O'Driscoll impressed by Irish composure

(Rugby News Service) Sunday 2 October 2011
O'Driscoll impressed by Irish composure
Left wing Keith Earls dives over for Ireland's second try

DUNEDIN, 2 Oct. - Captain Brian O'Driscoll believes Ireland showed great composure to ease into the quarter-finals with a 36-6 Pool C victory over Italy at Otago Stadium on Sunday.

Three-try Ireland blasted out of the blocks early in the second half after taking a slender 9-6 half-time lead to overwhelm the Azzurri and set up a last-eight clash with Wales at Wellington Regional Stadium next Saturday.

"We knew we were going to have to be patient as you do against any Test team these days. You have to grind them down," said O'Driscoll, who led the Irish to the top of Pool C ahead of Australia.

"We managed to do that but you have to be patient and I think we got our scores in on the opportunities we needed to."

Centre O'Driscoll crossed the Italy line first in the 47th minute and was soon followed by wing Keith Earls as Ireland overran their opponents.

With just over a minute remaining, wing Tommy Bowe came close to scoring, but failed to ground the ball in a chase with two Italian defenders.

Third try

However, Earls scored his second and Ireland's third try when sprinting into the left corner almost on full-time. Replacement Jonathan Sexton kicked the conversion for 36-6.

The Irish had held a three-point lead following a scrappy first half after Ronan O'Gara hit three penalties to Italian Mirco Bergamasco's two.

Nerves had appeared to get the better of both sides in this crucial match as there was little flow to the early play, but several handling errors and numerous penalties.

The closest to a try in the opening half came when Bowe crossed the Italian line, only for play to be taken back by the referee for a forward pass from man of the match Sean O'Brien. 

The succession of penalties continued just two minutes into the second half as O'Gara made it 12-6 when Italy were penalised for not rolling away at a ruck.

O'Gara failed to extend Ireland's six-point lead a few minutes later when he missed a drop goal attempt from just outside the Italian 22m.

Happy birthday

However, Bowe broke through a gap in the Italy defence on the 47th minute, offloaded to O'Driscoll and he sprinted over the line for the match's opening try. O'Gara kicked the conversion for a 19-6 lead.

Then it was happy 24th birthday for left wing Earls when he crossed in the corner five minutes later after Gordon D'Arcy sparked the attack. O'Gara added the extras for a 26-6 advantage.

Ireland were well on top now and came close to adding a third try through Rob Kearney, but the full back was held up by the Azzurri defence.

Sexton, who had come on for O'Gara in the 67th minute, then landed a penalty three minutes later to extend Ireland's lead to 29-6 after Italy did not release the ball in a ruck.

Earls crossed the line again right on time to complete the rout of Italy.

RNS pj