Ireland ended a four-match losing streak with an unconvincing 22-10 win against the USA in New Plymouth.
The Irish victory was set up by their forwards, who dominated the scrum and laid the platform for the backs to attack, although that proved to be difficult in the first half when heavy rain fell. The weather improved in the second half, and the Irish were able to score another two tries, but they won’t be happy with their overall performance.
Ireland’s scrum made a big statement in the third minute when they shoved the USA back 10m and won a penalty, which Jonathan Sexton missed. The flyhalf sent another one wide, before finally getting his side on the board on the quarter-hour mark.
Having weathered that early onslaught, the USA began to get their hands on the ball and string some phases together, despite the wet conditions that made handling difficult. They did well to earn a kickable penalty, only for left wing James Paterson to miss the target.
The Irish created try-scoring opportunities at the other end, but both wingers, Tommy Bowe and Keith Earls, dropped passes with the line in sight.
Ireland finally got over the whitewash in the final minute of the half, when their forwards smashed the USA scrum to claim a tighthead. A few phases later, Sexton gave the inside pass to Bowe, who scored under the posts.
Sexton missed another two penalties early in the second half, before Paterson’s penalty reduced the deficit to seven.
The Irish, though, hit back immediately when hooker Rory Best scored from a driving maul after the USA had failed to secure the restart. Two minutes later, Bowe grabbed his second after a decoy runner in midfield created space on the left-hand side. Having missed his first conversion attempt, replacement flyhalf Ronan O’Gara made no mistake with the second to give his side a 22-3 lead going into the final quarter.
Ireland pushed hard for the bonus-point try, especially in the last five minutes, but it was the USA who scored when outside centre Paul Emerick intercepted a pass in the final play of the game.
By Simon Borchardt