Category: Archive

Irish prepare for All Blacks after easy win

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

The raison d’etre for this somewhat schizophrenic display probably had its roots in the fact that new coach, Declan Kidney, had emptied his bench 15 minutes into the second half, temporarily halting the momentum that had been established.
In addition, the conditions were so miserable – a greasy pitch was made worse by intermittent downpours – that there were moments when it seemed that possession was a liability.
After an encouraging first period that yielded five tries, only three were scored after that, and they all came in the final quarter. Still, it was a winning start, and with New Zealand crushing Scotland in Edinburgh, the Irish are now sure of being one of the top eight seeds when the draw for the 2011 World Cup is made next month.
Quite how Kidney sees his selection for what will be a massive step up in class against the All Blacks at Croke Park on Saturday is anyone’s guess, but of the pretenders, the impressively physical Stephen Ferris held his hand up in a big way, while Keith Earls was also sharp and composed.
The expectation of a callow, hugely inexperienced Canada who wouldn’t be able to live with Ireland’s organization and pace more or less came to pass despite the atrocious weather. In fact, on a dry evening, with the winners dominating the breakdown, this should really have been twice the rout it turned out to be.
The sight of the normally ultra-reliable Rob Kearney spilling the ball early in the game told you everything you needed to know about the difficulty that the combination of the torrential rain and a sodden surface presented.
Sure, the home team made its share of handling errors, but for the most part, Kidney’s new-look combination was refreshing precise in what they tried to accomplish.
“It was a test match, and one game is worth three or four training sessions,” said the coach. “We did a reasonable job, and isn’t it much better to be like this than the other way. But at the same time, we’re not blowing ourselves up. We won’t be fooled in any way. We won a game, and that will feed into confidence.”
For long periods, this “test” bore an uneasy resemblance to a training run. The Canadians, attempting to build a squad after several underwhelming years, were pretty clueless with nothing like the physical presence and nous their predecessors offered during the 1990s.
The only negative from an Irish perspective during a totally one-sided opening half was the sense that Brian O’Driscoll was still suffering from the knee injury that had forced him out midway through Leinster’s Heineken Cup victory over Wasps. But if the captain didn’t appear fully fit, there were plenty around him ready to pick off the plentiful scoring opportunities.
Canada were hit for five tries before the interval, and the only real surprise was that the 38-0 lead wasn’t even wider so complete was Ireland’s dominance. Appropriately, it was local boy, Earls, who got the show on the road with a debut try after just three minutes when he picked a good line to brush off two would-be tacklers.
The video ref had to earn his corn for Kearney’s first and also for Jamie Heaslip’s drive from the base of a close-range scrum, and if both touchdowns were in doubt, Ireland got the breaks their superiority deserved. Kearney added a second following a strong Luke Fitzgerald break, and Tommy Bowe round off the half with another which was really much too soft.
Either Canada’s New Zealand coach, Kieran Crowley, had issued dire threats at the break, or the raft of substitutes introduced by Kidney upset the Irish rhythm, but all of a sudden, the flow of tries began to dry up.
Certainly, Eoin Reddan was struggling to get his passes away and for a while, Ronan O’Gara, whose place kicking was majestic, was strangely off-the-radar with his tactical kicking. In contrast the excellent Ferris was still terrorizing the visitors, and gradually, the gulf in class began to open once more.
By the end, only Fitzgerald and Donncha O’Callaghan were still in their starting positions, and as Canada wilted, David Wallace, Alan Quinlan and finally Bowe, with his second try, pushed Ireland past the 50 mark.
So, what did it tell us in advance of the pending clash with New Zealand? In truth, not a whole lot, but Saturday’s represents a major opportunity for Ireland who have never beaten the All Blacks in 21 attempts.
“They’re the standard bearers, they’re the Tiger Woods of rugby,” said Kidney coyly. “The more often we get to play them, the better we are for it, but if you go on the rankings system [New Zealand are first in the world and Ireland eighth] we’re in for a hiding. Let’s just see what happens.”

Player admits to betting

Allegations that a number of players at professional soccer club St Patrick’s Athletic might have betted on their team to lose were given further credibility last weekend when one of the squad, Gary Dempsey, admitted that he had placed an irregular wager.
Although Dempsey has been suspended on full pay by St Patrick’s, it is not yet clear what sort of sanctions, if any, the midfielder might face.
He bet

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