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Ireland tour largely successful but Schmidt's boys must find another gear

By Niall Crozier

So far, so very good for Ireland coach Joe Schmidt. Having guided his adopted country to the Six Nations title at the first attempt, the Kiwi's encore was a first-ever series win for Ireland in Argentina.

That means Ireland have won six of their seven matches to date in 2014, with a 13-10 Twickenham defeat by England the only blot on their copybook.

Saturday night's 23-17 victory in Tucumán was largely attributable to set-piece dominance, with Ireland ruling in both scrum and line-out.

Second-half tries by Munster wing Simon Zebo and Leinster utility back Ian Madigan – deployed at out-half on this occasion when Jonathan Sexton retired at the end of the third quarter – were the fruits of the labour by the forwards, of whom blind-side Rhys Ruddock – making his first Test start – was the pick.

But although it was a satisfactory result, the Irish performance overall was well short of wholly impressive. The first-half was very patchy, with the Pumas repeatedly managing to frustrate their guests. It was the final match of a long, hard season – and it showed.

The pluses from an Ulster perspective? Rory Best's line-out throwing was again flawless and his tackle count immense. Chris Henry, as ever, worked selflessly for 64 minutes and Darren Cave, named at 12 on this occasion, was increasingly prominent as he grew into his less familiar role.

But Andrew Trimble – who has been magnificent this season – was yellow-carded in the first half, in addition to which his usually totally reliable defence was breached on a couple of occasions.

Iain Henderson – a half time replacement for Devin Toner – played a big part in Ireland's post-interval improvement, and Rob Herring earned his first cap when he took over from Best.

Schmidt's summary was spot on: "We're delighted with the result, but we know that won't be anywhere near good enough when we come to play South Africa in November."

Meanwhile, Ireland Under-20s' first ever IRB Junior World Championship semi-final appearance ended in a 42-15 drubbing by their English counterparts at Auckland's QBE Stadium.

When the sides clashed in the Six Nations back in February, England ran out 33-9 winners. In yesterday's rematch they led 34-3 at half-time. To their credit the outclassed Irish boys made a better fist of it after the interval before finally going down 42-15.

Leinster inside centre Garry Ringrose and Munster left wing Alex Wootton scored tries apiece with Leinster out-half Ross Byrne adding a conversion having kicked a first-half penalty.

Belfast Harlequins' flanker Frank Taggart was the only Ulster player involved and he ended up switching to No 8 when captain Jack O'Donoghue exited with concussion in the 38th minute.

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