlights of a predictably stuttering performance but his day came to an end when he turned his ankle defending the Irish line in the 50 minute.
Ireland’s first World Cup game is not for another six weeks so the Munster man has a chance of making it back in time, but he didn’t look happy coming off.
Otherwise, it was a fairly routine win for Ireland who also lost Rob Herring to a first-half head injury but escaped further injury as they got back to winning ways.
Although much of the post-match focus will centre around the individual performances, perhaps the most notable element of Ireland’s performance was their inter-play under pressure in the Italian ’22.
For much of Schmidt’s time in charge the team has struggled for momentum in the red-zone, but today they were innovative and clinical despite their lack of match-time together.
All of their three first-half tries came through slick passing from the backs after hard work from a sizeable forward pack and, while Italy’s two tries will annoy the coaches, they’ll be happy that their work on the training ground came off.
From an individual point of view, Carbery continued his growth in the No 10 shirt and looked ready to challenge Johnny Sexton in Japan until he was stretchered off, while Chris Farrell made a significant move towards the plane and the back three all impressed with Jordan Larmour particularly impressive and Andrew Conway picked up the man of the match award.
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Up front, Jack McGrath and Andrew Porter can be happy with their day after a dominant scrum performance, but Herring will be frustrated by his early exit.
Jean Kleyn was strong in contact, but his handling let him down and Devin Toner was a little sluggish after an injury-hit finish to the season.
In the back-row, Rhys Ruddock stood out but Jordi Murphy and Tommy O’Donnell struggled to advance their claims and Tadhg Beirne impressed off the bench.
Ireland's scrum laid down an early marker, forcing a penalty to get his side some field position after Ireland had failed to deal with the kick-off and although, their handling let them down at times, the home team’s tackling was top notch as they thundered into collisions with Chris Farrell and Jean Kleyn prominent.
They almost opened the scoring with a fortuitous try when Marco Riccioni dropped the ball and Carbery hacked it ahead, but Dave Kearney knocked on under pressure from Angelo Esposito in the act of scoring.
Unsurprisingly, it was a scrappy but committed affair and Ireland had to defend when Carlo Canna attempted to find Esposito with a cross-kick and Larmour did enough to deny him.
Referee Luke Pearce was playing advantage, however, and Italy turned down the points and went to the corner.
McGrath collapsed the Italian maul, so they went again and this time the Irish pack was marched to the line and, when Jimmy Tuivata was halted short by Luke McGrath, Maxime Mbanda picked and dived over to score the first try at the Aviva Stadium of 2019/20.
Canna missed his conversion and Ireland went in search of a response.Carbery’s neat chip forced Matteo Minozzi – a late call-up to the Italian side – to bundle the ball into touch which gave Ireland a good field position.
Like the vistors before them, they turned down a kickable penalty and went to the corner when the Italians went off their feet at the breakdown.
From the lineout, Ireland’s maul went close and, with Pearce playing advantage, Ireland went through a couple of phases before Farrell pulled the ball back brilliantly for Carbery who slid in unopposed.
He converted his own try, but soon Ireland were back under their posts as the game broke up and Italy adapted better.
The score was mildly controversial asCanna appeared to be in front of winger Giulio Bisegni when he chipped through, but the out-half collected and scored and then Pearce decided to award the try.
Canna again missed his conversion and the lead changed hands once more as Ireland turned down another penalty and went to the corner.
This time, they went off the top and sent Farrell through the middle before brilliantly working the ball through the hands of Ruddock, Carbery, Garry Ringrose and Larmour to put Kearney over in the corner.
Carbery made it 14-10 from the touch-line and this time Ireland looked to sustain their momentum with the out-half finding Kearney wide before the whinger chipped in behind and hunted Minozzi over the line.
That gave Ireland a 5m scrum platform and they earned successive penalties before the third Italian set-piece held firm and forced Ireland to work the ball through the phases before Larmour again laid on a try-scoring pass to Conway.
That brought us to half-time and the experimentation began as Schmidt broughtJohn Ryan on for McGrath and Porter shifted to loosehead.Ireland almost got their fourth try when Larmour again showed excellent hands to release Ringrose, but they couldn’t get over and had to settle for a penalty.
They went to the corner and produced a superb maul on Kleyn for Murphy to crash over and score.
Carbery’s conversion drifted wide and his day came to an end minutes later when he turned his ankle defending Ireland’s line and needed a stretcher to come off.
Tadhg Beirne got a run at blindside as the changes kept coming and he won a breakdown penalty within seconds of coming on.
And although Ireland didn’t make the territory count initially, replacement Kieran Marmion made it a nightmare return to Dublin for Ian McKinley as he rushed up and charged down the out-half and collected to score his fifth try for Ireland.
Carty’s conversion hit the post but the scoreboard had long since ceased to matter as Mike Haley came in for his Ireland debut.
Italy thought they'd scored with a clever lineout move at the front, but the ball hadn't travelled the requisite 5m and while Ireland pushed for a sixth try, it never came.
IRELAND: J Larmour; A Conway (M Haley 60), G Ringrose, C Farrell, D Kearney; J Carbery (J Carty 50), L McGrath (K Marmion 57); J McGrath (C Healy 71)), R Herring (N Scannell 19), A Porter (John Ryan h-t); D Toner (I Henderson 57), J Kleyn (Toner 63-71); R Ruddock (capt) (T Beirne 61), T O’Donnell, J Murphy.
ITALY: E Padovani; A Esposito, T Benvenuti (I McKinley 26-36), M Minozzi (I McKinley h-t), G Bisegni; C Canna, G Palazzini (C Braley 52); N Quaglio (A Lovotti h-t), O Fabiani (F Zani h-t)), M Riccioni (SP Ferrari 52); A Zanni (S Negri 52), D Budd; G Licata, M Mbanda (M Lazzaroni 49), J Tuivati (R Giammarioli 50).
Ref: L Pearce (England)