Ireland stayed unbeaten in Pool C after cruising home 62-12 against Russia at Rotorua International Stadium on Sunday night.
Ireland stamped their class late in the opening half when they crossed for three quick tres within three minutes to leave them 36-0 up at the break. In all they ran in nine tries, with centre Keith Earls crossing twice, while fly half Ronan O’Gara landed six conversions and a penalty before going off in the second half.
The Irish, who had upset the tournament second favourites Australia in their previous game, were quickly into gear and tforwards were soon had the line in sight.
With a try beckoning, the Bears were caught offside right in front of the sticks, gifting O’Gara an easy three pointer to open the scoring after six minutes.
With the Russia fly half Konstantin Rachkov then sin-binned for a clinical knockdown, Ireland seized their opportunity to post two quick tries in his absence.
O’Gara’s pin-point accurate kick to the right-hand in-goal area found wing Fergus McFadden and soon after they were over again, Isaac Boss doing well in the build-up to help send in flanker Sean O’Brien, who had looked menacing from the start.
O’Gara converted again and, at 17-0 up after just 15 minutes, the Pool C pacesetters looked comfortable.
Russia had their moments midway through the half when Vladimir Ostroushko took a kick that O’Gara had directed to his wing and raced 40 metres, but his pass inside went astray with the Irish defence stretched.
Ireland threw everything at the Bears late in the first half and were rewarded when Boss was able to ground the ball against the padding of the goalpost two minutes before the break for their third try.
A minute later, they had their fourth, Keith Earls scoring in the corner from the restart to put the Irish 31-0 up, with O’Gara adding his fourth conversion.
And Andrew Trimble scored the fifth try right on half-time to give them ample breathing space, but OGara missed his first conversion of the night, albeit from a difficult position.
Earls superbly stepped inside his marker to cross for his second try eight minutes after the break as Russia struggled to cope with the brute force of Ireland’s forwards, who were making good yardage up the middle.
But, when the Bears finally broke through they did it in style. From a scrum, their No.9 Alexander Yanyushkin’s well-timed pass unleashed full back Vasily Artemyev, who sidestepped through for his side’s first points.
Their second try, launched near the half-way mark, was finished off with dogged determination in the left-hand corner through wing Denis Simplikevich, who carried two defenders over the line to post a five-pointer on his Test debut.
Ireland finally responded in the 68th minute, a long O’Gara pass setting up full back Rob Kearney’s try – his side’s seventh – and it seemed to spark the green men back into life.
O’Gara slotted home his sixth conversion of the night and then went off after another top-notch effort with the boot.
Replacement Shane Jennings went over under the posts with six minutes left and the biggest man in the Ireland side,Tony Buckley, had the final say when he crossed in the last minutes.
Isaac Boss said: “During the game conditions were slippery, but we threw the ball around well.
“We threw it around too much in the second half. It was a special game tonight to see old friends on the field.
“My family just live down the road, so it’s great having my nieces and nephews come out to watch.”
Ronan O’Gara said: “We were keeping it simple. The conditions were poor, but the pitch is a great surface.
“We had good ball in hand, there were good passes and good strikes. It’s a good squad to be in at the moment. I’ve kicked plenty of balls, I don’t think there is (a problem). You’ve just go to trust your technique and get on with it.”
“It would be a huge waste of opportunity if we went home next week.”
Kingsley Jones, Russia’s Director of Rugby: “If Russia are exposed to more great rugby games like this we can contest with top teams. We’ve just got to get a platform.”
– Ronan O’Gara (IRE) surpassed David Humphreys’ record for most points for Ireland in a Rugby World Cup career (70). After today’s 15-point effort, O’Gara’s tally now stands at 72.
– O’Gara became the sixth player to have scored points in three RWC 2011 matches, joining Kurt Morath (TGA), Morne Steyn (RSA), Frans Steyn (RSA), Francois Trinh-Duc (FRA) and Paul Williams (SAM). Later in the match, Konstantin Rachkov (RUS) and Jonathan Sexton (IRE) became the seventh and eighth players to join.
– Eight different players scored tries for Ireland in this match. This equalled the team record established in a 64-7 win against Namibia in 2003.
– That match against Namibia was the only one in World Cup history in which Ireland scored more points than today’s 62 and more tries (10) than today’s nine.
– Keith Earls (IRE) recorded his third career brace and his first outside Dublin.
– Denis Simplikevich (RUS) scored a try on his Test debut and his World Cup debut.
– Russia managed to score more tries against Ireland (two) than USA and Australia in Ireland’s first two matches combined (one).
– Ireland have conceded only six first half points in three matches at the RWC 2011, joint fewest together with Samoa and New Zealand.
– Ireland have kept the opposition to zero at halftime four times in World Cup history and twice in this tournament.
– Leo Cullen became the third Ireland player to captain his side on his Rugby World Cup debut. The 33-year-old second rower joined Donal Lenihan (1987) and Dion O’Cuinneagain (1999) in that respect
– Ireland are guaranteed to win their pool for the first time in RWC history if they avoid defeat against Italy on 2 October.