Ireland 50 – 7 Canada
Despite the level of opposition, Ireland must be commended for the professionalism with which they went about their business this afternoon. Man of the Match Johnny Sexton gave a performance that showed the return of a clinical edge that has been a source of criticism during the World Cup warm ups.
The first ten minutes began with early rustiness as a run through the hands ended up in touch. An Irish revival began with an excellent tactical kick from Sexton. The subsequent lineout resulted in Seán O’Brien being carried over the line. It could have been more had O’Connell not been stopped illegally by the Canadian lock, resulting in him being sinbinned.
With Ian Henderson barging over at close range, Ireland upped the tempo with the numerical advantage and Johnny Sexton broke through the midfield and turned on the sprinter’s gas to score in the corner. He failed to convert from a difficult touchline position however.
The Six Nations champions were looking relatively comfortable with good ball protection on the ground making life easier for Munster man Murray. Yet the Canadians did show fighting spirit towards half time with Van der Merwe knocking on under pressure from Luke Fitzgerald after they were held up short seconds before. A final flurry of attack down the blindside resulted in winger Dave Kearney reading a mismatch and careering over the whitewash.
The second half started off disastrously from an Irish perspective as Captain Paul O’Connell was sinbinned on 41 minutes for a blatant offside. Canada were rejuvenated and poured new energy into the contact area. So successful were the Canadians at slowing down Ireland at the breakdown that Ireland failed to score until the 67th minute. Sean Cronin used his bulk to bulldoze his way over the line from point blank range.
However, Ireland were made to pay for a lapse in concentration when a poorly judged grubber kick from New Zealand born Jared Payne was charged down by Van der Merve who sprinted for the line. Yet after this error, rather than wind down the clock by taking the ball through the phases, the men in green continued to play like a team that had a point to prove.
After defending resolutely on their own line, a sublime kick from Jonathan Sexton to Earls started off the attack before a beautiful pass to Rob Kearney left him with the easy task of walking under the posts. A further score from Jared Payne was the icing on the cake. This was a far from flawless performance from Ireland but they did what needed to be done, five points secured. On to Romania.
Words by Conor Lynott