Ireland v USA
It was a new beginning for the Irish in a new stadium for them, the RDS in Dublin.
Rarely can there have been such a background to an international, with a review under way and an almighty fall-out between the parties involved.
Fortunately Ireland came through to win an exciting, if fault-ridden game.
It was a shock to see the American pack crumble repeatedly at the set-scrum. Yet Ireland couldn’t make proper use of the disruption it caused. It took till the second quarter for Stacey Flood to unleash their deadliest weapon. She hoisted a kick to the far left. It bounced three times before Beibhinn Parsons took hold of it. From there, it was an extended flash of lightning as the crowd’s favourite winger accelerated then altered course infield to score another quite dramatic try. (5-0)
In the loose the US pack was a different animal; they celebrated a fine driving try completed by Saher Hamdan, but they hadn’t counted on the TMO’s x-ray eyes. Claire Hodnett had spotted a minute knock-on in the middle of a mass of tumbling bodies.
No matter, they attacked again. This time the ball was spread right where fine handling saw Bulou Mataitoga cross. (5-5)
Before the break the Irish replied. Nicola Fryday made a telling break, Anna Caplice heaved the ball on and Leah Lyons applied the last decisive thrust.
Straight afterwards the Eagles took advantage of a pass missed by Eimear Considine, who didn’t look quite at home at outside-centre. They developed an attack of great brilliance, with a series of well-timed off-loads that allowed Elizabeth Cairns (on for an injured Rachel Johnson) to complete a try which stood comparison with the best they achieved against England in that memorable RWC pool-decider. (12-10)
In this ding-dong battle it was almost inevitable that Ireland responded at once. An accurate catch-and-drive finished with Lindsay Peat scoring the try. (17-10) There couldn’t have been a more fitting end to her test career. As she was subbed off, the crowd roared its approval of a favourite warrior.
Ireland ended the game well on top, Flood completing the job with a straightforward penalty from in front.
The Eagles finished ahead in most of the stats, but not the points scored. That was the penalty for careless handling, dropped and forward passes abounding. Both scrum and line-out were fallible.
There is still too big a gap between the best and worst they produce on the field.
They can expect a severe challenge when they come to face the world’s No 1 side on 21 November.
Result: Ireland 20 USA 10
Player of the Match: Nicola Fryday
Ireland: Delany, Sheehan, Considine, Naoupu, Parsons, Flood, Hughes; Peat, Moloney, Lyons, Fryday, Monaghan, Griffin (captain), McMahon, Caplice
Bench: Djougang, Higgins, Dane, Jones, O’Dwyer, Og O’Leary, Murphy Crowe, O’Connor
USA: Canett, Feury, Talei Bonté, Howard, Mataitoga, Foster, Waters, Benson, Hamden, Rogers, Sommer, Washington, Ehrecke, Johnson, Zackary (captain)
Replacements: Cairns, James, Hawkins, Ortiz, Levy, Taofoou, Rogers
Referee: Sara Cox (RFU)
ARs: Maria Beatrice Benvenuti (FIR) and Maria Giovanna Pacifico (FIR)
TMO: Claire Hodnett (RFU)
with thanks to rugbyreferee.net
This result came as a huge relief and delight to the Irish squad. They are in an unusual halfway house: Adam Griggs has one more game in charge. He stuck mostly to the tried and trusted in this squad, though only eight had appeared in that convulsive loss to Scotland.
Maeve Og O’Leary was one new face introduced after fine performances in the inter-pros. She replaced the skipper in the second half. We can confidently expect Greg McWilliams to introduce more uncapped players when he takes charge.
The sad saga of Irish (mal-)administration is far from over.