KOBE, Japan — Ireland rebounded from its jolting loss to Japan by defeating winless Russia only 35-0 in a humdrum Rugby World Cup match on Thursday.
The Irish made 11 changes for the pool match five days after the Japan result, and they still looked well oiled in going 14-0 up in even time. But despite wingers from Japan and Samoa scoring seven tries by showing up Russia’s weakness on the outside in previous games, Ireland preferred the direct route, to take on the Bears up front, and it wasn’t pretty.
It took until Russia received its first yellow card for Ireland to score its third try just before halftime, and then not until Russia’s second yellow card for Ireland to earn the fourth bonus-point try.
After two tries in the first 12 minutes, Ireland could place only two tries in the next 50. There was a late flourish when center Garry Ringrose, who barely touched the ball all match, finished off a sweeping attack from deep in their half and made the scoreline flatter the Irish.
It was debatable who was happier: Russia didn’t score, but lost its last match to Ireland 62-12 at the 2011 World Cup.
Ireland scored after just 90 seconds from a set move off a ruck in midfield. Scrumhalf Luke McGrath drew the defense wide off the ruck and flanker Peter O’Mahony passed to fullback Rob Kearney inside a huge hole. Kearney, who passed concussion tests after the Japan game and still has a dark welt under his left eye, weaved 40 meters to the line to score.
After Kearney scrambled to clear an up-and-under from Russia’s Ramil Gaisin, the Russians were back on defense from a spilled pass, and after a couple of rucks O’Mahony chased an expert grubber from Jonathan Sexton to score between the posts.
However, Kiril Golonotskiy, Russia’s only try-scorer in this Rugby World Cup, slammed his left leg into a post as he tackled O’Mahony and was carried off.
Ireland looked good at 14-0, just as it was when it led Japan 12-3, but the match meandered because of injuries _ No. 8 Jordi Murphy limped off _ and Ireland’s insistence on trying to flex its muscle in ruck after ruck. The Russians were only too happy to show off their muscles, too.
And it was effective until Russia lock Bogdan Fedotko was sin-binned for persistent professional fouls. Ireland used the man advantage to work flanker Rhys Ruddock over Anton Sychev with a helpful shove from prop John Ryan.
With a 21-0 lead and three conversions, Sexton’s first match as captain of Ireland was ended at halftime to perhaps save the star flyhalf for Samoa in nine days in Fukuoka.
For the Russians, no sooner was Fedotko back on the field, than replacement lock Andrey Ostrikov was sin-binned for a dangerous clearout, and they were back to 14.
But Ireland were on defense when they broke out, with a chip by replacement flyhalf Jack Carty that Keith Earls grabbed and fed fellow wing Andrew Conway to take to the posts. Ringrose’s late try came from another deep attack and, too late, Ireland discovered the Russian backs were no match for theirs.