The Ireland ‘A’ team’s first match of 2009 saw a number of players enhance their international prospects, most notably Leinster flanker Sean O’Brien who turned in a man-of-the-match display despite having to come into the side late.
‘A’ INTERNATIONAL MATCH: Friday, February 13
IRELAND ‘A’ 35 SCOTLAND ‘A’ 10, The RDS
Scorers: Ireland ‘A’: Tries: Jonathan Sexton, Penalty try, John Muldoon, Eoin Reddan; Cons: Jonathan Sexton 3; Pens: Jonathan Sexton 3
Scotland ‘A’: Try: Sean Lamont; Con: Ruaridh Jackson; Pen: Ruaridh Jackson
Ireland ‘A’ gained some revenge for last year’s record 67-7 defeat to the same opposition as they ran out comfortable winners over Scotland ‘A’ at the RDS on Friday.
Ireland ‘A’ cut a sorry sight twelve months ago when they conceded 10 tries to a rampant Scottish side in Perth, but Michael Bradley’s men were in full control in this rematch.
Jonathan Sexton was the sole scorer as the Irish carved out a 14-3 half-time lead and second half tries from John Muldoon and Eoin Reddan, allied to a penalty try, put the result beyond doubt.
Scotland ‘A’ threw the kitchen sink at the hosts in a free-flowing final quarter and they put together the best attacking move of the match to send winger Sean Lamont over for an injury-time try.
Ruaridh Jackson made his first start at this level at out-half, leading a Scottish back-line that included three full internationals in Ben Cairns, Rob Dewey and Sean Lamont.
With Ed Kalman being drafted into the Scottish senior squad as cover, Stuart Corsar got the nod at tighthead prop but Ireland ‘A’ really targeted the scrum in the opening exchanges and dominated this area.
The Irish started with six full internationals in their side, including Gavin Duffy at full-back and Eoin Reddan at scrum half. Given last year’s results, they were particularly determined to put in a good showing under the watchful eyes of coaches Bradley and Niall O’Donovan.
The powerful Irish scrum enjoyed almost a stone-a-man advantage with Corsar and David Young under constant pressure in the set piece, while team captain Bob Casey, Donncha Ryan and Ryan Caldwell also helped the hosts edge the lineout battle.
Late call-up Sean O’Brien, who started in place of the injured Shane Jennings, certainly made his presence felt.
The young flanker’s crunching tackle on Rob Dewey set up a first penalty of the night for Jonathan Sexton and he also gave the scoring pass for Sexton’s 27th-minute try.
O’Brien and Cian Healy, both members of the Ireland Under-20s’ Grand Slam-winning team of 2007, put in dynamic displays to mark themselves out as two serious international prospects.
Sexton, another player with a bright future, landed three out of four penalty attempts to put the hosts 9-0 ahead by the 22nd-minute.
Ireland ‘A’ went further ahead when Caldwell pinched a ruck ball and O’Brien, a tough man to take down, powered forward before sending Sexton over in the left corner.
The try was awarded but television replays showed that the Irish out-half had lost control of the ball over the try-line.
Jackson missed his first attempt at the posts but after a jinking run by his half-back partner Mark McMillan, Scotland ‘A’ were awarded a second kickable penalty which Jackson made no mistake with.
However, by the 50th minute, Ireland ‘A’ were out of sight at 28-3. The Scottish scrum gave way in successive set pieces, near their line, leaving referee James Jones no option but to award a penalty try.
Scottish tighthead Young was then sin-binned for bringing down a scrum, some minutes later, and Connacht captain Muldoon picked off the base to scout over behind the posts for Ireland’s third try.
Sexton converted both and with Eoin Reddan beginning to make his mark in open play, the Wasps scrum half followed up on a Muldoon drive to crash over the line on the hour.
Replacements Gordon Ross, Steve Swindall and Andrew Turnbull helped the visitors get back on the front foot and after Irish replacement Niall Ronan saw yellow for killing the ball, some great continuity was finished off by Thompson for a consolation score.
This was a very good exercise for the Ireland ‘A’ side which will give the squad a boost of confidence for the summer’s Barclays Churchill Cup campaign. Ulster lock Ed O’Donoghue was sprung from the bench late on for his first appearance for Ireland at any level and Exeter prop John Andress was another notable inclusion.
Their fellow replacement Barry Murphy caught the eye with some barnstorming runs, while Mark McCrea, Mike Ross and Ryan did a lot of unseen work.
TIME LINE: 3 minutes – Ireland ‘A’ penalty: Jonathan Sexton – 3-0; 8 mins – Ireland ‘A’ penalty: Jonathan Sexton – 6-0; 14 mins – Ireland ‘A’ penalty: missed by Jonathan Sexton – 6-0; 22 mins – Ireland ‘A’ penalty: Jonathan Sexton – 9-0; 27 mins – Ireland ‘A’ try: Jonathan Sexton – 14-0; conversion: missed by Jonathan Sexton – 14-0; 35 mins – Scotland ‘A’ penalty: missed by Ruaridh Jackson – 14-0; 39 mins – Scotland ‘A’ penalty: Ruaridh Jackson – 14-3; Half-time – Ireland ‘A’ 14 Scotland ‘A’ 3; 45 mins – Ireland ‘A’ try: Penalty try – 19-3; conversion: Jonathan Sexton – 21-3; 48 mins – Scotland ‘A’ sin-binning: David Young (persistent infringing in the scrum); 50 mins – Ireland ‘A’ try: John Muldoon – 26-3; conversion: Jonathan Sexton – 28-3; 63 mins – Ireland ‘A’ try: Eoin Reddan – 33-3; conversion: Jonathan Sexton – 35-3; 70 mins – Ireland ‘A’ sin-binning: Niall Ronan (killing the ball at a ruck); 80+1 mins – Scotland ‘A’ try: Sean Lamont – 35-8; conversion: Ruaridh Jackson – 35-10; Full-time – Ireland ‘A’ 35 Scotland ‘A’ 10
IRELAND ‘A’: Gavin Duffy; Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Keith Matthews, Mark McCrea; Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Mike Ross, Bob Casey (capt), Ryan Caldwell, Donnacha Ryan, Sean O’Brien, John Muldoon.
Replacements used: Barry Murphy for Cave (half-time), Ian Humphreys for Trimble (62 mins), John Fogarty for Cronin, John Andress for Healy (both 66), Niall Ronan for Caldwell (67), Isaac Boss for Murphy (71), Ed O’Donoghue for Casey (77).
SCOTLAND ‘A’: Steve Jones; Jim Thompson, Ben Cairns (capt), Rob Dewey, Sean Lamont; Ruaridh Jackson, Mark McMillan; Stuart Corsar, Fergus Thomson, David Young, Craig Hamilton, Dan Turner, Scott Newlands, Alan MacDonald, Johnnie Beattie.
Replacements used: Steve Swindall for Newlands, Scott Lawson for F Thomson (both 48 mins), Bruce McNeil for Swindall (49-58), Gordon Ross for Jones (54), McNeill for Young (58), Scott MacLeod for Hamilton, Andrew Turnbull for Thompson (both 59), Greig Laidlaw for McMillan (61).
Referee: James Jones (Wales)