Two understrength teams in a game of limited value – and clearly to the sporting public of Chicago also of limited interest. Ireland got through their work schedule without too much stress, assisted by an Italian side who had a decent plan but not enough quality to sustain it.
At first glance Ireland did well enough on the injury front, and gave new caps to Ross Byrne, the only man to come home from the summer tour without a run, and Will Addison. Jordan Larmour was the man of the match with a hat trick but there is something special – albeit different – about another relatively new asset: Tadhg Beirne, currently the best all-rounder in the country.
Ireland’s plan relied on a comfy finish based on subduing Italy early, and it worked well enough. They were cruising long before the finish, signing off with eight tries in the bank, having had to roll their sleeves up at the start. For the first quarter their dominance was near total with 84 per cent between territory and possession. The accuracy of their early attacks opened the door for Garry Ringrose inside two minutes but he lost the ball forward in the touchdown as the forwards recycled really well.
Three minutes later however it was the forwards who delivered. From a lineout close in they peeled around the back and with just one more recycle Tadhg Beirne did well to get over. Joey Carbery’s conversion put them seven points up.
They continued to dominate the ball but on a narrow pitch it would be a day for lots of collisions, and Italy defended willingly. They also attacked with good shape and real intent. Especially in their use of offloads to get the ball out of contact and change the point of attack.
With a good run on possession Tito Tebaldi had lots of ball to play with and was a physical threat around the base. They were hampered by the loss of Nicola Quaglio after just 22 minutes but they ploughed on regardless and began to balance out the possession and territory stats.
They almost made it pay just before the half hour mark when phase after phase put them almost within touching distance of the Irish posts. Flanker Braam Steyn however knocked it on when trying to make contact with the post padding.
The price of that miss was apparent when on 33 minutes Jordan Larmour produced lovely footwork to open a hole in the blue wall his pass put Luke McGrath over for a try which Carbery turned into 14-0 lead.
That should have been how the scoreboard looked at the break but a wrap-around play off a ruck 35 metres from the Ireland line cost them seven points. Italy captain
Michele Campagnaro read perfectly what was coming next after Luke McGrath wrapped Rhys Ruddock and the captain’s pass back inside was gobbled up by the Italian. It was a bad score to concede.
So Ireland took a 14-7 lead into the second half but didn’t have to wait long until a productive burst that killed off the game. First Beirne got over for his second as Ireland attacked aggressively and accurately – it was a fine finish – and within two minutes Larmour picked off a wild pass from Luca Sperandio to get home untouched. With Carbery’s extras the score got out to 28-7 and Italy were in the business of learning from another defeat rather than notching up what would have been a highly unlikely win.
As for Ireland they did their best to keep Joe Schmidt off their backs by keeping the foot to the floor. Sean Cronin did his bit, with a mauled try shortly before the hour, and was followed by tries for the uncatchable Larmour, with another two, as well as Garry Ringose.
Jordan Larmour ???#IREvITA pic.twitter.com/mvrmSaKDws
Ireland: J Larmour, A Conway, G Ringrose, B Aki, J Stockdale (W Addison 61); J Carbery (R Byrne 61), L McGrath (J Cooney 64) J McGrath (D Kilcoyne 50), N Scannell (S Cronin ht), A Porter (F Bealham 56), T Beirne (D Toner 61), Q Roux, R Ruddock, J Conan, J van der Flier (J Murphy 66)
Italy: L Sperandio; M Bellini, M Campagnaro, L Morisi, G Bisegni; C Canna (I McKinley 61), T Tebaldi; N Quaglio (C Traore 22), L Bigi (O Fabiano 64), T Pasquali, (G Zilocchi 61) M Fuser, G Biagi ( F ruzza 56) J Meyer, R Giammarioli, B Steyn
Referee: N Owens (Wales)
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