Wednesday 16 October 2019

'We can't rest on our laurels' - Ryan

Ireland 27 Scotland 3

Determination is written across Rory Best’s face as the Ireland captain is supported by Conor
Murray and Peter O’Mahony on his way to going over for his side’s second try against Scotland in their World Cup Pool A opener at the International Stadium Yokohama. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire
Determination is written across Rory Best’s face as the Ireland captain is supported by Conor Murray and Peter O’Mahony on his way to going over for his side’s second try against Scotland in their World Cup Pool A opener at the International Stadium Yokohama. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

At the end of it all, the Irish players made their way to the stand at the International Stadium, Yokohama and bowed to the crowd. At once, it was a tribute to the locals who have made them welcome since arriving in Japan and a thank you to the large contingent of Irish fans who had spent thousands to come and support them.

After they acknowledged their audience, they turned their focus to the month ahead. This, after all, was only a beginning.

James Ryan is congratulated by Cian Healy after scoring his try. Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
James Ryan is congratulated by Cian Healy after scoring his try. Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Stiffer tests lie ahead. Scotland are Scotland after all but, after a 10-month hiatus, the 2018-version of Joe Schmidt's side revealed itself once more and showed the world they're here to compete. South Africa won't quite be trembling in their boots, but they'll have taken note all the same.

All three of their losses this year were down to a loss of energy and power, but they've found their source once again. Although they took some punishment and will be down numbers at training tomorrow, they bullied Scotland throughout.

From being bullied against England, they have steadily rebuilt their carrying game and started dominating collisions once more.

James Ryan, who scored the first try and was superb on his World Cup debut, said that their underpowered performances were all in the mind and reckons they can kick on.

Ireland's back row Jack Conan (2nd R) is tackled. Photo: Getty Images
Ireland's back row Jack Conan (2nd R) is tackled. Photo: Getty Images

"It's all in the top two inches at this level," he said. "When we're mentally primed and ready to go for the collisions and all that comes with the game, that's when we're at our best.

"So, maybe at times we haven't been quite ready mentally. The last few games, that's been the difference, that we've built into the week and when the games come it hasn't taken us by surprise so we're ready to go.

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"There's going to need to be more to come. It's about building on this. We can't pat ourselves on the back, we've just got to keep pushing on."

For Joe Schmidt, it is almost the perfect situation. On the team's first three visits to the opposition 22, they came away with tries. On their next couple, they left points out there.

Ireland player CJ Stander is tackled by Blade Thomson (l) and Allan Dell. Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
Ireland player CJ Stander is tackled by Blade Thomson (l) and Allan Dell. Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

They held their opponents to three points, but the defensive review will show moments of discomfort. The lineout returned possession all day, but there were a few ropey ones thrown in.

The scrum was perfect, the tackling excellent and the levels of physical intent was at the level required.

"We pride ourselves on set-piece and there is no better feeling than when we get a good drive going and get over the line. We were happy with the lineout today. Hopefully we can keep improving," Ryan said.

"It is a bit different than how it felt four or five weeks ago. It's a good feeling, getting it off to a start like that. I think the support today was unbelievable, and even in Yokohama itself it was class.

Scotland's hooker Stuart McInally reaches for the ball. Photo: Getty Images
Scotland's hooker Stuart McInally reaches for the ball. Photo: Getty Images

"In the past we have rested on our laurels and patted ourselves on the back but the big thing is that we know that's not going to be good enough the further we go. We have to just keep building now."

Barring a disaster, he knows who his team will face in the last eight and, while he'll give due consideration to the hosts, Russia and Samoa, he'll invest some time in planning for the Boks.

Tricks

After all the talk of having tricks up his sleeves, it was something as simple as the lineout maul that gave Ireland the advantage.

They have almost mothballed the drive for a couple of seasons but it was taken out of cold storage here and used to great effect.

The first two tries came from good lineouts, while the third was a result of aggressive line-speed from Chris Farrell, a lucky bounce and a strong scrum.

They made the first move within five minutes. The excellent Rory Best peeled off on the short-side and showed good footwork before finding Conor Murray on his shoulder. Iain Henderson cut loose and a few phases later, Ryan powered over.

With the back-three coping well, Bundee Aki acted as an auxiliary openside and forced two successive turnovers, the second of which set up the second try.

Sexton kicked to touch, the maul won a penalty and he again went to the lineout where, from five metres, Henderson took Best's throw and the captain touched down off the back of the maul.

The conversion drifted off target, but the 12-point lead had taken the wind from the Scottish sails.

Still, Greig Laidlaw got his side off the mark but, just as they looked to get some momentum, Farrell forced a mistake from Finn Russell. Conway hacked on twice, the ball hit the post and forced the winger to drag Stuart Hogg over the line.

They made the most of their luck with CJ Stander carrying off the back of the scrum, before Tadhg Furlong came around the corner to score.

Murray took over the kicking from a struggling Sexton and converted but Ireland couldn't further their lead before half-time despite dominating as Jacob Stockdale and Stander made big breaks.

The wing wonder also made a big defensive play in a strong performance, as Murray missed a long-range penalty and Ireland took a 19-3 lead in at the break.

Heavens

When the teams returned, the heavens had opened.

Conway thought he'd scored within two minutes of the restart after a Henderson turnover, but Wayne Barnes spotted his push on Hogg.

Ryan had to be alert to catch Maitland as he threatened to open up and after absorbing pressure, they went and got the fourth on 55 minutes when Conway forced Ryan Wilson into spilling Murray's box-kick.

Larmour gathered the ball and, after a quick recycle, Murray found Conway waiting on the wing and he brilliantly fought to the line.

Jack Carty added a 68th-minute penalty to keep the scoreboard ticking over and, even when down to 14 with Tadhg Beirne in the bin, they refused to give Scotland an inch.

IRELAND - J Larmour; A Conway, G Ringrose, B Aki (C Farrell 22), J Stockdale; J Sexton (J Carty 58), C Murray (L McGrath 57); C Healy (D Kilcoyne 49), R Best (capt), T Furlong (A Porter 49); I Henderson (T Beirne 58), J Ryan; P O'Mahony (J Conan 27), J van der Flier (J Conan 14-22 blood, N Scannell 74), CJ Stander.

SCOTLAND - S Hogg; T Seymour (D Graham 60), D Taylor (C Harris 67), S Johnston, S Maitland; F Russell, G Laidlaw (A Price 65); A Dell (G Reid 62), S McInally (capt), WP Nel (S Berghan 53); G Gilchrist, J Gray; (S Cummings 65) J Barclay (B Thompson 53), H Watson (F Brown 38), R Wilson.

Ref - W Barnes (England).

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