5 Dec, 14:49
The Ireland Under-19 squad to face Australia Schools at Ravenhill on Saturday week (December 14) has been announced.
It was a match of 'firsts' for Ireland with Declan Kidney in charge for the first time, Tony Buckley making his first start, Keith Earls having his first involvement and Jamie Heaslip and Earls both grabbing their maiden tries.
This GUINNESS Series 2008 opener also saw the redeveloped Thomond Park host its first international match, but despite an eight-try haul and some decent spells of play, Ireland never found their top gears and the touring Canada side struggled throughout, creating very few scoring chances.
Games between these two sides have been very competitive in the past, from the 1987 Rugby World Cup pool encounter in Carisbrook through to a gripping 27-27 draw in Ontario in 2000 when Ronan O'Gara rescued the Irish with a last-gasp penalty.
However, this was a largely forgettable affair as heavy rain showers and wind made ball-handling conditions particulary difficult and the Canadians never recovered from a poor start.
Ireland were 17-0 in front within 14 minutes of Ander Monro's kick-off and 38-0 to the good at half-time, thanks to tries from debutant full-back Earls, Rob Kearney (2), Heaslip and Tommy Bowe.
Lining out with a new-look front row and back row, Ireland took to their task early and unsettled Canada up front.
There were nerves also behind the Canadian scrum as James Pritchard and Justin Mensah-Coker failed to deal with a garryowen from O'Gara.
Ireland snaffled possession and a quick thread of passes, with Brian O'Driscoll and Luke Fitzgerald combining, put Earls spinning past Mike Burak for a third minute try.
O'Gara nailed the conversion from the left and the number 10's accurate place-kicking from both sides of the pitch was one of the most encouraging aspects of the evening - he finished with a 100% record (5 conversions and a penalty).
Both O'Gara and Eoin Reddan kicked steadily until they were called ashore in the second half and Canada were troubled by those high balls, with the spills leading to two tries.
Ireland showed their intent to rack up the points when O'Driscoll asked O'Gara to go for goal from a seventh minute penalty, which he duly sent through the posts.
With their domination of possession - 71% in the opening quarter hour - Ireland were soon racking up the tries. Canada's poor defence left them exposed at the back and at close range.
Kearney's first try had a touch of good fortune about it. Television match official Giulio De Santis ruled that the Leinster man had grounded the ball, but replays showed that Canadian winger Ciaran Hearn might have been first to the ball.
Again, the score came from a Canada error as Pritchard failed to deal adequately with an O'Gara kick through and Kearney pounced to tap the ball on and over the try line.
O'Gara's conversion pushed Ireland onto 17 points and a deluge of rain soon followed as the players were soaked and the supporters tried to scatter for cover.
Earls and Stephen Ferris, making his first appearance in the number 6 jersey, both had strong first quarters, doing most things right and looking composed in possession.
With the conditions worsening, both sides opt to put boot to ball on a number of occasions, trying to force errors out of the opposition and Canada struggled for a set piece platform, losing a couple of lineouts and disappointing in scrums.
Their experienced front row of Jon Thiel, Kevin Tkachuk and skipper Pat Riordan were expected to hurt Ireland in the scrum but they were put in their place by Horan and company.
A Ferris blockdown almost led to a try, with Shane Jennings just failing to combine with Heaslip, but barely two minutes later the Irish number 8 burst over for a try.
Heaslip sped off the back of a dominant Irish scrum and had the upper body strength to hold off Sean-Michael Stephen and make the line, with the help of Ferris and perhaps a slice of luck as replays showed a possible knock on.
Nonetheless, the score stood and O'Gara's conversion took Ireland's lead to 24-0.
He also added the extras to Kearney's 32nd-minute effort, as Canada continued to crumble under short, sharp attacks from Kidney's men.
After Fitzgerald had taken play up close to the Canada posts, Pritchard infringed on the deck and the quick-thinking Reddan knocked a cross-field kick out to the right where Earls jumped and passed behind him for the waiting Kearney to slide in at the corner despite the best efforts of Ed Fairhurst.
Try number five followed just on the stroke of half-time. Tackling their hearts out but with their line breaking too often, Canada could do little to prevent Bowe from slipping through on the left, dotting down close to the posts after a clever pass from Reddan.
Kidney made two tactical changes at the break, bringing John Hayes and Rory Best into the row, but the game lulled in the opening 20 minutes of the second half.
Whatever bite was in the game in the first half had gone and it was an error-strewn third quarter.
Earls livened up proceedings by ghosting past Hearn and Monro on an angled run but the move petered out, like many of Ireland's second half forays, and complacency set in for a while.
Undoubtedly, the struggle for continuity and further try-yielding attacks could be attributed to it being the first Test of the season and the new combinations on show.
The Irish management brought on more fresh legs, five players in all, just before the hour mark in an attempt to liven things up.
And gradually, the replacements had an impact. David Wallace, one of those sprung from the bench, ended the barren spell. He broke through for his tenth Test try, following up on a line break by the lively Bowe.
Paddy Wallace, who had come on for O'Gara, put over the conversion for 45-0 and a big hit by Ferris on Josh Jackson then drew appreciation from the crowd.
Play was fragmented for the closing quarter-hour. Canada could do little with their possession and it seemed inevitable that more Irish tries would come, with replacements Shane Horgan and Peter Stringer providing fresh impetus amongst the tired bodies.
Another of the replacements, Alan Quinlan, was on the end of a flowing 73rd-minute move involving passes from Paddy Wallace, Horgan, Bowe and Kearney.
The Munster flanker's score, his first since his 2003 Rugby World Cup try against Argentina, was a popular one on his home patch.
Wallace missed the conversion but there was still time for another unconverted try as a looping pass from Horgan put Bowe diving over in the left corner, ahead of Phil Mackenzie.
Granted the opposition did not live up to their world ranking of 15th and Ireland fell off the boil during the second half, but for their first Test match in five months, there was enough in this 80 minutes to suggest that Kidney's charges will be able to up the ante for next weekend's crucial meeting with the All Blacks.
TIME LINE: 3 minutes - Ireland try: Keith Earls - 5-0; conversion: Ronan O'Gara - 7-0; 7 mins - Ireland penalty: Ronan O'Gara - 10-0; 13 mins - Ireland try: Rob Kearney - 15-0; conversion: Ronan O'Gara - 17-0; 28 mins - Ireland try: Jamie Heaslip - 22-0; conversion: Ronan O'Gara - 24-0; 31 mins - Ireland try: Rob Kearney - 29-0; conversion: Ronan O'Gara - 31-0; 40 mins - Ireland try: Tommy Bowe - 36-0; conversion: Ronan O'Gara - 38-0; Half-time - Ireland 38 Canada 0; 63 mins - Ireland try: David Wallace - 43-0; conversion: Paddy Wallace - 45-0; 73 mins - Ireland try: Alan Quinlan - 50-0; conversion: missed by Paddy Wallace - 50-0; 80 mins - Ireland try: Tommy Bowe - 55-0; conversion: missed by Paddy Wallace - 55-0; Full-time - Ireland 55 Canada 0
|Ireland Score Card|
|Canada Score Card|