/ 27 November 2006

Ireland beat Islanders 61-17

Ireland brought the curtain down on Lansdowne Road by thumping the Pacific Islanders 61-17 on Sunday.

Flyhalf Paddy Wallace, making his first start, scored 26 points, and flanker Simon Easterby scored two of Ireland’s eight tries in the last match at Europe’s oldest rugby stadium before it is redeveloped.

The Islanders completed their first tour of Europe without a victory, finishing with their heaviest defeat.

Tries by centre Seru Rabeni and winger Lome Fa’atau helped the Islanders to be competitive in the first half, unlike in previous losses to Wales and Scotland, but they were left behind in the second spell.

Ireland made nine changes from last week’s victory over Australia and started three new caps, including 19-year-old winger Luke Fitzgerald, the youngest to play for Ireland in 29 years.

They were on the board in just the second minute, a forward pass by the Islanders giving Ireland the ball on their 22, and Denis Hickie grabbed scrumhalf Peter Stringer’s pop pass to score.

Islanders winger Kameli Ratuvou regathered his own chip to send in Rabeni to close to 10-7, and even after prop Justin Va’a was sinbinned for pulling down the maul, his replacement Taufa’ao Felise broke clear to set up Fa’atau. The Islanders trailed only 16-12 and might have led if flyhalf Tusi Pisi hadn’t missed the conversion and an earlier penalty.

But in the three minutes before halftime, Ireland struck twice. Stringer ran wide off a ruck to put Wallace in a gap, and he right-stepped Islanders flanker Ma’ama Molitika, before scoring, then Malcolm O’Kelly nabbed a soft try, taking an Islanders throw-in unmarked in the middle of the lineout and virtually falling over the line. It was his eighth try in an Irish-record 83 Tests, and sent the host to the break up 30-12.

In the second spell, captain Brian O’Driscoll’s offload found Easterby, who dragged over three defenders to score in the 46th, then Stringer’s kick into space bounced kindly for right winger Shane Horgan, who smashed over replacement Alex Tuilagi and slipped Norman Ligairi for his try.

Locks O’Kelly and Paul O’Connell gave Easterby a helpful shove for his second try in the 64th, and Wallace’s conversion, his ninth successful kick from nine attempts, broke 50 points.

Tuilagi’s second break from the Islanders’ 22 was finally finished off with support from Ratuvou and Pisi, who scored but couldn’t convert.

Ireland replacement winger Isaac Boss broke clear, fell on his grubber kick, and passed up for substitute Rory Best to score only two minutes after going on, in the 78th. Wallace’s perfect kicking record ended when the conversion hit the near upright.

In injury time, O’Connell scored from a drive from a lineout and completed Ireland’s highest score since a 61-6 defeat of Italy in 2003. – Sapa-AP