Ireland faced Canada in their first game of the 2015 Rugby World Cup and things went very well for the boys in green. In the end, Ireland romped home to victory over Canada 50 – 7.
Ireland completely dominated the first 40 minutes, barely leaving the Canadian’s half of the pitch till the dying end of the first half. Murray and Sexton’s passing and kicking were superb, especially the Munster scrum-half’s box-kicking. The Irish backs chased every kick from Murray, recouping a huge percentage of 50/50 encounters with Canada.
The cohesion of the pack throughout was immense, no more evident than in the first maul that led to a push-over try for Sean O’Brien in the 17th minute. The front eight dominated every scrum with ease and repeatedly disrupted Canada’s line-outs.
Irish forwards consistently made yards, breaking over the gain line, creating space for the backs. This enabled more time for Sexton to execute his trademark wrap-around passing move with the centres. Luke Fitzgerald rolled back the years and was in sparkling form throughout the match. At the break-down he was a constant nuisance and consistently got over the gain line with direct running. The question now is, when Henshaw returns from his niggling injury, will he replace Luke?
The only glitch from Ireland was when they were reduced to 14 men, when Paul O’Connell tried to intercept a pass from an offside position, a particularly daft decision from such an experienced player. Canada held onto possession well but couldn’t break Ireland down. As the second half progressed, Ireland’s penalty count rose, but this seemed to be down to complacency rather than pressure.
Ireland’s mauls continued to make huge yards, as it certainly was a day for the forwards to shine, none more so than second row Iain Henderson, who ruled the roost at the Millennium stadium in Cardiff. It will be a huge decision for Schmidt whether he picks Henderson or Toner for the French game.
In the 60th minute, the Irish subs started to litter the pitch, Madigan came on for Sexton, performing excellently in his 25 minute cameo. Then the entire front three were replaced with Healy, White, and Cronin, the substitute hooker again made a fantastic impact off the bench. The final 20 minutes of the game Canada were exhausted, they’d given everything to get their only score in the 68th minute, an intercepted kick from Payne, and so Ireland began to run in the tries. Cronin, Kearney, and Payne all finishing off scores to make it 50 – 7.
It was the perfect warm up game for Ireland, especially since Joe Schmidt’s grand plan is for the players to hit their physical peak for the most important games of the tournament.
Ireland Player Ratings
15. Rob Kearney – 6/10 – Wasn’t challenged under the high ball, scored a try late on, no great contribution in the game.
14. Dave Kearney – 7/10 – Quiet for large parts of the 1st half, great step for his try ’34, steady, covered well, took up good defensive positions.
13. Jared Payne – 6½/10 – Messed up vital kicks, one which led to Canad’s only score, good support running for Madigan led to his try ’75.
12. Luke Fitzgerald – 9½/10 – Phenomenal game, great at the break down, getting over the gain line, did everything to thwart Canada scoring a try at the end of the 1st half. It will be a huge decision to take him out of the team for Henshaw.
11. Keith Earls – 5/10 – Generally poor game, knocked on with a 3 man overlap, a great run at the end to set up Kearney wasn’t enough.
10. Jonathan Sexton – 9½/10 – His passing, kicking, and covering of 15 were superb throughout, showed great speed & determination for his try.
9. Conor Murray – 9½/10 – Fantastic tackling & box kicking, helped at the break downs, supported forwards who got isolated.
8. Jamie Heaslip – 7½/10 – Controlled at the back of the scrum and during mauls very well, missed getting over the gain line a few times, didn’t pick & go off the back of the scrum once, even though Ireland were completely in control.
7. Sean O’Brien – 8/10 – Again one of Ireland’s best carriers, always made yards with direct running, great pass with Sexton for the No. 10’s try.
6. Peter O’Mahony – 8½/10 – Colossal at the line-out, stole ball, made non-stop carries and hard yards all game.
5. Paul O’Connell – 7/10 – Daft yellow card, however in mauls, scrums, and at the line out he was tremendous.
4. Iain Henderson – 10/10 – Man of the match, several successful rip tackles, turnovers, vast amounts of carries and positive yards gained. In the same boat as Fitzgerald, it is hard to see Devin Toner taking his jersey after that dominant performance.
3. Mike Ross – 8/10 – Superb at the scrum, was never in any trouble, defensive work was outstanding stopping Canada early in the 2nd half.
2. Rory Best – 9/10 – Magnificent at the line-out & scrum, did so much of the grunt work, supporting maul breaks, running off the ball, and made huge tackles, one of his best games.
1. Jack McGrath – 8/10 – As with Ross, he was exceptional in the scrum, made loads of tackles around rucks and was equally first-rate preventing Canada scoring early in the 2nd half.
16. Sean Cronin – 7½/10 – Only 20 mins to impress but he made an instant impact as he often does, scored a try, and his rip tackle led to Kearney’s 75th minute try.
17. Cian Healy – 6/10 – No set plays to get involved in, Ireland’s game was very loose when he eventually got on, made no mistakes while on the pitch.
18. Nathan White – 6/10 – Again, no set plays for him really to get involved, made no mistakes while on the pitch.
19. Donnacha Ryan – 5/10 – Had no time to make an impact.
20. Chris Henry – 5/10 – Had no time to make an impact.
21. Eoin Reddan – 5/10 – Had no time to make an impact.
22. Ian Madigan – 8/10 – Phenomenal impact sub, passing was superb, not afraid to attempt risky plays, set up 2 tries, excellent kicking.