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Low-key encounter as Ireland make hard work of victory

Ireland 29, Italy 10
DESPITE a forecast of unpleasant weather, today’s first Guinness series build-up game in preparation for Rugby World Cup 2019 at the Aviva Stadium was played in almost perfect conditions.
Both coaches will take positives from this low-key encounter but it is more likely that Conor O’Shea will be better pleased with the overall display by his side. The injury to Joey Carbery (pictured) will be of concern for the Irish camp but if this game was to improve Ireland’s defensive qualities, they certainly got plenty of practice.
Jack Carty looked very comfortable and did his chances of a seat on the Japan flight a power of good when he came on midway through the second half. Tommy O’Donnell had a decent outing at openside while Jean Kleyn looked comfortable throughout.
Man of the match Andrew Conway will certainly be in the 31 after a most competent display.
First chance of a score came to the Irish on five minutes, Joey Carbery kicking through but the chasing Dave Kearney knocked the ball on inches from the line. Italy responded and Carlo Canna popped a penalty into the coner. Ireland held firm but conceded another penalty and from the resultant lineout Mata Maxime Mbanda forced his way over. Canna missed the easy conversion but Conor O’Shea would have been happy with his side’s first 15 minutes.
Ireland levelled it on 18 minutes when Joey Carbery went over unopposed and the conversion by the same player pushed the home side 7-5 ahead.
With 20 minutes played Ireland were cut open by the Italians, outhalf Carlo Canna allowed in by a hesitant defence, the same player again missing the conversion. That 7-10 lead must have been well received in the Italian rugby bastions of Zebre and Benetton but for the Irish, those long days of intense preparation were not showing rewards. Niall Scannell replaced the injured Rob Herring and Ian McKinley got the biggest cheer of the day when he came on for Tomasso Benventuti (who returned later) and from the Munster hooker’s first lineout throw, Ireland scored their second converted try, Dave Kearney touching down far out on the left hand side and Carbery’s conversion pushing the Irish into a 14-10 lead. Kearney almost got a second try when he kicked through and forced a five metre scrum. Intense pressure from the home pack eventually wore down the Italian defensive line and Andrew Conway touched down close to his touchline to extend the lead to 21-10 (Carbery missing the difficult conversion).
Trailing by only nine points, the Italians would have been happy with that first 40 minutes and if they could get the first score of the second half, they could have worried the homesters. They failed to do that and when Jordi Murphy got in for his side’s third try (conversion again missed by Joey Carbery), the game was flowing away from the Azurri at 24-10.
John Ryan replaced Jack McGrath at the break, an interesting choice as he usually plays at tight head with Cian Healy also togged out in readiness. Concern for Ireland also with Joey Carbery going off with what looked like an ankle injury on 49 minutes.
Italy hit a good patch coming up to the end of the third quarter with Ian McKinley dictating matters in midfield and it was a first Ireland appearance for Mike Haley when he made his appearance on 59 minutes, replacing the impressive Andrew Conway.
Ireland got lucky on 63 minutes and went 29-10 in when Kieran Marmion blocked down an attempted clearance by Ian McKinley to add another try but Jack Harty missed the conversion.
Ireland: Jordan Larmour (Leinster), Andrew Conway (Munster), Garry Ringrose (Leinster), Chris Farrell (Munster), Dave Kearney (Leinster); Joey Carbery (Munster), Luke McGrath (Leinster); Jack McGrath (Leinster), Rob Herring (Ulster), Andrew Porter (Leinster); Devin Toner (Leinster), Jean Kleyn (Munster); Rhys Ruddock (Leinster, capt), Tommy O’Donnell (Munster), Jordi Murphy (Ulster).
Replacements: Niall Scannell (Munster), Cian Healy (Leinster), John Ryan (Munster), Iain Henderson (Ulster), Tadhg Beirne (Munster), Kieran Marmion (Connacht), Jack Carty (Connacht), Mike Haley (Munster).
ITALY: Edoardo Padovani (Zebre); Angelo Esposito (Zebre), Tomasso Benvenuti (Benetton), Marco Zanon (Benetton), Giulio Besigni (Zebre); Carlo Canna (Zebre), Giuglielmo Palazzani (Zebre); Nicola Quaglio (Benetton), Olivero Fabiani (Zebre), Marco Riccioni (Benetton); Allessandro Zanni (Benetton), Dean Budd (Benetton, capt); Giovanni Licata (Zebre), Maxime Mbanda (Zebre), Jimmy Tuivaiti (Zebre).
Replacements: Federico Zani (Benetton), Andrea Lovotti (Zebre), Simone Ferrari (Benetton), Marco Lazzardni (Benetton), Renato Giammarioli (Zebre), Calum Bradley (Gloucester), Ian McKinley (Benetton), Mateo Minozzi (Wasps).
Referee, Luke Pearce, England.

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