By Alan Dymock
In a nutshell
IN WHAT turned out to be nothing more than a training ground run around, Ireland ran in eight unanswered tries in this non-cap match at Thomond Park. Fiji laboured in the lashing rain, but could not get anywhere near their Irish counterparts. The Ulster influence was strong. Paddy Jackson was impressive with the boot, Iain Henderson was industrious, Darren Cave and Luke Marshall looked like a dynamic centre pairing and Craig Gilroy simply ran away with it in scoring an impressive hat-trick. When you add in a brace by Fergus McFadden, Fiji will be glad this fixture is quickly confined to the history books.
In the space of one measly minute McFadden and hooker Sean Cronin had both powered their way over the line. The first try had come from a fantastic kick collection by Gilroy and good hands from Dennis Hurley, before McFadden stepped inside and bounced through to the line. The second came from three key passes. Gilroy ran and popped; Marshall fed Jackson; Conor Murray found Cronin on his way to the line on the other side of the pitch. With speed and ease Ireland had effectively killed Fiji in a minute.
Star man: Craig Gilroy
It was a night where rugby-by-numbers would have seen any hard running player plunge over the line for Ireland, but Gilroy stood out. He had endless joy on the right wing as short chips and quick passes allowed him past his opposite man, Watisoni Votu. He finished with a hat-trick, but it was his willingness to run in-field and his effortless sprinting that was so noteworthy. Declan Kidney could do worse than to keep the 21-year-old Ulsterman in for the test against Argentina.
Room for improvement
In a game where no caps were handed out, no world ranking points were affected and Fiji were reeling from consecutive losses, a lack of team preparation and Northern Hemisphere conditions, one would be hard pushed to see the benefit of this fixture. However, there was some fine rugby on display for Ireland and in Jackson, Luke Marshall, Henderson and Gilroy they have unearthed players who could easily develop for Ireland. They must find a better way of slipping them into harsh test environments during important moments, rather than saving them for bounce matches on the west coast.
In quotes – winners
Ireland captain, Jamie Heaslip: “The win is massive. Although we have had a great three weeks’ training and great energy, we have had nothing to show for it. A lot of the young lads took their opportunity and played out of their skin. ‘Gillers’ [Craig Gilroy] showed some serious wheels to take his tries but everyone did well.”
In quotes – losers
On Sunday the Fiji Sun newspaper could only say online: “Poor defence and handling and set piece woes continued to haunt the Flying Fijians, who have lost all the three games they have played so far on the Europe tour.” The Fiji Broadcasting Corporation summed this up with: “Errors and unsportsmanlike play by Fiji saw them give possession which Ireland A used to convert into points.”
Fiji made as many metres with ball in hand as there are days in the year, but their 364m were dwarfed by Ireland’s 714m made. That included a 65m sprint to the line by Gilroy. The nippy winger made 184m by himself.
The Irish XV made 10 clean breaks while Fiji missed 23 tackles.
Click here to watch highlights from the match
Ireland XV: Denis Hurley (Simon Zebo, 61), Fergus McFadden, Darren Cave, Luke Marshall, Craig Gilroy, Paddy Jackson, Conor Murray (Paul Marshall, 61); Dave Kilcoyne (Cian Healey, 46), Sean Cronin (Richardt Strauss, 61), Mike Ross (Michael Bent, 52), Donncha O’Callaghan, Dan Tuohy, Iain Henderson, John Muldoon (Chris Henry, 43), Jamie Heaslip (Mike McCarthy, 72).
Replacements (not used): Keith Earls
Tries: Craig Gilroy (3), Fergus McFadden (2), Sean Cronin, Darren Cave, Luke Marshall. Cons: Jackson (5). Pens: Jackson. Sin Bin: Chris Henry (63)
Fiji: Metuisela Talebulamaijaina, Isimali Koniferedi (Saula Radidi, 36), Vereniki Goneva, Ravai Fatiaki (Timoci Matanavou, 41), Watisoni Votu, Jonetani Ralulu, Nicola Matawalu (Kelemedi Bolatagane, 67); Jerry Yanuyanutawa (Stefano Somoca, 69), Viliame Veikoso (Talemaitoga Tuapati, 45), Deacon Manu (c), Leone Nakawara (Api Ratuniyarawa, 45), Api Naikatani, Iliesa Ratuva, Malaki Ravulo, Nemani Nagusa (Josefa Domolailai, 60).
Replacements (not used): Manasa Saulo
Sin Bin: Matanavou (46), Tuapati (66)
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Follow Alan Dymock on Twitter @AlanDymock