Ireland moved top of Rugby World Cup Pool A but made hard work of securing a 35-0 bonus-point win over Russia at Kobe Misaki Stadium.
Smarting from a stunning defeat to Japan, Ireland responded by claiming maximum points in their penultimate pool match courtesy of tries from Rob Kearney, Peter O’Mahony, Rhys Ruddock, Andrew Conway and Garry Ringrose.
A much-changed Ireland side were disjointed for much of a scrappy encounter and stand-in captain Johnny Sexton did not appear for the second half, seemingly as a precaution after missing out on the loss to the hosts with a thigh injury.
Jordi Murphy sustained what appeared to be a rib injury in the first half, but Ireland got the job done against a battling Russia side who are without a point from their three matches.
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Kearney picked a great line to burst through a huge gap in the second minute to score the earliest World Cup try for Ireland – and the quickest of the tournament.
O’Mahony got on the end of a Sexton kick to dot down for his first try international try in six years and Russia lost Kirill Golosnitskiy to a knee injury after he clattered into the post attempting to prevent the flanker from scoring.
Ireland suffered a blow when Murphy sustained what appeared to be a rib injury, but Ruddock was driven over with Bogdan Fedotko in the sin bin and Sexton converted for a third time to make it 21-0 at the break.
Joe Schmidt’s men were far from their clinical best as the handling errors mounted and there was no Sexton when they ran out for the second half as Jack Carty came on for the stand-in skipper.
Andrei Ostrikov was yellow-carded for a dangerous clearout in a scrappy start to the second half before Ramil Gaisin missed a shot at goal to get Russia on the board.
Ireland lacked fluency but Keith Earls fed Conway to run away for the bonus-point try after Carty’s kick over the top.
With Russia flagging after giving a good account of themselves, Ireland produced a move of the quality they had been lacking for a fifth try in the closing stages, Ringrose racing clear for a score and Carty adding the extras for a second time after great work from Jordan Larmour and Earls.
Ringrose was denied a brace when he was adjudged to have knocked on and although Ireland won comfortably, they have plenty to work on.
Back-row woes for Ireland, Sexton absence felt
Murphy was chomping at the bit to make his mark after being called up this week when Jack Conan was ruled out for the rest of the tournament with a broken foot, but was withdrawn after only 27 minutes due to damage done in a collision.
The absence of Sexton for the second half was also felt by Ireland, but it was not clear if he was withdrawn for tactical reasons or an injury setback.
Rampaging Ruddock makes his mark
Ruddock was named man of the match after an eye-catching display, making 48 metres and not missing any of his 14 tackles, as well as scoring a try.
Key Opta Facts:
– Rob Kearney has now crossed for a try in five of his last six appearances at the Rugby World Cup for Ireland, as well as crossing for a try in both of his games against Russia (2011, 2019).
– This was Ireland’s 38th Rugby World Cup game and the first time they have prevented the opposition from scoring; it was the first time Russia have failed to score a point in a RWC match.
– Russia remain on the hunt for their maiden Rugby World Cup victory (L7); only Namibia (21) have played more Rugby World Cup games and not registered a victory.
– Andrey Ostrikov became the fifth substitute at this Rugby World Cup to be shown a yellow card, just six subs in 2015 were shown a yellow.
Ireland have nine days before taking on Samoa in their last pool match, while Russia’s final match of the tournament is against Scotland next Wednesday.
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