Irish eyes smiling after marching on
Len Dineen, the Irish Rugby Legends manager, refused to get carried away despite getting their World Rugby Classic campaign off in style with a comfortable 25-8 victory over USA Classic Eagles at North Field, National Sports Centre, last night.
Last year's beaten finalists signalled their return with a dominant display, building on a 8-0 half-time advantage with a controlled second-half, adding three further tries to eventually prevail and book their semi-final berth.
Having come into the tournament aiming to avenge last year's disappointment, Dineen conceded his relief at getting over the first hurdle, but was quick to downplay their ambitions with hotly tipped Argentina and South Africa still in contention for the title. South Africa overcame the Classic Lions in a hard-fought 17-5 success in last night's second game.
“It was all about getting off to a good start against a good United States team,” he said. “They gave us a really good game but thankfully we managed to do enough for the win.
“To get into the semi-final was the first objective and so we are really delighted to be there.
“For some of our guys that was their first experience of the Classic and I think they found out pretty quickly the good level of competition they're up against.
“It's great to get over that first hurdle and now we'll roll up our sleeves and go again.
“I think we'll have a couple of knocks going forward but we'll patch them up and go again.
“It's great to get through but we won't be getting carried away, particularly looking at the South Africa and Argentina squads, they'll be strong competition and so we'll just focus on ourselves and see what we can do.”
After an even opening ten minutes, Ireland finally broke the deadlock when wing Danny Barnes finished off a flowing move to score in the bottom-right corner. Fergal Campion failed with the seemingly simple conversion as his side held a 5-0 lead.
However, Campion made amends seven minutes before the interval, sending a 30-yard penalty attempt sailing through the post to gift the Irish a 8-0 half-time advantage.
For all their defensive efforts in the opening 30 minutes to limit the opposition, the Classic Eagles were breached with just three minutes played after the interval.
After a prolonged period of pressure in the left corner, Ireland were finally awarded a penalty try, with Campion again falling short with the extras, leaving the score at 13-0.
In the 41st minute, the Eagles finally got on the scoreboard through Robbie Shaw's cleanly struck penalty to reduce the deficit, before missing with another penalty attempt three minutes later, leaving the score at 13-3.
Back came Ireland with a another try with ten minutes remaining as a scrum lead to the ball being worked out to Barnes who raced clear to score his second try of the evening. Chris Keane took responsibility with the conversion and fired it through the posts to extend their lead to 20-3.
To their credit, the Eagles responded brilliantly to the setback scoring the try of the night two minutes later as Marcus Satavu received the ball before evading three challenges to crash over in the left corner. Shaw fell just wide with the conversion leaving the score at 20-8.
However, there was to be no late dramatic comeback as Ireland scored the final try in the closing moments as Alex Dunlop breached the Eagles' defensive line to saunter over the line. Des Dillon sent the conversion overthe posts. Meanwhile, the second encounter proved far more strongly contested as the Classic Springboks outfought the Classic Lions.
The South Africans got off to a flying start scoring all of their points in a dominant opening 22 minutes. The first two tries came courtesy of the blistering pace of Tonderai Chavhanga with the wing scoring in the fifth and nineteenth minutes, the second converted by Rheinhard Gerber.
It was extended to 17-0 two minutes later as scrum half Charl McLeod intercepted a wayward pass to race clear and score an unconverted try.
The Lions scored their only points of the match in the 24th minute when Johnnie Beaties probing run down the left was rewarded by Ryan Grant powering over.
The second-half proved a one-sided affair in the Lions' favour, but for all of their dominance they could not break down the resolute South Africa defence who had to manage being a man down for ten minutes after Morgan Newman received a yellow card for a high tackle.