Ireland got their World Cup campaign off to a stuttering start with a 22-10 win over USA at the Taranaki Stadium in New Plymouth on Sunday.
The match was played in rainy conditions and although Ireland held the upper hand in most facets of play, they struggled to breach their opponents’ defence.
They only scored three tries, which means that they failed to secure a bonus point.
Ireland’s forwards illustrated their dominance with the first scrum of the match when they shoved their opponents off the ball and that scene was repeated on numerous occasions during the rest of the match.
USA’s defence were impressive in the initial stages and they held Ireland at bay until the 17th minute when Jonathan Sexton opened the scoring with a penalty.
Ireland did all the attacking in the first half but the wet conditions and their opponents’ solid defensive effort made it difficult for them to cross the tryline.
Although USA defended resiliently, they could only watch as Tommy Bowe crossed over for the first try just before half-time, after receiving an inside pass from Sexton, after the Irish pack laid the groundwork with fine driving play in the build-up.
Sexton converted to give his side a 10-0 lead at the break.
The Leinster fly-half’s woeful goalkicking and option-taking saw him being replaced by Ronan O’Gara shortly after the restart and there seemed to be a new sense of urgency in Ireland’s attacking play with the veteran pivot’s introduction.
O’Gara made an immediate impact and brought his outside backs more into the game, something which Sexton struggled to do during his stint on the field.
Ireland crossed over for their second try in the 55th minute when Rory Best charged over from close quarters from a rolling maul.
Shortly afterwards O’Gara fed O’Driscoll, who swapped passes with Bowe, who got in for his second touchdown and it seemed that more tries would follow for the Irish.
This failed to happen, and although they came close to scoring that elusive fourth try on a couple of occasions, the USA were rewarded for their efforts when just before the final whistle as Paul Emerick intercepted a pass by Gordon D’Ary close to the halfway line to score under the posts.
Man of the match: Ireland’s front-row of Mike Ross, Rory Best and Tom Court for the demolition job they did on the USA pack in the scrums.
Moment of the match: The 40th minute when Tommy Bowe got in for the opening try of the match. Up to that point Ireland were kept out by a fine defensive effort from USA.
Villain of the match:Jonathan Sexton had a shocking allround game and poor goalkicking return of two out of six. He was replaced by Ronan O’Gara, who gave more direction to the Irish back-line.
Tries: Bowe 2, Best
Con: Sexton, O’Gara
Ireland: 15 Geordan Murphy, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian O’Driscoll (capt), 12 Gordan D’Arcy, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Paul O’Connell, 4 Donncha O’Callaghan, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Jerry Flannery, 17 Tony Buckley, 18 Donnacha Ryan, 19 Denis Leamy, 20 Eoin Reddan, 21 Ronan O’Gara, 22 Andrew Trimble.
USA: 15 Blaine Scully, 14 Taku Ngwenya, 13 Paul Emerick, 12 Andrew Suniula, 11 James Paterson, 10 Roland Suniula, 9 Mike Petri, 8 Nic Johnson, 7 Todd Clever (capt), 6 Louis Stanfill, 5 Hayden Smith, 4 John van der Giessen, 3 Shawn Pittman, 2 Phil Thiel, 1 Mike MacDonald.
Replacements: 16 Chris Biller, 17 Matekitonga Moeakiola, 18 Scott LaValla, 19 Pat Danahy, 20 Tim Usasz, 21 Nese Malifa, 22 Colin Hawley.