Johnny Sexton starred as Ireland cruised to a 47-5 bonus-point win against Samoa in their final World Cup pool game in Fukuoka on Saturday to book a place in the quarter-finals. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
With all the uncertainty and controversy surrounding this pool, one of the permutations was that Ireland could well qualify for the playoffs even if they failed to win this match and had come away with just one losing bonus point.
However, the Irish left nothing to chance and produced a classy performance, orchestrated by the halfback axis of Sexton and Conor Murray, to ensure safe passage into the last eight.
That said, Ireland must now play a waiting game to see what happens in the much-talked about fixture between Japan and Scotland, before they will know which powerhouse between the All Blacks and Springboks they will front in the quarters.
Ireland dominated this contest from start to finish, making light of the required bonus point by running in four tries in the first half. This, despite playing with 14 men after Bundee Aki was shown a straight red card for a dangerous tackle in the 28th minute. They continued in the same vein in the second half and while Samoa valiantly put in hit after hit to repel wave after wave of Irish attack, their defensive wall couldn’t withstand the unrelenting pressure.
In a dream start, captain Rory Best and fellow front rower Tadhg Furlong both burrowed over inside the opening 10 minutes. Furlong’s effort was particularly pleasing, as the prop bulldozed his way through four Samoan defenders before dotting down. And Sexton completed his quick-fire brace to put Ireland 26-5 up at the midway mark.
With a man-over advantage, one would have thought there would be a sense of belief in the Samoa team that they can pull off an upset against the more-favoured Ireland. But they couldn’t launch any sort of comeback against the composed and disciplined Ireland.
Instead, they were the team dictating all the plays and forcing Samoa to make countless tackles and, to an extent, forcing them into submission. Ireland’s forwards took centre stage in the second half as they overpowered Samoa with some gallant carries to lay the foundation for three more tries by Jordan Larmour, CJ Stander and Andrew Conway.
Notwithstanding Aki’s red card, Ireland coach Joe Schmidt will be pleased with his team’s clinical display when they needed it most.
Ireland – Tries: Rory Best, Tadhg Furlong, Johnny Sexton (2), Jordan Larmour, CJ Stander, Andrew Conway. Conversions: Sexton (4), Joey Carbery (2).
Samoa – Try: Jack Lam.
Ireland – 15 Jordan Larmour, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Josh Van der Flier, 6 Tadhg Beirne, 5 James Ryan, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Cian Healy.
Subs: 16 Niall Scannell, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Jean Kleyn, 20 Peter O’Mahony, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Andrew Conway.
Samoa – 15 Tim Nanai-Williams, 14 Ah See Tuala, 13 Alapati Leiua, 12 Henry Taefu, 11 Ed Fidow, 10 Ulupano Seuteni, 9 Dwayne Polataivao, 8 Jack Lam (c), 7 TJ Ioane, 6 Chris Vui, 5 Kane Le’aupepe, 4 Teofilo Paulo, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Seilala Lam, 1 Logovii Mulipola.
Subs: 16 Ray Niuia, 17 Paul Alo-Emile, 18 Jordan Lay, 19 Piula Faasalele, 20 Josh Tyrell, 21 Pele Cowley, 22 Tusi Pisi, 23 Kieron Fonotia.
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