Category: Archive

Visiting Irish ruggers make short work of Eagles

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Jon Harvey

Ireland 83, USA Eagles 8

MANCHESTER, N.H. — The last time Ireland and the United States of America met to play rugby was in a World Cup match eight months ago. The result of that match was a lopsided 53-8 in favor of the Irish.

Yet going into a fixture on Saturday, the Eagles were hot from Epson cup victories over Canada and Japan. Ireland, on the other hand, had only the previous week suffered their second straight loss to Argentina, prompting no fewer than 10 lineup changes. The forecast called for hot, humid weather, not exactly conditions for which Ireland is well known. The stage seemed set for an upset.

Or did it? If anybody actually thought so, the misimpression was corrected quickly. Less than two minutes after kick-off, Simon Easterby touched the ball down for Ireland’s first try on their first possession. That set the tone for a half in which the Irish side took a commanding 31-3 lead on the way to a decisive 83-3 victory.

Despite the 80-point margin, Irish coach Warren Gatland did manage to point out flaws in Ireland’s game, particularly in the opening 40 minutes. Gatland expressed particular disappointment "with the number of wayward throws over the top in the line-out in the first half."

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Irish captain Keith Wood blamed this on the weather. "I was shattered," he told reporters. "That kind of heat is mean."

Gatland also noticed some ballhandling errors and a lack of aggressiveness in first-half scrum play.

"We just needed to be a bit more ruthless in the second half and we were." Ruthless indeed: the Irish scored 52 unanswered points, resulting in an 83-3 victory with a national record 13 tries.

The Eagles’ only score came on Grant Wells’ successful penalty kick 8 minutes into the game. U.S. coach Duncan Hall managed to look on the bright side, noting that "Ireland paid us a compliment by continuing to play rugby after building a big lead."

The Eagles did have several strong scoring opportunities in the second half, and some of the 5,200 spectators at Singer Family Park called on the Irish defenders to show mercy. One fan even tried to add excitement to the match in the closing minutes by running across the pitch naked.

Mike Mullins topped the scoreboard with three tries, his first hat trick since he played at club level. Geordan Murphy had a pair, as did Simon Easterby and his brother, Guy, in his first international appearance. Malcolm O’Kelly, Paul Wallace, James Topping, and David Humphries rounded off the scoring for Ireland.

Ronan O’Gara connected on 6 of his 11 conversion attempts, for 12 points. Substitute David Humphries, in addition to a try, successfully converted on one of two attempts.

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