Usually a seven try victory suggests a quality performance, particularly for a side like Ireland who wouldn’t be known to blow opposition teams away – the Scotland game being the exception – but I couldn’t help feel that Ireland produced a stuttering performance against a Russian side who are the 20th ranked side in the world.
Rob Kearney opened the scoring after just a minute scything through a porous defence that missed 23 tackles over the duration of the match. Peter O’Mahony scored his first international try in six years with 12 minutes gone as he latched onto a Johnny Sexton kick through.
Indeed the opening 15 minutes were decent from an Irish perspective. Kearney’s try was well with Jordi Murphy providing a deft inside ball to his former Leinster team mate.
While it wasn’t a great performance, I suspect Joe Schmidt will be more worried about his depth at number eight. Jordi Murphy walked gingerly off the pitch just before the half hour mark with what looks like a rib injury after only arriving in Japan on Sunday to replace Jack Conan.
Rhys Ruddock added a third try five minutes before the break before Russia held Ireland scoreless for almost the next 30 minutes. Ruddock’s try came during one of Russia’s two yellow cards in which they were only able to muster a combined seven points.
Over the last 20 months, Ireland’s ball retention has laid the platform for the majority of their success. Today however they conceded 22 turnovers with the majority due to handling errors, six more than Russia. Humidity almost certainly played a part in this, making the ball greasy and, coupled with a offloads was always going to lead to an increased chance of fumbling the ball.
Andrew Conway added the bonus point try just after the hour mark. The Munsterman finished a lovely move that started with a chip in behind from Jack Carty. Keith Earls gathered before offloading to his provincial teammate for an easy canter over the line.
Garry Ringrose rounded off the victory with a score four minutes before the end. Jordan Larmour made the break down the left wing and simple pass inside found Garry Ringrose for his second try of the tournament.
Holding Russia to nil is a big positive. Usually the opposition has a couple of opportunities to score but Ireland’s defence restricted them to just two linebreaks and 11 missed tackles. Certainly controlling 63% of possession and 67% of the territory.
Where now for Ireland?
This match was always going to be a lose-lose situation regardless of the scoreline as they would not have received praise even if they scored 50-60 points past this depleted side.
Ireland understandably held a lot back this morning as there will be tougher matches ahead but they got the job done to put the pressure back in Scotland’s court while a bonus point win against Samoa will secure a quarter final berth.