Ireland got its Rugby World Cup campaign back on track with a comfortable 35-0 victory over Russia in Kobe.
A shock defeat by Japan Saturday meant this was a must-win game for Ireland, which came into the tournament as the world’s top-ranked side, and two tries inside the first 15 minutes gave Joe Schmidt’s men a comfortable cushion.
But it proved not to be wholly plain sailing against a stubborn Russian team that had lost its opening two games against Japan and Samoa.
Ireland stuttered for large parts of the match, not wrapping up the four-try bonus point until just after the hour mark when Andrew Conway raced clear following a deft Jack Carty kick.
“We’re delighted to get a good win and get back on the horse after last week,” said Ireland’s fit-again captain Johnny Sexton.
‘Made life difficult’
Greasy conditions in Kobe meant the error count was high from both sides, as has often been the case at this World Cup.
Ireland, however, never looked like losing the contest after tries from Rob Kearney and Peter O’Mahony established an early 14-point lead. Rhys Ruddock got the game’s third score before halftime but it took 25 minutes for Conway to secure the full five points for his side.
Carty and Keith Earls combined to put Garry Ringrose over for Ireland’s fifth, completing a comprehensive — if not entirely fluid — victory.
“To pick up the bonus point was exactly what we were looking for tonight,” added Sexton.
“And to keep them to zero — I think they’re a very well-organized team and they made life difficult to us at times.
“The conditions were very difficult, the ball was very slippy, so very pleased to get the five points.”
Fiji off the mark
The result means that Ireland is still well-placed to reach the quarterfinals after an opening victory against Scotland, with one more pool game against Samoa to negotiate before then.
As for Russia, the Bears came into this World Cup knowing that winning just one pool game would be hard enough.
They nullified Ireland’s attack for much of the game and coach Lyn Jones will no doubt be pleased with the manner by which his side battled against superior opposition.
Yet tries have been difficult to come by. Russia has now played 285 minutes of rugby since Kirill Golosnitskiy crossed for his side’s only try of the tournament against Japan.
Ramil Gaisin’s missed penalty just before the hour mark meant the Bears remained pointless in Kobe and head into their final game against Scotland with only pride to play for.
In Thursday’s earlier kickoff, Fiji recorded its first win of the tournament by thrashing Georgia 45-10 in Hanazono.
A comprehensive seven-try victory puts the Pacific Islanders in pole position to finish third in Pool D and secure automatic qualification for the 2023 World Cup.