Thursday 13 December 2018

Second string stumble past Fiji

Carbery injury blow adds to stressful day for Schmidt's men

Jack Conan celebrates after scoring Ireland's third try in the 23-20 win over Fiji at the Aviva Stadium last night Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Jack Conan celebrates after scoring Ireland's third try in the 23-20 win over Fiji at the Aviva Stadium last night Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

Ireland were put to the pin of their collar to make it two games from two in this Guinness series at a virtually full Aviva Stadium yesterday. Having been 17-3 ahead after 34 minutes it was 17-17 early in the second half and it required a cool head from replacement Ian Keatley to kick the winning points with seven minutes left.

And for Joey Carbery an enforced rest is next on his agenda. "It looks like he's fractured his left forearm," Joe Schmidt said. "I don't think it's displaced as far as I know. We'll update it on Monday but he won't play any further part in the Guinness series."

With 13 changes from the side that saw off South Africa last weekend Ireland probably needed a wretched day and an unmotivated Fiji side to have a stress-free outing. Instead, in perfect conditions, they ran into a side with their stars on board, who were keen to play. And they did.

"Sometimes it's just about finding a way," Schmidt said. "We looked like we lacked a bit of cohesion. I thought in the first quarter we did really well. It was a bit special the way Joey cut the line and found Darren Sweetnam.

"That (experience) was great for us. It's exactly what we wanted but we didn't want it in other ways. We wanted to see how people would react."

Included in that was replacement Kieran Treadwell who came on for Devin Toner on 67 minutes - and called the lineouts. Schmidt said he resisted the temptation to take Ultan Dillane off instead, given the closeness of the contest. "It's part of what we talked about as coaches during the week," he said. "We wanted to see how he would cope. And we knew that before it kicked off. With that amount of changes (to the starting side) it does make it really difficult. You pick through the game afterwards and try and best analyse why the players made the decisions they did."

For Fiji it would have been their third win over Tier 1 opposition if they had closed the deal in the second half. With 10 minutes left it was 20-20. "We're a bit frustrated with that," their Kiwi coach John McKee said afterwards. "In a game so close we probably had opportunities to put Ireland under more pressure. When we did that you could see a difference in the game. They didn't seem as willing to play as they were earlier on."

Ireland will close the series against Argentina at the same venue on Saturday. The Pumas ran out comfortable 31-15 winners over Italy.

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