DUBLIN (AP) — Ireland showed off its deep talent pool when its second-stringers absorbed a strong United States start then smashed the Eagles 57-14 at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.
Ireland made 14 changes after beating New Zealand last weekend, and found itself in a match when the U.S. leveled at 14-14 a quarter in with a penalty try from a rolling maul.
But the effort to reach that point took a toll on the Eagles, and their unprecedented nine-test winning streak ended with their first loss of the year.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt paid credit to his staff and players, and thanked the Irish Rugby Union for their patience while he’s agonized over his future plans. He’s expected to announce he’ll return to his New Zealand homeland when his Irish contract ends after the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
“I’ve committed to a certain time-frame with them and I’ve stuck to that,” Schmidt said.
“I’ve given them an indication and I just need to talk to people tomorrow and that will be made public early next week.”
Ireland wore down the Eagles by pounding their line with their big men, forcing the U.S. to make tackle after tackle. Cracks began to appear on the outside of the tiring Eagles defense.
The start of the second half was delayed for lengthy treatment to U.S. hooker Joe Taufete’e for a head knock, but then the Irish, wearing uncommon blue, were relentless as they exploded the scoreline from 24-14 at halftime with five successive tries.
Winger Andrew Conway finished with three, and the others went to No. 8 Jack Conan, lock Tadhg Beirne, center Stuart McCloskey, and replacement forwards Quinn Roux and John Ryan. Joey Carbery made eight of nine goalkicks.
Ireland looked ominous after only three minutes, when Conway danced along the U.S. defense on halfway looking for a hole, sent Rhys Ruddock through one, then stayed on the captain’s shoulder for the return pass and opening try.
But the U.S. replied when Taufete’e burst from the short side of a lineout, slipped one defender and rolled over two more to score.
Conway then earned his second try after a ruck turnover and patient buildup, taking a final back pass from fullback Will Addison.
But the Eagles showed grit again to produce a 10-meter rolling maul from a lineout. Irish lock Iain Henderson dragged it down at the line, referee Ben O’Keeffe awarded a penalty try, and Henderson was sin-binned.
The U.S. couldn’t take advantage of the extra man, though, and when Henderson returned, a Conway burst set up Conan’s try.
By halftime, space in the U.S. defense was opening up out wide, and the Irish exploited it on resumption.
Beirne scored his third try in his second test after three straight scrums.
Turnover ball from a chargedown led to a Ross Byrne crosskick for a try to McCloskey, playing his first test in a year.
A surge up the middle led to Roux scoring beside the posts, then replacement scrumhalf Luke McGrath had a try scratched because of an earlier forward pass.
No matter. Center Garry Ringrose, the only surviving starter from the win over the All Blacks, set up Conway for his hat trick, and launched the move from halfway which finished with replacement prop Ryan scoring their eighth and last try.
“The strength in depth in Irish rugby at the moment is ridiculously healthy,” U.S. coach Gary Gold said.
“It’s a massive credit to not only Joe and his coaching staff but also the health of Irish rugby at the moment.”
The result completed a brilliant year for Ireland: 11 wins out of 12, a Six Nations Grand Slam, series win in Australia, first home win over the All Blacks, and a second straight November series sweep.
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