Ireland got off to a winning start under new coach Joe Schmidt on Saturday, beating Samoa 40-9 in a scrappy encounter that featured occasional glimpses of the attacking rugby the New Zealander is renowned for.
Tries from Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien, Fergus McFadden and two for debutant David Kearney, together with a solid kicking display from Paddy Jackson eased Schmidt into his job of picking up the Irish from their worst Six Nations in 14 years.
Samoa, ranked one place ahead of Ireland following victories over Wales and Scotland in the last year, looked the more threatening side in the first 20 minutes but only had one Tusi Pisi penalty to Jackson’s two.
The hosts dominated at the set piece and Ireland’s first try began and ended with the pack, driving the visitors back from a lineout just inside the 22-yard line to allow Munster captain O’Mahony to barrel over.
Pisi and Jackson traded penalties to leave the hosts 14-6 ahead at halftime, but crucially the Samoans were reduced to 14 men just before the break when centre George Pisi was sent to the sin bin.
Ireland took full advantage with O’Brien, a first-half replacement for the injured Chris Henry, touching down after a breakaway move that included an outrageous assist from Brian O’Driscoll who flicked an earlier pass through his legs.
The biggest roar was saved for new Ireland captain Paul O’Connell who entered the fray before Kearney, another replacement, stretched the lead after collecting a pass from his brother Rob to dive over in the corner.
That gave the hosts a bit more confidence to fling the ball around and fellow Leinster wing McFadden finished off another smart move for the fourth try with Kearney grabbing his second with two minutes to go.
O’Connell will be expected to lead the side out against Australia next weekend with flyhalf Johnny Sexton, rested after a punishing early season schedule with Racing Metro, also likely to return.
Tries: Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien, Fergus McFadden, David Kearney (2)
Conversions: Paddy Jackson (3)
Penalties: Jackson (3)
Penalties: Tusi Pisi (2), Kahn Fotuali’i