herald

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Rhys back as Hanrahan and Leavy impress

The Tblisi Cup can be a devil's playground, at best, a potential Ireland international's graveyard, at worst.

Tiernan O'Halloran last minute try ensured Emerging Ireland a bonus-point 25-0 opening win against Emerging Italy in Georgia with fly-half JJ Hanrahan taking a hand or boot in all four tries for centres Eoin Griffin and Stuart McCloskey, wing Andrew Conway and the Connacht full-back.

Hanrahan had the freedom to show off his impressive array of skills as a creator, counter-attacker and footballer.

"Scoring the fourth try at the end was important," said 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."

It was interesting to note how Clarke carefully managed the return of tour captain Rhys Ruddock.

He was withdrawn after a 52-minute workout to cap a satisfactory return to action for the first time since early March.

Leinster flanker Dan Leavy, the victim of a series of injuries in the last two seasons, made an eye-catching contribution on the floor where he pinched the ball to ruin any Italian rhythm.

It all bodes well for Emerging Ireland's next outing against Uruguay back at The Avchala Stadium on Wednesday. This will be the prelude to a more taxing rendezvous with their Georgian hosts next Sunday.

They began the competition with a 19-10 win over the South Americans on Saturday.

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