Sunday 9 June 2013

Ireland - Fiji Match Review

Riding the high of the victory against Australia , Ireland Under 20s hammered Fiji 46-3 in their second game of Pool B in the JWC.

Ireland started very well, and if looked very cohesive, belying the 11 changes that Ruddock made to the lineup. Dan Leavy was peerless at the breakdown, and the Irish team seemed to turnover Fijian ball at will. The Fijians looked dangerous in attack, and after missing a kick in front of goal, had a great chance to open the scoring with a try, but Rory Scholes, who was magnificent last Wednesday, made a fantastic try saving tackle.

Darren Sweetnam scores the first try via
From that moment, Ireland took control. David Shanahan, who was in for Luke McGrath was impressive and quick at rucks, and Crosbie was fantastic at directing play. Ireland were patient in attack, and when Daly, showing there is more to his game than placekicking, made a great break, Crosbie calmed things down and allowed Mark Roche to put the former Cork hurler Darren Sweetnam over on the right. Tom Daly was unable to add the extras, and with an earlier penalty, Ireland were 8-0 up after twenty minutes.

For the second game in a row, the Irish scrum was going well, and the Byrne twins were carrying effectively wtih Jack O'Donoghue showing up well too. Ruddock will have some fantastic selection headaches with so many of the changes performing well.

After Fiji got on the board with 3 points, Ireland showed some intent and went to the corner on a scrum penalty, before the Fijians fell foul again just in front of the posts, and Daly knocked over the penalty to go 11-3 ahead. Daly is probably the first Irish kicker ever to have placekicked while the crowd clapped encouragingly.

Daly missed another chance to extend Ireland's lead after Fiji racked up 10 penalties given away after just 30 minutes, suggesting they hadn't learned too much from conceding 4 yellows and 2 reds against New Zealand. Daly made up for this with yet another penalty after 36 minutes.

Leavy had a majestic first half, and Daly was impressive in the loose, even if a kicking return of 3 from 6 will have disappointed  him. The more patient Ireland were in attack, the more holes that appeared in the Fijians defense. Ireland were disrupting lineouts and dominating scrums, hoping for more in the second half.

Fijians lineout was harming them, and a dangerous scrum on the Fiji 22, meant Ireland had a great chance at the start of the second half. A massive scrum from Ireland, allowing first Crosbie. and then Shanahan go very close, but a knock on in the act of scoring denied them. After three huge scrums from the Irish, eventually the tighthead Chris Taylor got over to reward Ireland for their dominance.

Rory Scholes via
From the kickoff, Rory Scholes scored a fantastic solo try thanks largely to a hugely fortunate bounce, but it was just reward for a hugely impressive tournament so far for Scholes. Getting the ball from a turnover, Scholes rounded two men on the half way, before chipping and collecting luckily and dotting the ball down.

This gave Ireland a huge amount of confidence, and another linebreak from Roche gave them great go forward ball. The tide was now with Ireland, and a vital bonus point in sight. It was soon to come, as some fantastic running lines allowed Scholes to get his second and seal the bonus point with half an hour to go.

Daragh Leader somehow managed to intercept when it seemed easier for Fiji to score a try, to keep Ireland in a commanding lead. Fiji's lineout was seriously hampering their chances, and Ireland were going over the gainline with ease. The one "negative" for Ireland was their kicking, with a number of players with poor kicks out of hand, and Daly's not so great placekicking return.

More pressure resulted in a great finish from openside Dan Leavy in the corner, who had another great game. Rory Scannell, now on for Daly, was unable to add the extras. Ruddock was now ringing the changes to keep the squad fresh. A further penalty from Scannell added more points to the total, before Sweetnam scored another try, which eclipsed Scholes's effort earlier, a great chip and chase, complete with a massive step.

As their confidence rose, their defense became more ferocious. Some great individual performances from Rory Scholes, the Byrnes and Leavy in particular, and the subs didn't let up either. The ref blow the game up early, with the score from 46-3.

This team is completely unrecognisable from some turgid displays in the 6 Nations. Two extremely encouraging performances, both collectively and individually. Credit must go to Mike Ruddock, who is doing an extremely good job.

This win puts them in with a great chance for the semi-finals, with just New Zealand to come on Thursday.

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