USA Gallant In Defeat
Ireland, working off a superior forward pack, opened their World Cup campaign with a 22-10 win over the United States Sunday in a scrappy game played on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
The Irish scraped their way to a 10-0 lead at half-time, bolstered by a try to Tommy Bowe right on the break, before adding two more tries in the second half in their Pool C encounter.
But the high error-count of the Irish was underscored at the end of the match when United States outside centre Paul Emerick was gifted a runaway try by a loose pass.
"We didn't play well. We really had to fight for our win," said Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll. "I suppose it's job done but we've got a hell of a lot to improve on."
"I think our performance was typified by the last play of the game (the United States' try) - we were just a bit loose," O'Driscoll added.
The American Eagles were expected to come out firing in the emotionally charged atmosphere, after a minute's silence for the September 11 victims before kick-off, but it was the Irish who started with more endeavour.
They drove the first scrum back five metres and won a kickable penalty which Jonathan Sexton sprayed right, in what proved to be the start of a series of mistakes by the team.
Before a large number of Irish supporters creating a sea of green around Stadium Taranaki, Ireland either spilled passes in the steady rain or had their ball-carriers cut down in bone-jarring tackles.
Playing in the same pool as Australia and Italy, the lack of cohesion is not what Ireland wanted in their attempt to atone for their 2007 World Cup performance when they failed to make the quarter-finals for the first time.
As the game progressed the New Zealanders in the crowd warmed to the battling Eagles and the decibel level of the "U-S-A" chant was raised considerably.
And James Paterson gave the fans reason to celebrate with a successful penalty 10 minutes into the second half.
With the rookie Ireland halves pairing of Conor Murray and Sexton failing to make an impact, the seasoned Eoin Reddan and Ronan O'Gara were introduced and there was an immediate turnaround in fortunes.
Hooker Rory Best broke from a maul and galloped 22 metres to the line, and Bowe followed with his second try running off a well-time pass from O'Driscoll.
But after the top-tier side had increased their lead to a more comfortable 22-3 over the 18th-ranked Eagles the jitters reappeared, resulting in Emerick's try at the end.
SARugby.com Man of the Match: Tommy Bowe.
Ireland – Tries: Tommy Bowe, Rory Best, Tommy Bowe. Conversions. Jonathan Sexton, Ronan O'Gara. Penalties:
USA – Tries: Paul Emerick. Conversions: James Paterson. Penalties: Paterson.