DUBLIN – A new-look Ireland passed an audition when it thrashed the United States 71-10 at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.
Towards the twilight is Ireland's golden generation marching, notably for the likes of Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray, Cian Healy, Peter O’Mahony and Keith Earls, and coach Andy Farrell's succession planning took a big step when a young but in-form side led by James Ryan delivered a 10-try pounding of the Eagles.
Eight Irish were given their debut, all within the first hour, and three more were handed their first test starts. A dozen of the starting 15 were aged 25 or under and they had an American side which pushed England last weekend under its spell from the get-go.
“I'm delighted for the new caps — to be able to do that as a coach is pretty special,” Farrell said. "To a man they all did extremely well.
"It doesn’t matter whether the scoreline is 71 points or not, the pressure that's on them regarding their debut is always going to be there, and they should be unbelievably proud of themselves at how they handled that.”
Hooker Ronan Kelleher showed off his prowess close to the tryline with four tries, the fourth coming straight after he'd taken a high shot from flanker Riekert Hattingh, who was sent off. After his second try from a rolling maul for 45-3, Kelleher was also given the rest of the night off.
He became the first Irishman since Denis Hickie in 2003 to score four tries in a match. Only Brian Robinson and Keith Wood have also achieved the feat.
There was still 25 minutes to go, and Ireland didn’t let up with more tries for Stuart McCloskey, Hugo Keenan and impressive No. 8 Gavin Coombes.
The outclassed Eagles thought their only try to replacement scrumhalf Michael Baska in the 78th would be the last say, but Ireland replacement prop Finlay Bealham found time and the strength to barge over.
“It was a completely unsatisfactory performance,” U.S. coach Gary Gold said. “Absolutely not at all what we prepared for. No excuses whatsoever, it just wasn't good enough.”
Nine of the 10 Irish tries were converted, the one miss hitting the post.
On debut, wing Robert Baloucoune scored the opening try, released by Joey Carbery to hare into the corner.
After a shaky start, Ireland’s lineout became the launching pad for tries by Kelleher and flanker Nick Timoney, then Coombes, Keenan and wing Andrew Conway combined to give Kelleher an easy second touchdown.
But perhaps Ireland's best-looking move in the match didn't produce a point. Keen to score before halftime was rung, Ireland thrilled with a charge full of offloads and great support play. Tom O'Toole, Craig Casey, Conway and Ryan put flanker Caelan Doris in sight of the tryline but he was swallowed up by Hattingh and Mike Te’o. The future for Ireland looks promising but they still have a lot of work to do.
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