Ireland stumble past Samoa
Ireland took an early lead through the boot of O’Gara before he converted a Jamie Heaslip try to give the hosts a ten point advantage. The Pacific Islanders struck back almost immediately when a converted Alesana Tuilagi try reduced the arrears.
Another O’Gara penalty gave the hosts some breathing space before half-time but the Samoans were the better side in the second period until O’Gara converted his own try to give the Irish a less than comfortable 20-10 victory.
O'Gara and Peter Stringer were recalled for a match that Ireland had to win to avoid a seventh straight defeat following last weekend's 23-21 reverse at the hands of South Africa.
For the first time during Declan Kidney's tenure, murmurs of discontent have begun to surface amongst the Irish fans who have begun to question his selection policy during this barren run.
He has had an admittedly difficult run of fixtures but the decision last week to keep Jonathan Sexton and Eoin Reddan on the pitch while Stringer and O'Gara warmed the bench drew anger from a half full Aviva Stadium.
O’Gara, who gave an absolute masterclass in tactical kicking, took an early opportunity in this match to give the hosts the lead from just outside the twenty-two with just two minutes on the clock but if the home faithful were expecting an exhibition of running rugby from Kidney’s side, they were sorely mistaken.
The home side took their visitors on physically, and, backed up by the accurate kicking of O’Gara, their pick-up and drive approach bore immediate fruit when Ireland went through the phases from a line-out before Jamie Heaslip touched down on 18 minutes. O’Gara converted to give the home side a ten point advantage.
But having worked hard to take control of the match, some ill discipline allowed the Samoans back in straight away as Tuilagi found a gap in the Irish defence to cap off a bright move from a line-out. Paul Williams converted to reduce the arrears to just three points.
Ireland continued to utilise a pick-up and drive approach and although they were getting good territory, their execution come the twenty-two let them down. With that in mind, the only score during the rest of the first period came through the boot of O’Gara.
The second half was as forgetful as the first, a slew of penalties allowed neither side to get their running game going and as the match limped to a conclusion the Samoans finished in the ascendancy.
Almost constant Samoan pressure was only rewarded with a Williams' penalty and Ireland were hanging on coming into the last quarter with the scores at 13-10.
But Donncha O'Callaghan’s decision to kick when he may have been better served looking to run the ball turned the match on its head. Stephen Ferris chased down and when he forced an infringement, Stringer took the tap quickly before feeding O’Gara, who dummied his man before touching down under the post.
Ireland were a side transformed but Cian Healy was denied a try when the video referee adjudged that he didn’t have control of the ball as he touched down after another pick-up and drive.
Ireland pushed for a further try to put gloss on a far from polished performance but the visitors remained stout in their defence.