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IN VIRTUALLY EVERY aspect, this went perfectly for Joe Schmidt’s Ireland.
They guaranteed themselves a World Cup quarter-final by recording a very impressive bonus-point win over Samoa, meaning they don’t have to sit through a nervy Sunday to learn if they will have a knock-out game.
Ireland were impressive in Fukuoka.
Source: Jayne Russell/INPHO
Ireland don’t know if they’ll be facing the All Blacks or the Springboks just yet, but this seven-try win over the Samoans gives them timely momentum ahead of their quarter-final next weekend, as they ground Steve Jackson’s side down with a superb showing up front and a masterful display from Johnny Sexton at out-half.
Crucially, Schmidt was able to take Sexton, captain Rory Best, scrum-half Conor Murray and the outstanding Tadhg Furlong off before the game entered the closing 30 minutes.
James Ryan and Cian Healy followed soon after, meaning Ireland’s key players were all kept out of harm’s way after a cohesive showing from Schmidt’s side.
Even after the changes, Ireland continued scoring as Carbery showed some of his class off the bench as the replacement for Sexton, who had scored two first-half tries.
Jordan Larmour put his hand up for quarter-final involvement with a superb try-scoring showing from fullback to be named man of the match, while Best, Furlong, CJ Stander, and Andrew Conway all got on the scoresheet too.
But there was one major blot on an otherwise extremely pleasing night for Ireland – Bundee Aki’s first-half red card.
That Ireland played for 50 minutes with only 14 men and still controlled this tie so convincingly was impressive but, given what we’ve seen with bans in this World Cup, Aki’s red card seems likely to see him miss the rest of this tournament.
Aki was sent off in the first half.
Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
This was a massive day for the Connacht centre and his family as he played against the nation where his parents were born. It lasted only 28 minutes, however, as Aki’s shoulder connected with the head of Samoa out-half UJ Seuteni in a powerful tackle and referee Nic Berry really had no option other than to send him off.
Aki became the first Ireland player ever to be sent off at a World Cup and it was hard not to feel for him on what should have been a special occasion.
Ireland were already 21-5 to the good when Aki was red-carded and they barely let up even with the numerical disadvantage, squeezing the life out of the Samoans and squeezing an incredible 17 penalty concessions from them too.
Schmidt’s men were clinical down in the Samoan 22, though there was also a will
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