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Canada 14 – 40 Ireland.

Ireland pulled clear in the final quarter to finish their North American tour on a high against a battling Canada. Tries from Andrew Trimble, Fergus McFadden (3) Darren Cave and Tommy O’Donnell secured the win but it was still a scratchy enough performance from the men in green.

The first half gave little indication of the final score line. Canada went 3 – 0 up on the 7th minute thanks to a Pritchard penalty after Tom Court failed to roll away at a ruck, but Ireland hit back minutes later when Trimble marked his 50th cap by beating two defenders to score wide on the right. Madigan added the extras and Ireland led 3 – 7.

Despite breaking down the Canadian defence with some ease for Trimble’s try the Irish failed to kick on with captain O’Mahoney preferring to spend his time posturing at the Canadian pack and the home team worked their way back into the lead with two further Pritchard penalties taking the score to 9 – 7.

Ireland hit back on the 30th minute with McFadden collecting a well executed cross-field kick from Madigan before brushing aside two abysmal tackle attempts from the Canadian defence to score on the left. Madigan missed from out wide but Ireland were in back in front with the score at 9 – 12.

Despite both of Ireland’s scores showing a distinct lack of commitment to the tackle from the Canadian back three Ireland, and O’Mahoney in particular, preferred to get involved in personal scuffles up front, much to the Canadians amusement, and the half ended without further score.

Things got worse for Ireland at the start of the second half as O’Mahoney and Boss continued to try to referee the game only for Hodges to penalise Ireland for not using the ball. From the resultant scrum Canadian captain Aaron Carpenter mesmerised Kevin McLaughlin before sending scrum half Mack racing down the wing. Despite Mack being caught short the ball was quickly recycled for wing forward Ardron to force his way over. The conversion was missed but Canada were back in the lead at 14 – 12.

A dreadfully disjointed passage of play from Ireland was finally brought to a close on the 55th minute when McLaughlin picked a good line to slice through the defence to offload to Cave who crossed under the posts. Madigan converted and Ireland reclaimed the lead at 14 – 19.

The penny finally seemed to drop with the Irish who got less involved with the posturing round the ruck and finally decided to take the game to the Canadians with the ball in hand. A powerful run by Dan Tuohy set up McFadden for his second try with Madigan converting before being replaced by Jackson with the  score at 14- 26.

With Paul Marshall and Paddy Jackson now in control Ireland looked much less ponderous. Tommy O’Donnell crossed  for Ireland’s fifth try after good work from Marshall with Jackson converting with ten minutes to go and McFadden completed his hat trick in the dying seconds, with Jackson againn converting from out wide to give the game a somewhat flattering final score of Canada 14 Ireland 40.

Ireland: Felix Jones, Fergus McFadden, Darren Cave, James Downey, Andrew Trimble, Ian Madigan, Isaac Boss, Tom Court, Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross, Dan Tuohy, Devin Toner, Kevin McLaughlin, Tommy O’Donnell, Peter O’Mahony. Replacements: Sean Cronin, David Kilcoyne, Declan Fitzpatrick, Mike McCarthy, Chris Henry, Paul Marshall, Paddy Jackson, Robbie Henshaw.

Maybe it was because I was tired and irritable before the match finally came on or maybe it was the fact that my feed kept dropping in the opening quarter but I found this an intensely annoying game to watch for the first 60 odd minutes.

This was a poor, if gutsy, Canadian team and Ireland, and O’Mahoney in particular, were too easily suckered into petty posturing round the fringes of rucks rather than playing rugby. When Ireland did play they broke through a fairly poor Canadian back three with ease and’s it’s a pity it took them 60 minutes to figure this out despite McFadden and Trimble showing them the way early on.

None of the pack come out of this with much credit, though I suppose big Dan did show some go forward in the second half, and Boss and Madigan were disappointingly ponderous, outside of Madigan’s delightful chip for McFaddens second. It’s a bit unfair to pinpoint Madigan, behind such slow ball, but I’d hoped for more and, in fairness Jackson was getting much faster ball behind Marshall’s snapper service and a re-invigorated pack.

However, a win is a win and it’s a starting point, albeit one with plenty of room for improvement. Better decision making and quicker speed of thought would be a start.

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