Ireland labour to bonus point against Russia

Coach Schmidt looks on the bright side, but it took his team 62 minutes to run in the important fourth try against a dogged Bears side in Kobe.

KOBE, 3 Oct - Ireland got the expected bonus-point victory, but the fluent, accurate performance they would have wished for after their shock defeat to Japan never really materialised.

It was a victory that will hardly have sent a chill down the spines of either New Zealand or South Africa, their likely quarter-final opponents.

Russia may have been ultimately outclassed, but in frustrating Ireland for long periods they were never less than massively committed.

They left the field to a huge ovation from both the neutrals and the Ireland supporters. It was fully merited, with plenty of respect being shown by players of both teams.

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt, not surprisingly, chose to accentuate the positives. "There were more things that pleased me, definitely," he said. "We started really well again and got those two early tries, as we did last time, and then made a bit of hard work of it.

"There was a bit of consternation in that third quarter when we didn’t get the bonus point try but it was great to see Andrew Conway streak away to get that fourth try."

Amid conditions not as oppressive as feared, Ireland showed early determination to put the Japan defeat in the rear-view mirror.

After only 90 seconds, a familiar training ground move from the Schmidt playbook created acres of space for full-back Rob Kearney to gallop clear for the perfect start.

The difference in class between the sides was evident on 13 minutes when Ireland made their second big thrust in the Russian 22 and came away with another seven-pointer.

After prop Dave Kilcoyne crashed over the gain line, Johnny Sexton saw space in behind and sent Peter O’Mahony in pursuit of a lovely grubber kick. The flanker won the race and scored beside the upright, with Russian centre Kirill Golosnitskiy injured in the act of trying to stop him and forced off. 

So far, so good for Ireland but they began to find their momentum halted by handling errors and unyielding Russian defenders. 

If that was frustrating, what came next will have caused concern in the Ireland coaching box. Jordi Murphy, thrown into the fray just a few days after arriving as a replacement for the injured Jack Conan, left the field after 26 minutes with a rib injury and was replaced by CJ Stander. 

"We're going to get him checked out," Schmidt said of the unlucky Murphy, amid concerns that his tour could be over within a week of his arrival.

Ireland ramped up the pressure and another big surge led to lock Bogdan Fedotko being yellow-carded for an illegal entry. The third try looked inevitable and Player of the Match Rhys Ruddock produced it, after being propelled forward by prop John Ryan.

By half-time Russia had conceded eight penalties to Ireland’s three. Fly-half Johnny Sexton was replaced by Jack Carty at the interval and added to Irish concerns when seen with an ice-pack on his thigh, but pronounced himself fine after the game.

Russia had a second man sent to the bin when replacement Andrey Ostrikov was guilty of a dangerous clearout, but Ireland could do little with their second numerical advantage.

Russia fly-half Ramil Gaisin then had a chance to put some Russian points on the board but kicked a long-range penalty wide. Not before time, on 62 minutes, Ireland worked a nice try for the bonus point, with Carty’s clever kick being picked up by Keith Earls, who found his Munster team-mate Conway with all the space he needed.

If the performance was far from convincing, it at least had a finishing flourish of some class, with Jordan Larmour and Earls combining beautifully to send Garry Ringrose in for the fifth try.  

RNS ae/bo/ajr/sw