Ireland too strong for Fiji
November 21, 2009
Ireland's Stephen Ferris holds off Fiji's Isireli Ledua
© PA Photos
Ireland powered to a 41-6 victory over Fiji in their clash at the RDS in Dublin.
Winger Keith Earls crossed for two tries with captain Brian O'Driscoll, fullback Rob Kearney and winger Shane Horgan also dotting down but fly-half Jonny Sexton claimed the man of the match honour with an accomplished display on his way to a personal tally of 16 points.
The Leinster fly-half landed five conversions, three from the touchline and two penalties on his Test debut to keep the pressure on Munster rival Ronan O'Gara ahead of Ireland's showdown with Tri-Nations champions South Africa next weekend.
Sexton made the best possible start in wet and windy conditions, gathering the kick-off inside his own 22 before launching a mazy run downfield. Better was to come when Sexton put Ireland 3-0 ahead with a penalty after eight minutes as both teams took their time to get to grips with the elements.
A perfectly-judged cross kick from Sexton very nearly brought about the first try as Earls gathered but Kearney was stopped just short of the line. However, almost immediately, Earls went in for the first try beside the posts after Eoin Reddan fed him from a scrum with Sexton's conversion putting Ireland 10-0 ahead.
Eventually, Fiji began to secure some better possession, allowing fly-half Nicky Little to reduce the deficit to 10-3 with a well-struck penalty. The Fijians did well to hang in given Ireland were providing them with increasing problems in the scrums but the home team failed to take advantage and were then forced to defend close to their own line.
Another big scrum which saw them push the visitors off their own ball relieved the pressure and it was only then Ireland really began to open up. Once again, Sexton was involved, breaking out from his own half but the move finished with Gordon D'Arcy's pass intercepted by Fiji fullback Norman Ligairi. But the pressure told just before half-time with Sexton landing his second penalty to leave Ireland 13-3 clear at the interval.
Fiji badly needed some encouragement and they got it with a second penalty from Little in the early stages of the second half, reducing Ireland's lead to 13-6. To add to Ireland's problems, flanker Denis Leamy had to retire with what seemed to be a bad injury to be replaced by Leinster's Sean O'Brien.
Fiji then conceded a frustrating try as Little saw O'Driscoll intercept his pass and run 40 metres to score with Sexton's conversion giving Ireland a 20-6 advantage and some breathing space. With Tomas O'Leary on as a substitute at scrum-half for Reddan and Tony Buckley taking over from John Hayes in the front-row, Ireland looked for more scores as the game went into the final quarter and the crowd was soon rewarded with a third try.
A well-worked move, the ball travelled smoothly along the back division for Earls to go over for his second try in the corner. Sexton kicked the difficult conversion, leaving Ireland 27-6 clear and in complete control.
Kearney and Horgan added further tries with the accurate Sexton landing both conversions from the touchline.