Ireland scored seven tries to beat Canada 50-7 at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
After losing their last two warm-up matches, the Six Nations champions were looking for a convincing win to kick-start their World Cup campaign. But while they played well in patches against a Canadian team ranked 18th in the world, Ireland failed to cut loose and make that big early statement in the tournament.
Canada conceded four first-half tries, but then kept their more illustrious opponents scoreless until the 65th minute. Ireland would score another three tries, but they will be disappointed with their overall performance in the second half.
The Canadians made a spirited start to the game, with Ireland only able to open the scoring in the 13th minute, through a penalty from Man of the Match Johnny Sexton.
Canada were then reduced to 14 men, when Jamie Cudmore was yellow-carded for knocking the ball away at a ruck in the red zone. Ireland kicked for the corner and Sean O'Brien went over from a perfectly executed lineout driving maul.
After Paul O'Connell had been held up over the tryline for a second time, Iain Henderson went over from close range. Sexton then raced away to score in the left-hand corner, before Dave Kearney dived over for the bonus-point try in the 35th minute to make it 29-0.
Canada thought they had scored on the stroke of half-time, through SA-born winger DTH Van der Merwe, but the TMO ruled that the pass to him had gone forward.
Ireland had to play the first 10 minutes of the second half without their captain, after O'Connell was binned for kicking the ball away at the back of a Canadian ruck. But Canada, who had emptied their bench by the 47th minute, couldn't score while he was off.
The Canadians did well to keep Ireland scoreless for the first 25 minutes of the second half, when Sean Cronin went over, and then scored a deserved try through Van der Merwe, who intercepted a poor kick from Jared Payne.
Ireland, though, finished strongly, with tries from Rob Kearney and Payne taking them to the 50-point mark.
Ireland – Tries: Sean O'Brien, Iain Henderson, Johnny Sexton, Dave Kearney, Sean Cronin, Rob Kearney, Jared Payne. Conversions: Sexton (3), Ian Madigan (3). Penalty: Sexton.
Canada – Try: DTH van der Merwe. Conversion: Nathan Hirayama.
Ireland – 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Dave Kearney, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Luke Fitzgerald, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Paul O'Connell (c), 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Jack McGrath.
Subs: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Nathan White, 19 Donnacha Ryan, 20 Chris Henry, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Simon Zebo.
Canada – 15 Matt Evans, 14 Jeff Hassler, 13 Ciaran Hearn, 12 Nick Blevins, 11 DTH Van der Merwe, 10 Nathan Hirayama, 9 Gordon McRorie, 8 Aaron Carpenter, 7 John Moonlight, 6 Kyle Gilmour, 5 Jamie Cudmore (c), 4 Brett Beukeboom, 3 Doug Wooldridge, 2 Ray Barkwill, 1 Hubert Buydens.
Subs: 16 Benoit Piffero, 17 Djustice Sears-Duru, 18 Andrew Tiedemann, 19 Jebb Sinclair, 20 Richard Thorpe, 21 Phil Mack, 22 Liam Underwood, Conor Trainor.
Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images