Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Ulster Rugby stars have given boss Schmidt food for thought

Fine display: Iain Henderson worked tirelessly for Ireland
Fine display: Iain Henderson worked tirelessly for Ireland

Iain Henderson produced a stand-out performance for Ireland in Saturday's 29-17 Test victory over Argentina.

One of seven Ulster players in Joe Schmidt's starting XV, he packed down alongside Paul O'Connell in the second row, from where he served up a display which confirmed club coach Mark Anscombe's opinion that, at this stage of his international career, 22-year-old Henderson offers more playing at lock than at blind-side.

By virtue of his immense line-out contribution, mauling and tackling, he ran Jonathan Sexton close for the man of the match prize. Henderson worked tirelessly in the heat and humidity of north-east Argentina, underlining his mental strength and physical stamina.

Rory Best's line-out throwing was exemplary, with Henderson, O'Connell and Robbie Diack all benefiting from his service. He contributed all over the park, repeatedly offering support.

Diack's debut went well, despite failing to use Felix Jones and Simon Zebo when Ireland had a two-man overlap following a great eighth minute break by Darren Cave. For reasons best known to himself, Diack came back inside.

That said, Diack shone in the loose and at the back of the line-out with five first-half takes. With Stephen Ferris now retired, the Irish-qualified South African has turned up at what for him – and Schmidt – is an opportune moment.

Cave did himself no harm, either, for while that early break was the most easily spotted of a number of good moments, there were others – and not only in attack. The Irish number 13 jersey has been worn by a defensive genius for the past 14 seasons so that's a hard act to follow. Cave made a very good fist of it at the first time of asking, though a 30th minute fumble when Ireland were attacking in the hosts' 22 was a bad moment.

Andrew Trimble continued his international redemption with another of those interception tries in which he specialises. But he won't have been happy with his defence on a couple of occasions against Manuel Montero, who also scored. Luke Marshall's defence was breached more than once, too, though on the plus side he linked beautifully with Sexton for the latter's touchdown.

Chris Henry will feel sore at the manner in which he was fobbed off leading to Montero's score, but will have enjoyed his 34th minute try off a line-out maul to restore the lead Ireland had lost moments earlier.

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