Ireland eased to victory against Samoa in the AVIVA on Saturday night in a game which never really caught fire. After a tense opening half, Ireland led 14-6, with a rolling lineout maul giving Peter O’Mahony a try to tack on to three penalties from Paddy Jackson. With a Samoan in the sin-bin for a dangerous tackle, Sean O’Brien, sprung from the bench in the first half due to an unfortunate injury to Chris Henry, scored the home side’s second try after a piece of brilliance from Brian O’Driscoll to keep the ball alive earlier in the attack. A sickening clash of heads between the Samoan outhalf Tusi Pisi and winger Brando Vaalu resulted in both players being withdrawn injured and with the subsequent re-shuffle out went any chance of Samoa getting back into the game. With the game opening up in the final quarter, there were further tries for the home team, with debutant Dave Kearney scoring two off the bench. Fergus McFadden also crossed the whitewash. Leinster’s Jack McGrath collected the Man of the Match award on his debut, as Joe Schmidt enjoyed a solid start to his reign as Ireland’s head coach.
Elsewhere, England went two from two ahead of their showdown with the reigning World Champions next week, beating Argentina 31-12 in a dour spectacle at Twickenham. England notched four tries through Joe Launchbury, Billy Twelvetrees, Chris Ashton and Ben Morgan, with Argentina unable to mount any kind of credible attack in response. England did not need to get out of second gear for the entire eighty minutes as they plodded to victory. Stuart Lancaster’s men will have to be much improved if they are to match last season’s shock win over the All Blacks next Saturday.
Six Nations champions and chief Lions’ providers Wales were well beaten by South Africa. The Rugby Championship runners-up ran out 24-15 winners in the end as early tries from Jean de Villiers and Bismarck du Plessis had Heineke Meyer’s men in control from the off. Leigh Halfpenny’s unerring boot put Wales back in touch, but a controlled finish from South Africa saw Fourie du Preez out the game beyond doubt with his side’s third try. The Rugby Championship runners-up ran out 24-15 winners in the end. Warren Gatland’s men will look to bounce back next week against Argentina, although a mounting injury crisis in the backs is a cause for concern for the Wales head coach.
New Zealand’s bid to go the whole of 2013 unbeaten continued successfully in Paris, although they were made to work hard before emerging with a 26-19 win. The sides were level at 9 points apiece at half-time, after a gritty first half with few clear-cut chances for either side. New Zealand plundered a breakaway try through Charles Piatau, and the winger turned provider with a sumptuous offload out of the tackle putting Kieran Read through to score. France responded through full-back Brice Dulin to put seven points between them, but despite a huge offensive effort in the final minutes, a penalty at the scrum close to the New Zealand line ended the home side’s hopes of snatching a memorable draw. New Zealand now head to London and then Dublin in their attempt to win all games in the calendar year.
In the other internationals, Australia bounced back from defeat to England by trouncing Italy 50-20 and Scotland saw off Japan by a score of 42-17.
The Rabo Pro-12 is on a couple of weeks off and many provincial academy stars went back to their clubs this weekend for some game time. In the Ulster Bank League Division 1A, Clontarf are the new league leaders as they ended UCD’s unbeaten start to the season at Castle Avenue. ‘Tarf ran out 25-16 winners over the students, who drop to second. Old Belvedere are up to third spot after holding off a spirited Ballynahinch side to record a 30-26 win. Despite the losing bonus point, ‘Hinch stay second from bottom and are still without a win. Last year’s champions Lansdowne recorded their third straight win, holding off St Mary’s College’s attempted comeback to emerge 33-28 winners at Templeville Road, while Garryowen are still rooted to the bottom after a narrow 8-9 reverse against Young Munster. Cork Constitution dropped to fourth place after a 14-9 defeat to Dolphin in a local derby at Musgrave Park.
In Division 1B, Terenure College are five from five as they beat Dublin University 26-17 at Sydney Parade. Corinthians are also 100% as they emerged victorious in the Connacht derby against Buccaneers by a score of 19-18. Up North, Malone were defeated at home by Belfast Harlequins, on a scoreline of 15-25, while in Limerick Shannon got the better of UL Bohemians by 13-9. Finally, Dungannon overcame Blackrock College at Stradbrook, winning 32-21.