A full review of the World Cup match between Ireland and Italy at the Olympic Stadium
Ireland faced their biggest test of the World Cup to date at the Olympic Stadium and will be relieved to have recorded a victory, particularly as they played the last eight minutes against Italy with 14 men. The Italians were much improved from the team that struggled to beat Canada last weekend, disrupting Ireland at the scrum and the breakdown. They also defended extremely well, negating the threat of Ireland’s driving maul and closing down their back-line moves. As was always expected, the winners of Pool D will be decided when Ireland face France in Cardiff on Sunday.
Back-row bruisers – There’s plenty of talent in the back rows of both these teams and they put it on show. Sergio Parisse may dominate the headlines for Italy and he’s a real talisman, but Simone Favaro was equally as influential in this game, albeit for the less flashy stuff – making his tackles and winning turnovers. Francesco Minto topped the tackle charts with 16 too. For Ireland, there were a few powerful surges from Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip as well as the try-saving tackle by Peter O’Mahony on Josh Furno. O’Mahony’s physicality got the better of him late in the second half, though, when he was sin-binned for charging into a ruck with his shoulder.
Iain Henderson – He’s been in this column before and he no doubt will be again. The Ulster lock has fast established himself as a key member of Ireland’s team with his all-action displays. Athletic is a fitting word do describe Henderson’s performance in a game at the Olympic Stadium. He fits the bill in the tight and the loose – rampaging with ball in hand, strong in defence, solid at the set-piece and he even charged down a Tommaso Allan kick too.
Show of colour – As expected, green was the dominant colour in the Olympic Stadium stands but a few specific fans deserve a mention. First, there was the gent donned in a green suit, the material’s pattern featuring many a clover. Then there were the two young fans who’d died their hair green for the match. Finally, we have to applaud the four England fans bedecked in white shirts and St George’s flags, and some Roman headgear. England may be out of the World Cup, but their supporters are still enjoying the tournament and rightly so.
Smart Sexton – It didn’t go all the fly-half’s way in this game and he didn’t dictate play as he did against Canada in the opening game, but Johnny Sexton‘s inside passes allowed Ireland to get over the gain-line and in the last ten minutes he kicked to the corners superbly to keep Italy pinned in their own half.
Italy’s lineout – They may have had the edge at the scrum and defended Ireland’s driving maul expertly, but their own lineout was a mess. In the first half, three successive lineouts were stolen by Ireland – two of those because of overthrows from hooker Andrea Manici and it was little wonder he was replaced at the break. Such errors meant they simply put the pressure back on themselves.
Sexist commentary – Have to say, Dan Lobb’s comment about Italy having the most attractive fans in the tournament while the camera panned to some young women in the crowd during the in-stadium ‘entertainment’ grated with this particular journalist. Surely there’s something more worthwhile and relevant to focus on in the build-up.
10 – The number of offloads made by Italy, double the number made by Ireland.
20 – The number of tackles missed by Italy, double the number missed by Ireland.
4 – The number of lineouts stolen by Ireland.
Ireland: S Zebo; T Bowe, K Earls (L Fitzgerald 76), R Henshaw, D Kearney; J Sexton, C Murray; J McGrath (C Healy 59), R Best (S Cronin 70), M Ross (N White 59), I Henderson (D Toner 67), P O’Connell (capt), P O’Mahony, S O’Brien (C Henry 67), J Heaslip.
Try: Earls. Con: Sexton. Pens: Sexton 3.
Yellow card: O’Mahony (72).
Italy: L McLean; L Sarto, M Capagnaro, G Garcia (T Benvenuti 3), G Venditti; T Allan (C Canna 65), E Gori (G Palazzani 76); M Aguero (M Rizzo 62, Aguero 73), A Manici (D Giazzon ht), L Cittadini (D Chistolini 62), Q Geldenhuys, J Furno, F Minto, S Favaro (M Bergamasco 67), S Parisse (capt, A Zanni 65).
Pens: Allan 3.
Referee: Jerome Garces (France)
Man of the Match: Iain Henderson.