Tbilisi Cup 2015: Emerging Ireland cruise to win over Emerging Italy
Three first-half tries set Allen Clarke's men on their way to a comfortable bonus-point win
Emerging Ireland got their 2015 Tbilisi Cup campaign off to a great start with a 25-0 win over Emerging Italy in the Georgian capital.
Allen Clarke’s men surged to a 20-0 lead early in the first half with tries from backs Eoin Griffin, Andrew Conway and Stuart McCloskey.
A stop-start second half at the Avchala Stadium saw the developmental Ireland struggle to add to their first half scores, but Connacht full-back Tiernan O’Halloran finally got their fourth try to wrap up a bonus-point win in the last minute.
“Scoring the fourth try at the end was important,” Clarke said.
“I was impressed with the way we played in the first half. In the second half we were scrappy.
“Having said that we got the crucial bonus point, and we didn’t concede, so we are pretty satisfied with that aspect of our game.”
An exciting start saw both sides keen to run the ball and Northampton Saints outside-half JJ Hanrahan opened the scoring from the tee after just five minutes when Italy were adjudged to be offside after Emerging Ireland captain Rhys Ruddock went on a rumble.
The opening try came from some patient build-up play near halfway on 13 minutes with Ulster centre McCloskey motoring forward into the Italian 22.
Quick recycling saw Hanrahan send London Irish centre Griffin over, but Hanrahan missed the conversion.
It wasn’t too long until the former Munster man was back in the action as Italy coughed up a number of penalties, allowing Ireland to move downfield through Hanrahan’s boot.
After a couple of scrum penalties saw referee Mathieu Raynal send Italian loosehead prop Federico Zani to the sin bin on 17 minutes, but they held out until Hanrahan’s cross-field kick to the right corner on 25 minutes saw his former Munster team-mate Andrew Conway go over for Ireland’s second try.
Hanrahan missed the conversion, but Ireland were on the scoreboard again just two minutes later when he pounced on a loose ball to lead a charge upfield before sending McCloskey away under the posts for the third try, this time converted to give Ireland a 20-0 lead.
Italy briefly rallied, but Ireland defended well against a driving maul and were in control as the half drew to a close.
Connacht winger Matt Healy almost ended the first half in style with a break from the left wing, chipping forward into space, but his second kick bounced through the in-goal area and went dead.
Italy swapped out their front row after the break and their defence improved as they held firm against Ireland’s driving maul.
But their problems at the scrum continued with replacement prop Pietro Ceccarelli falling foul of referee Raynal and sent to the sin bin.
Ireland failed to make the most of the numerical advantage and Italy began to get a foothold in the game as both sides rang the changes, only for them to come up against a stubborn defence when in the Irish 22.
A botched lineout in the red zone thwarted another Ireland chance at securing their fourth try and they had replacement loosehead prop Andrew Warwick sin-binned in the 73rd minute after repeated scrum infringements.
But with the clock running down, Ireland went full throttle at the Italy defence and when Hanrahan was brought down, Connacht scrum-half John Cooney sent his team-mate O’Halloran past Italy full-back Alberto Chiesa to seal the bonus point to send them to top of the table.
Emerging Ireland return to action against Uruguay at the same venue on Wednesday afternoon, while hosts Georgia – who defeated Uruguay 19-10 in their opening game – take on Emerging Italy.
Emerging Ireland: Tiernan O’Halloran; Andrew Conway (Peter Nelson, 61′), Eoin Griffin, Stuart McCloskey (Rory Scannell, 66′), Matt Healy; JJ Hanrahan, Luke McGrath (John Cooney, 59′); Denis Buckley (Andrew Warwick, 53′), Rob Herring (Dave Heffernan, 52′), Stephen Archer (Finlay Bealham, 52′), Ben Marshall, Billy Holland (Andrew Browne, 62′), Rhys Ruddock (captain) (Eoghan Masterton, 52′), Dan Leavy, Jack Conan.
Tries: Griffin, Conway, McCloskey, O’Halloran
Yellow card: Warwick 73′
Emerging Italy: Alberto Chiesa (captain); Filippo Guarducci (Pietro Ceccarelli 21-30′), Roberto Quartaroli, Giovanni Massaro (Giovanni Benvenuti 28′, Zani 54-63′), Gabriele di Giulio; Carlo Canna (Sebastian Negri, 45′), Simone Marinaro; Federico Zani (Giuseppe di Stefano, 41′), Luca Bigi (Oliviero Fabiani, 41′), George Iacob (Pietro Ceccarelli, 41′), Federico Ruzza, Filippo Gerosa (Mirko Amenta, 72′), Matteo Corazzi (Alessio Zdrilich, 56′), Emiliano Caffini, Maxime Mbanda.
Yellow cards: Zani 17′, Ceccarelli 54′
Replacement not used: Simone Parisotto
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (FFR)