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Dublin: 5 °C Friday 19 December, 2014

Out of 10: How we rated Ireland’s players against Italy

Few Irish players put their hands up and took the fight [legally] to the victorious Italians.

Paddy Jackson sets a penalty attempt on its way.
Paddy Jackson sets a penalty attempt on its way.
Image: INPHO/James Crombie

Rob Kearney 5 – Try as he might to get into the game, Kearney was reduced to kicking away possession as Ireland reeled and putting in a defensive shift. One disastrous spill of the ball over the touchline gave Italy a crucial lineout, which the soon won a penalty from.

Craig Gilroy 7 – The best Irish player in Rome today. His defensive effort was outstanding and he delivered two huge try-saving tackles – one was a monster on the flanker Favaro. Got in Kearney’s way once to hinder a high-ball claim. Looked

Brian O’Driscoll 4 – Who knows what possessed O’Driscoll to stamp Favaro in the ruck just before the half-hour mark. Could have easily seen red but his yellow led to a six-point swing. Battled his heart out when he rejoined the fray and earned a penalty but couldn’t find that magic spark.

Luke Marshall 5 – Many people will question the logic of playing the inside centre after he clearly left last Saturday’s game with a concussion. A couple of smart kicks pushed the Italians back on their heels. Clashed heads with Jackson before being replaced – concussion striking again.

Keith Earls 4 – Lost an early aerial contest with Parisse. Made one good break up the left and another that ended in his game-ending injury, moments after he opted against a pass to O’Driscoll in support.

Paddy Jackson 5 – His kicking from the tee was not so much of an issue – he landed five from six – but he played very deep behind Murray and did not put his hand up for any major tactical calls. Made one fantastic tackle on an Italian prop to snuff out a dangerous attack up the right wing.

Conor Murray 5 – Made a couple of smart box kicks and chips over the top in the first-half but knocked on needlessly to cede momentum in the first half. Battled manfully and was a major reason for the second-half fightback but saw yellow near the death for some slapping silliness at a back-pedalling ruck.

Conor Murray was sin-binned late on. (©INPHO/James Crombie)

Cian Healy 6 – His play in the loose was very good and he took the attack to the Italians on a few occasions. Stole the ball from a charging Parisse to reverse a dangerous phase of play during O’Driscoll’s sin-bin. Was troubled at the scrum and conceded one kicakable penalty.

Rory Best 4 – Had a disaster at the lineout as the Italians gobbled up his throws and disrupted many more. A crucial platform, which served us so well against France, was lost. Made six tackles but missed his man three times.

Mike Ross 4 – Was given a torrid time by Lo Cicero all afternoon and looked to be blowing, and possible injured, as early as the 25th minute. Conceded two kicakable penalties that Orquera punished Ireland from. This man needs back-up soon.

Mike McCarthy 6 – Along with Ryan, he made the most amount of tackles [11] in a losing effort. Showed up in attack and on the wing on a couple of occasions in the second-half. Was replaced in the closing stages as he had nothing left to give.

Donnacha Ryan 4 – His tackle count of 11 was his saving grace but he must take responsibility, along with Best, for the woeful lineouts. The Italians had him as a man to be marked for Best’s throws and it profited. Commitment should not be questioned but a foolish, off the ball tackle late on saw him sent to the sin bin.

Peter O’Mahony 5 – He won’t have much tougher afternoons in green than this. O’Mahony played almost three quarters of the game on the wing following the losses of Earls and Fitzgerald. Had to learn on the job but it was his flank that Venditti scored on. Rampaging run and forearm smash late on almost earned him a try.

Sean O’Brien 7 – A wholehearted effort from O’Brien and a couple of important gains through carries, especially when Ireland were reduced in numbers. Made 52 metres on 14 carries for his team. One of few Irish players guaranteed a Lions call-up.

Jamie Heaslip 5 – A lot of the game seemed to pass Heaslip by and there was a constant stream of players going to O’Driscoll for advice as the team tried to regroup. A couple of nice claims and charges on restarts and 42 metres made on 14 carries. No outstanding moments or on-field images of the captain rallying the troops.

Replacements:

Luke Fitzgerald – Not long on enough to be rated as he went off injured soon after replacing Earls.

Ian Madigan 6 – Was electric at times in attack for Ireland and showed great piece of mind to shovel a long pass out to the right wing. Attacked the line at speed. Bright future.

Iain Henderson 5 – Filled in at flanker and second row at different stages. Solid outing and a good tackle to prevent a Parisse try up the blindside of an attacking scrum.

Devin Toner 4 – The tall man came on with little time to change the result and made only one recorded tackle. He bundled into an airborne Gori and was lucky to escape a yellow card.

Stephen Archer, Dave Kilcoyne, Paul Marshall, Sean Cronin: Not on long enough to rate.

What do you think?

As it happened: Italy v Ireland, 6 Nations

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