Ireland remain on course for a World Cup quarter-final after easing to an uninspiring 35-0 win over a toothless Russia in Kobe.
Rob Kearney, Peter O’Mahony and Rhys Ruddock scored first-half tries before Andrew Conway secured the bonus point in the 62nd minute.
Garry Ringrose’s late score put a final exclamation point on an otherwise flat second half performance.
Another five-point win over Samoa would guarantee a place in the last eight.
Ireland now have nine days before their final Pool A assignment in Fukuoka against the Samoans.
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Five days on from their already famous defeat by Japan, Ireland knew there was little they could do to change the narrative of their World Cup campaign to date against a side as unfancied as Russia.
The best they could hope for was to secure all five points in a performance that exposed the chasm of quality between the two sides and showed signs of a team with the skill-set to match any side in the tournament.
While the victory was never in doubt from the moment Kearney opened the scoring with his fifth try in six World Cup matches inside two minutes, moments of real quality were notable by their absence, particularly in an error-strewn second half.
Sexton’s importance again underlined
Captaining the side from the start for the first time on his 86th international appearance, Johnny Sexton returned to Ireland’s line-up having missed the Japan match through injury.
HIs half-time withdrawal only served to further underline how vital the 34-year-old remains to this Ireland side.
With the result of the game beyond doubt, Joe Schmidt wasted no time in ensuring his star man left Kobe unscathed as he handed Jack Carty the reins for the second half.
After Kearney raced over off the back of a neat set-piece move, O’Mahony added Ireland’s second after 12 minutes as he latched onto Sexton’s grubber-kick.
A first half that began in the manner that Ireland would have hoped began to stagnate as Ireland struggled to maintain a fluency against a side who offered so little with the ball.
As the strong Irish contingent in the crowd began to grow restless, Ruddock bulldozed over the the help of John Ryan to send Schmidt’s side into the interval with a spring in their step.
Although the first half was by no means dazzling, it was certainly a more controlled display than the 40 minutes after the break, in which the break-down in fluency could once again be correlated with Sexton’s absence.
Low key second half not ideal for Ireland
Russia, without a win in any of their seven World Cup matches, largely banked on Irish errors in order to find field possession with high handing balls sent up to challenge Ireland’s back three.
Their biggest chance of registering on the scoreboard came from Ramil Gaisin’s snap drop-goal attempt which dropped well short.
With little to fear in the opposition, one of Schmidt’s chief concerns would have been to get through the game without suffering any serious injuries.
Jordi Murphy, who only arrived in Japan on Sunday as a replacement for the injured Jack Conan, looked in some discomfort as he was forced off after just 27 minutes.
As the game wore on, breaks in play became increasingly frequent with both sides succumbing to the high number of handling errors that have so far accompanied all games to be played inside Misaki Stadium’s intensely humid conditions.
Bonus point looked inevitable
Russia, who had both Bogdan Fedotko and Andrey Ostrikov sin-binned, did not threaten the Irish try-line once as Ireland’s bonus-point win looked increasingly inevitable.
It took Ireland until the halfway stage of the second half to secure that vital fifth point, with Conway sprinting under the posts after Keith Earls had gathered Carty’s clever kick over the top.
Ringrose, who has played every minute of Ireland’s World Cup campaign so far, was a deserving final try scorer in his third outing in 11 days.
Ireland’s brief after the Japan result was clear: to secure back-to-back bonus-point wins that will move them into the knock-out stages.
They are halfway to achieving that aim but questions over their performance levels and ability to trouble teams they will meet should they go deeper into the tournament remain.
- Rob Kearney crossed for a try after just 90 seconds in this match, Ireland’s fastest ever Rugby World Cup try and the fastest of the 2019 Rugby World Cup for any team.
- Kearney has now scored a try in five of his last six appearances at the Rugby World Cup for Ireland, as well as crossing for a try in both of his games against Russia (2011, 2019).
- Russia made 182 tackles in this match, the second most by any side in a match at the 2019 Rugby World Cup so far (Wales 183 v Australia) and the most Russia have ever made in a RWC match.
- This was Ireland’s 38th Rugby World Cup game and the first time they have prevented the opposition from scoring; it was the first time Russia have failed to score a point in a RWC match.
- Russia remain on the hunt for their maiden Rugby World Cup victory (L7); only Namibia (21) have played more Rugby World Cup games and not registered a victory.
- Sergey Ianiushkin is the third player to make their debut for Russia in a RWC match, Denis Simplikevich and Adam Byrnes in 2011 the other two.
- Andrey Ostrikov became the fifth substitute at this Rugby World Cup to be shown a yellow card, just six subs in 2015 were shown a yellow.
- Russia won 57/57 rucks when in possession in the match, the third side to do this in a match at the 2019 Rugby World Cup (NZ v SA, SA v Namibia).
Ireland: Kearney; Conway, Ringrose, Aki, Earls; Sexton (capt), McGrath; Kilcoyne, Scannell, Ryan, Kleyn, Beirne, Ruddock, O’Mahony, Murphy
Replacements: Cronin, Porter, Furlong, Henderson, Stander, Carty, Murray, Larmour
Russia: Artemyev; Davydov, Galinovskiy, Golosnitskiy, Simplikevich; Gaisin, Perov; Polivalov, Matveev, Gotovtsev, Garbuzov, Fedotko; Sychev, Gadzhiev, Gresev.
Replacements: Selskii, Morozov, Podrezov, Ostrikov, Elgin, Ianiushkin, Khodin, Ostroushkosday.
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