Bonus point win gives Ireland perfect start in Tbilisi Cup

Emerging 'Ireland's Stuart McCluskey drives forward against Italy
Emerging 'Ireland's Stuart McCluskey drives forward against Italy

Emerging Ireland’s bid to add the Tbilisi Cup title to the Nations Cup they won last year began in encouraging fashion with a bonus-point 25-0 win against Emerging Italy at the Avchala Stadium.

The young Irish side, looking to impress ahead of Rugby World Cup 2015 training squad selection, crossed for three first-half tries and secured the bonus point just before full-time.

Emerging Ireland were first to register points through the boot of fly-half JJ Hanrahan and quickly followed that up with the first try of the game.

The Irish backline worked space out wide allowing outside centre Eoin Griffin the chance to step his way inside the last defender to score the try.

The Irish pack asserted their dominance on the match and had a period of sustained pressure in the Italian 22, which also saw loose-head prop Federico Zani sent to the sin bin.

When the ball was eventually given to the backs, Hanrahan put in a perfect cross field kick for Andrew Conway to gather and dot down in the corner to make it 13-0.

Moments later Emerging Ireland had their third try, and it was made by Hanrahan.

The fly-half gathered a chip kick and sprinted away from the Italian defence. He drew the fullback and allowed Ulster centre Stuart McClosky to run in. Hanrahan converted to make the score 20-0.

The Italians enjoyed a good spell of possession towards the end of the half but were unable to put points on the board so Emerging Ireland led 20-0 at half-time.

After a scoreless third quarter Emerging Italy came close to breaking their duck with a series of pick-and-gos taking them close, however replacement John Cooney forced a crucial turnover to avert the danger.

The second half continued to be a stalemate until Tiernan O’Halloran managed to dive in at the corner to secure Emerging Ireland a crucial bonus point and make the final score 25-0.

“Scoring the fourth try at the end was important,” said Emerging Ireland coach Allen Clarke.

“I was impressed with the way we played in the first half. In the second half we were scrappy.

“Having said that we got the crucial bonus point and we didn’t concede so we are pretty satisfied with that aspect of our game.”

Emerging Italy fielded one senior international in their ranks, five-times capped centre Roberto Quartaroli, as well as four players from recently crowned national league champions Cammi Calvisano.

“It was a very tough match to open the tournament, but I was pleased with the effort the players showed,” said Andrea Duodo, Emerging Italy’s manager. “We are a young team and we played against a team with a lot more experience than us.

“The attitude we showed throughout the match will hold us in good stead for the tournament.”

Meanwhile, hosts Georgia also got off to a winning start with a 19-10 win over fellow Rugby World Cup 2015 qualifiers, Uruguay.

The second round of the Tbilisi Cup takes place on Wednesday with Uruguay against Ireland and Georgia against Italy.