|2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A: Ireland v Samoa|
|Ireland (26) 47|
|Tries: Best, Furlong, Sexton 2, Larmour, Stander, Conway Cons: Sexton 4, Carbery 2|
|Samoa (5) 5|
|Try: J Lam|
Ireland booked their place in the World Cup quarter-finals with a seven-try win over Samoa in Fukuoka.
Ireland had to play over half the match with 14 men after Bundee Aki’s 29th-minute dismissal, though tries by Rory Best, Tadhg Furlong and Johnny Sexton had already put them in control.
Jack Lam replied but another Sexton try secured a bonus point before half-time.
Jordan Larmour, CJ Stander and Andrew Conway also crossed as Ireland navigated the second half unscathed.
Ireland’s opponents in the last eight will be determined by the outcome of the final Pool A fixture between Japan and Scotland on Sunday, which could still be cancelled with Typhoon Hagibis wreaking havoc in Yokohama.
If the game does not go ahead, both sides would be awarded two points meaning Japan finish top of Pool A with second-placed Ireland tasked with meeting two-time reigning world champions New Zealand in Tokyo next Saturday.
If Sunday’s game goes ahead, a Scotland win without Japan claiming two losing bonus-points would see Ireland finish top, therefore facing South Africa in the last eight.
Aki red not critical for Ireland
Knowing a five-point win would assure their progress regardless of events in Yokohama, Ireland began purposefully, with the decision to kick for the corner as opposed to taking an easy three points paying off twice in the first nine minutes.
Captain Best drove over from a rolling maul before the destructive Furlong broke through four would-be tacklers to cross from close distance as Ireland made the most of Samoan indiscipline.
Sexton’s first try, after a slick break and offload from Larmour, put Ireland on the cusp of the bonus-point with just a quarter of the game gone.
However, two incidents in the space of five moments threatened to completely alter the direction of the contest.
After Lam barrelled over the top of Ireland’s defence to put Samoa on the board, Aki was dismissed for a tackle direct to the head of fly-half Ulupano Seuteni.
Samoa’s momentum was short-lived as they failed to translate their numerical superiority into any sort of meaningful advantage.
Sexton’s show and go off the back of a scrum just before the interval saw Ireland enter the break with the job done, ensuring there was little in the way of tension when the players re-emerged from the tunnel.
Larmour puts hand up for selection
In a satisfactory evening for Ireland, several loose passes and handling errors that contributed to some of their hairiest moments in the first half will come under the microscope with the All Blacks or the Springboks looming on the horizon.
Attention will now turn to team selection for Ireland’s biggest game since the last eight in 2015.
While in truth there is a clear first-choice player in most positions, Leinster full-back Larmour put in a performance that may just persuade Schmidt to stick with the 22-year-old next week.
An accusation that has been made against this Ireland team in recent times is that they are one-dimensional in attack.
Against Samoa, Larmour was a constant and unpredictable threat with ball in hand as he sought to jink through the opposition defence at every opportunity.
His probing paid off for Sexton’s opening try and he was rewarded with a score of his own nine minutes after the break, latching onto Conor Murray’s perfect flat pass.
In Rob Kearney, Schmidt has a player who has delivered in most of Ireland’s biggest games over the past decade, however Larmour’s impressive outings against Scotland and Samoa will certainly have given the head coach food for thought.
Ireland injury-free as pitch holds firm
Concerns over the condition of the pitch at the Hakatanomori Stadium rose to the surface during Friday’s captain’s run, during which Irish players were able to lift up the turf enough to fit a rugby ball underneath.
Mercifully, the injuries that many thought inevitable on such a track did not materialise, and in general the pitch held up well for the 80 minutes.
With the game being played totally on their terms in the second half, Ireland removed Sexton and Conor Murray, who once again displayed their importance to the side in two perfectly-controlled displays.
The game situation also allowed Schmidt to give second-choice fly-half Joey Carbery some vital minutes to make an impression, with the Munster man having played just 20 minutes in the previous three games.
After Stander powered over following sustained Irish pressure inside the Samoan five-metre line, it was Carbery’s well-judged grubber kick that allowed Conway to put the finishing touches on a hugely satisfactory Irish display.
- Bundee Aki is the first player to be sent off for Ireland in a World Cup match, and the fourth to be sent off in any game for Ireland (Willie Duggan, Jamie Heaslip, CJ Stander).
- Samoa have now lost each of their last 11 games against Tier 1 opposition at the Rugby World Cup, their last such victory coming back in 1999 against Wales.
- There have now been seven red cards shown at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, the previous highest at the tournament was four in both 1995 and 1999.
- This was the fifth time 14 men have beaten 15 in a Rugby World Cup match (excluding sin-binnings). Only Canada’s 72-11 win against Namibia in 1999 has seen a bigger margin of victory (42 points) for the outnumbered side.
- This was just the fourth time Ireland have scored 4+ first-half tries in a Rugby World Cup match, five v Namibia 2003, five v Russia 2011, four v Canada in 2015.
Ireland: Larmour; Earls, Henshaw, Aki, Stockdale; Sexton, Murray; Healy, Best, Furlong, Henderson, James Ryan; Beirne, Van der Flier, Stander.
Replacements: Scannell, Kilcoyne, Porter, Kleyn, O’Mahony, McGrath, Carbery, Conway.
Samoa: Nanai-Williams; Tuala, Leiua, Taefu, Fidow; Seuteni, Polataivao; Mulipola, S Lam Alaalatoa, Paulo, Le’aupepe; Vui, Ioane, J Lam.
Replacements: Niuia, Alo-Emile, Lay, Fa’asalele, Tyrell, Cowley, Pisi, Fonotia.
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