Belfast Telegraph

Monday 28 July 2014

Ireland demolish Islanders in last Landsdowne match

Paddy Wallace ensured Lansdowne Road was given a victorious send-off with a

magnificent display that suggests the search for Ronan O'Gara's understudy is

over.

O'Gara has emerged as the key figure in Ireland's charge up the world rankings

and the lack of an alternative following the international retirement of David

Humphreys has been a major concern.

But Ulsterman Wallace indicated there is another option after producing a

26-point haul with his near-flawless kicking matched by his composure in attack

and an impressive performance capped by a fully deserved first-half try.

It was the 27-year-old's first international start and he comfortably outshone

fellow rookies Jamie Heaslip, Luke Fitzgerald and Stephen Ferris, who were

making their Test debuts.

Fitzgerald, who was playing schools rugby six months ago, became the youngest

player to represent Ireland since Alistair McKibbin in 1977 but the 19-year-old

winger made little impression.

Simon Easterby ran in a brace of tries and Wallace, Denis Hickie, Malcolm

O'Kelly, Shane Horgan, Rory Best and Paul O'Connell also crossed as Ireland

overcame an impressive start from the Pacific Islanders to run riot.

It was a fitting send off for Lansdowne Road which is scheduled to begin

redevelopment in January and the result brought up a clean sweep of victories

from the autumn internationals.

The only negative to emerge from the demolition job was a second-half injury

to skipper Brian O'Driscoll, who was able to walk unaided from the pitch.

Seru Rabeni, Lome Fa'atau and Tusi Pisi crossed for the Islanders who troubled

Ireland until first half injury time when Wallace and O'Kelly touched down.

O'Connell was prominent as Ireland made early inroads into the Islanders'

defence and there were just two minutes on the clock when the first try was

scored.

A sublime piece of skill by Wallace created the score with the Ulster fly-half

dummying to Hickie before actually feeding the veteran Leinster winger who

finished well.

Wallace landed the conversion and then added a penalty as Ireland continued to

find gaps - until they were opened up by a sweet kick from Pisi in the 10th

minute.

The Samoan outside-half spotted Lome Fa'atau unmarked on the right wing and

expertly dropped the ball into his arms only for the winger, who had a clear run

to the line, to knock on.

More dynamic play resulted in the Islanders' first try with Kameli Ratuvou

chipping ahead and gathering before riding Wallace's tackle and supplying the

scoring pass to Rabeni.

The dazzling try served a timely warning of the threat posed by the Islanders

so it came as little surprise when Wallace took the points on offer from a

penalty in front of the posts.

Pisi missed a long-range penalty and O'Driscoll then gave Fitzgerald a

hospital pass to give the debutant a bone-shaking welcome to Test rugby courtesy

of Elvis Seveali'l's shuddering hit.

But the scoreboard was ticking over with Wallace punishing the Islanders'

terrible discipline by adding his third penalty.

O'Driscoll brushed off two tackles to slice the tourists' defence open but

Ulster prop Bryan Young tried to go it alone and a likely try went begging.

The mistake was ruthlessly punished by the Islanders who saw substitute prop

Taufa'ao Felise burst into space and feed winger Fa'atau who galloped home.

Ireland's response was emphatic but they were helped by wayward defending from

the visiting defence which allowed Wallace to skip home following a flat pass

from Peter Stringer.

He converted his own try and then added the extras when a mix-up in the

Islanders line-out let Malcolm O'Kelly in for Ireland's second try of first half

injury time.

It took just five minutes of the second half for Ireland to stretch their lead

with O'Driscoll charging through and offloading to Simon Easterby who was driven

over by his team-mates.

Wallace landed the conversion and 10 minutes later Ireland ran in their fifth

try with Stringer kicking to the right where Horgan was able to gather.

The Leinster star, who has been in magnificent form during the autumn, easily

beat Fa'atau and Rabeni in open space and raced in with Wallace slotting the

conversion.

There was a worrying moment in the 59th minute when O'Driscoll limped off with

Isaac Boss coming on as his replacement.

Easterby barged over for his second try but the Islanders replied through Pisi

who was in support following a bulldozing charge from Alesana Tuilagi.

Boss set off on a run that swept him 30 yards and substitute hooker Best was

on hand to finish the move. Wallace missed the conversion for the first time in

the match.

But there was still time for O'Connell to barge over in injury time as Ireland

completed the rout.

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