Irish end losing streak in unconvincing fashion
Ireland failed to convince once more as they emerged victorious 20-10 over Samoa at Lansdowne Road on Saturday, ending a six-game losing streak.
The victory was cruel on the visitors who played the better rugby at times, and failed to impress the 30 995 fans who had hoped for some optimism ahead of next weekend's meeting with Tri-Nations champions New Zealand.
Tries in either half from Jamie Heaslip and Ronan O'Gara did the damage for Ireland, but coach Declan Kidney will have more questions for his men ahead of the All-Blacks clash.
Ireland made ten changes to the side that underperformed against South Africa last Saturday, with veteran Munster duo Ronan O'Gara and Peter Stringer replacing the Leinster pairing of Jonathan Sexton and Eoin Reddan at half back.
Devon Toner made his debut at lock, while Luke Fitzgerald was given his chance at fullback in place of teammate Rob Kearney, while Andrew Trimble and Paddy Wallace also got chances to impress.
A disappointingly small crowd had turned out to see the World Champions in the first international rugby game at the new Lansdowne Road stadium last weekend, and despite improved weather, it was smaller again for the Samoans.
PERFECT KICKING CONDITIONS
The faithful few saw Ireland take the lead inside two minutes with O'Gara slotting over an easy penalty, in what were perfect conditions for kickers.
Samoa's expansive game promised an attractive contest, and the Pacific Islanders did throw the ball about in the opening period, but Ireland weathered the storm and were the first to touch down.
It was far from a stylish affair, as Ireland built phase upon phase patiently inside the Samoan 22, and Jamie Heaslip finally forced home from inches after good work by Sean Cronin in particular.
If you wanted style, though, Samoa provided a healthy dose moments later.
Attacking from a lineout inside the Irish 22, Tasea Lavea gathered one handed, fed the supporting Seilala Mapusua and the London Irish man found Leicester's Alesana Tuilagi flying inside and the winger dived home.
Heaslip forced a penalty on the half hour and O'Gara made no mistake from almost 45m to put six points between the sides.
Though they were leading, Ireland were far from impressive and Samoa came out after halftime knowing victory was not out of the question.
The visitors were growing into the game and Paul Williams's penalty on 54 minutes pulled them to within three points.
Ireland infringed again on the hour mark, but Williams's long-range effort dropped just below the posts.
The hosts introduced Cian Healy, Rory Best and Stephen Ferris to try to close out the match as the crowd grew audibly restless and, all of a sudden, Ireland pulled 10 points clear – completely against the run of play.
Samoa spilled the ball in what appeared a promising attack and O'Callaghan's hack downfield saw Ireland win possession inside the opposition 22.
Stringer's quick pass found O'Gara, and the outhalf sidestepped home for his 15th Ireland try.
The Munster man converted to give the hosts a double-digit lead, a scoreline that was as harsh on Samoa as it was undeserved by Ireland.