Debutant flanker Dominic Ryan spoke of the anticipation leading up to playing his first Test match following Ireland’s 49-7 win over Georgia. Having lined out for the Ireland Under-20s, Emerging Ireland and O2 Ireland Wolfhounds, he is now cherishing his first senior cap.
“I was very nervous. It was like waking up on Christmas morning. It’s kinda like, ‘today is the day’. I got butterflies. The anthems were fantastic and it was back into the rugby from there,” said Dominic Ryan, as he reflected on his maiden Test appearance for Ireland.
“(The first hit) is good. It’s good to get into the game. It took me a couple of minutes to get good contact but it was good.
“The big thing is the importance of cherishing each cap. It might sound cliched but they don’t come often. Talking to other guys in the team, like Darren Cave, he got his first cap in 2009. That was his eighth cap today. They mightn’t come often and they might be years apart. It is a big day for me and (I’m) just cherishing the first cap really.”
Despite dominating possession in the opening half Ireland were only 9-0 in front the break, thanks to three penalties from Ian Madigan.
Joe Schmidt’s men did have a number of try-scoring opportunities, with Ryan himself going for the line in the first half but a knock-on put a stop to the attack which the Leinster back rower was not pleased with.
The 24-year-old felt Ireland needed to play clever rugby on the resumption, putting more bodies into the breakdown to ‘clean deep’ after Georgia had succeeded in isolating Irish ball carriers on a few occasions in the opening half.
“Maybe the first half didn’t go according to plan but we had a good chat at half-time, ironed out a few problems and everything went a lot better. The ref had to sort them out at the breakdown.
“A couple of infringements at the breakdown and the tackler wasn’t releasing. Between that and us getting our cleaning out better, we made the difference in the second half.
“We were very close in the first half. We felt we maybe should have crossed the line with one of our mauls. At half-time Simon (Easterby) had a word with us and said, ‘we’re close guys’. Just little things.
“Our lifters weren’t strong enough or we didn’t brace hard enough the impact the Georgians were giving us. We just said we would go out with the aim to brace the force of the Georgians better and went over twice.”
Ireland did more than that, running out comfortable 42-point winners in the end as tries from front rowers Dave Kilcoyne and Richardt Strauss were added to by backs Simon Zebo, Felix Jones (2) and Stuart Olding.
Ryan was caught around the eye area by the boot of Georgian flanker Viktor Kolelisvhili, with TV replays highlighting the first half incident. Referee JP Doyle did not refer it to television match official Jim Yuille, a decision which Ireland head coach Schmidt felt was handled correctly in this instance.
Speaking about it afterwards, Schmidt said: “According to the protocol I think he (the referee) acted correctly. I think the protocol is that if there is suspected foul play the TMO can intervene, he can let the referee know and then the referee can review it.
“Obviously the incident had passed, and I think by the time Eoin (Reddan) spoke to the referee the game had moved on a little bit, and he heard nothing from the TMO. There’s not really much else that JP Doyle could have done. That’s just the way it works.
“If there was an incident then that has to be dealt with by the TMO pretty much in close proximity in time, otherwise once the game goes on it is pretty hard to go a long way back.
“It didn’t look great at the end of it, but I didn’t see how it occurred. Rugby is a game where things can happen. It is one of those things we’ll have a look at and I don’t think we’ll be the only ones. But, for me, I’m pretty keen just to move on from it and leave it on the pitch.”
While Ryan said the pace of Ireland’s second GUINNESS Series clash was not the quickest, he admitted the physicality of the game lived up to the billing.
The young blindside added: “I doubt it (the eye incident) was intentional to be honest, but it was a bit reckless. He (the referee) said he couldn’t go to the big screen, but that’s rugby.
“It was directly in my eye, but I don’t think it was intentional. It was a mistake. He was just coming through the ruck, so I can’t hold anything against him.
“There can often be little niggly things like that when you play physical teams like Georgia. We just made sure our discipline was good today. We didn’t get involved.
“A big thing that Joe drives amongst the team is our discipline and just poker-facing the opposition no matter what happens. The best way to react to that kind of behaviour is to score a try. That was our comeback.”