Ireland vs Russia: Jordi Murphy injury mars lacklustre Ireland victory as bonus point eventually secured at Rugby World Cup
Ireland 35-0 Russia
Ireland bagged a try bonus point in Kobe against Russia but it was not a performance to put last week's loss to Japan firmly in the rearview mirror.
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Having ceded control of the pool over the weekend, scoring four tries was the bare minimum required from a contest again played in difficult conditions in Kobe. The lesser objectives were to put in a commanding showing and get through with no injuries. Neither were achieved.
While the side never looked like the win was in danger a sloppy third quarter meant the fourth try did not arrive after the hour mark, almost a half hour the third, while by that stage Jordi Murphy had already left the scene with what looked like a blow to the ribs.
With Jack Conan's World Cup already over, Ireland will be sweating on the fitness of late call-up Murphy as the Ulster player's injury is assessed.
Early on, it looked like the expected rout was very much on.
Joe Schmidt had joked pre-match that he'd like to be up 12-3 in the first quarter once again and his side went a few better.
With Johnny Sexton back in the ten jersey, the side's stand-in skipper was a cut above, helping creating two quick-fire scores in an old-fashioned Joe Schmidt strike move for Rob Kearney followed by a delicately measured grubber for Peter O'Mahony to gather and score.
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The sight of him striking the ball cleanly off the tee after that quad injury will have been a relief too.
The stadium PA blared The Boys are back in Town after the latter, and while it was a never the opposition to regather all the momentum lost last week, Ireland were determined to seal the matter early and peppered the Russian backfield with cross-field kicks.
The next score wasn't so easy in coming though, an only did so after the worrying sight of Jordi Murphy departing with a rib injury.
The Ulster back-row only arrived in Japan on Sunday to replace Jack Conan but his night, and perhaps World Cup, lasted only 26 minutes. He'd taken a bang in the previous maul but, when left exposed after a slippery ball squirted from his grasp, he was hammered to the ground and replaced by CJ Stander.
When the third score did come, aided in no small part by continued Russian indiscipline that saw Bogdan Redotko binned, it was nothing fancy, a series of one-out carries softerning up a tiring Russian rearguard with John Ryan and Peter O'Mahony helping man of the match Rhys Ruddock across the whitewash.
Half-time came and went without the all-important fourth score, and that was all she wrote for Sexton, replaced by Carty at the turn.
Russia won a few small skirmishes to begin the second-half, earning a scrum penalty out of Dave Kilcoyne and pinning Ireland back with a fine kick from Artemyev but replacement lock Andrey Ostrikov was no sooner on that he off again, yellow carded for a high hit on John Ryan.
The big lock was stood on the sideline ready to come back on by the time Ireland made their numerical advantage count.
Having used Sexton's boot early, it was Carty's to create the fourth, his chip in midfield bouncing up for Keith Earls who put his Munster team-mate Andrew Conway into the clear.
Job notionally done but you still sensed Ireland's week may feel a little easier if they could provide a final flurry against a Russia side who have tired in previous contests.
In the end, it never transpired but there was at least a parting shot, Ireland's fifth of the game the best of their bunch after Garry Ringrose finished off a nice exchange from Larmour and Earls.
Ireland will head to Fukoaka tomorrow having answered few questions but achieving their base objective. Do the same against Samoa and at the very least the quarter-final spot will be secured regardless of what happens in the pool's other games.
IRELAND: R Kearney, A Conway, G Ringrose, B Aki, K Earls; J Sexton (C), L McGrath; D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, J Ryan; T Beirne, J Kleyn; R Ruddock, P O'Mahony, J Murphy.
REPLACEMENTS: CJ Stander (for Murphy, 26), J Carty (for Sexton, 40) J Larmour (for Kearney, 48), S Cronin (for Scannell, 57), A Porter (Kilcoyne, 57)T Furlong (for Ryan, 57), I Henderson (for Kleyn, 60)
Not used: C Murray
RUSSIA: V Artemyev (c); G Davydov, I Galinovskiy, K Golosnitskiy, D Simplikevich; R Gaisin, D Perov; A Polivalov, E Matveev, K Gotovtsev; A Garbuzov, B Fedotko; A Sychev, T Gadzhiev, V Gresev
REPLACEMENTS: V Ostroushko (for Golosnitskiy, 14), S Selskii (for Matveev, 40), V Morozov (for Polivalov, 40), A Ostrikov (for Garbuzov, 48), E Elgin (for B Fedotko, 64), V Podrezov (for K Gotovtsev, 68), R Khodin (for Sychev, 68) S Ianiushkin (for D Perov, 70)
Man of the match: Rhys Ruddock (IRE)
Here's the game as it happened:
Belfast Telegraph Digital