Rob Kearney 7 – Excellent one-on-one tackle of Leiua in 15th minute, previously a worrying element of his game. Had a slaloming counter-attacking break before half time, reeling back the years to 2009. Kicked raggedly twice, but overall a strong outing as he got involved heavily on attack late on.
Tommy Bowe 6 – His role was mainly limited to making tackles when the Samoans moved the ball wide, with little opportunity to show his qualities in attack or in the air. Hard to judge what kind of form he’s in with such little involvement.
Brian O’Driscoll 7 – Showed he still has pace in the early stages when chasing back to snare Autagavaia. Conceded a needless penalty at the breakdown in the first half, but emerged from the dressing room in the second to display his full range of passes and flicks. There’s still life in the old thoroughbred yet.
Gordon D’Arcy 5 – His first half was littered with errors, starting with the failure to secure a clean take from the restart in the build-up to Pisi’s first penalty. Looked distracted in the warm-up even, and Ireland’s midfield defence was uncharacteristically porous early on. Set up McFadden’s score well, but Luke Marshall surely can’t be kept out any longer.
Fergus McFadden 8 – Did far more than was expected of him on the left wing. Generally doesn’t have the X-factor that someone like Simon Zebo brings to the role, but showed up superbly in attack. Made huge yardage and beat defenders repeatedly, topped off with a deserved try.
Paddy Jackson 8 – Distributed smoothly and made his hits in defence. Kicked very well from the tee, striking the ball cleanly and missing only twice from the tee. Basically carried on where he has started the season for his province. Put more distance between himself and Ian Madigan as Jonny Sexton’s back-up.
Conor Murray 6 – There was a brief glimpse of poor kicking early on but the Munster halfback recovered well to launch a few decent contestable box kicks. Service to Jackson was slick whenever Ireland’s ruck speed allowed it to be.
McGrath was superb at the scrum for 60 minutes. ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan.
Jack McGrath 9 – Dominated Mulipola in the first three scrums before the Leicester giant limped off. Did a job on James Johnston too as soon as he entered the fray. Bested the Samoans at the scrum, even on the occasions when he lost the hit. Contributed a turnover and four carries too. An excellent debut.
Rory Best 8 – Hugely aggressive in defence throughout, a real leader in that aspect of the game for Ireland. It was the hooker’s steal in contact that was at the root of O’Brien’s try, ripping possession straight from Tuifu’a's grasp. Magnificent start to the international season.
Mike Ross 6 – A quiet, calm performance from a man who hasn’t been at his best for Leinster yet this season. Did well at scrum time and made his usual effort to get involved around the pitch.
Mike McCarthy 6 – A decent showing from McCarthy, although his work rate was not as high as others around him, particularly in defence. Got around the corner on a couple of occasions to offer himself in attack, which was important in a pack without too many carriers.
Devin Toner 7 – Realised that his job would be easier by calling the lineout to himself repeatedly, knowing he could beat Samoa in the air even when they marked up on him. Not as visible around the pitch as he would have liked, but did enough to show there is more to come from him at international level.
Peter O’Mahony 8 – Set the tone in the third minute with the turnover penalty that allowed Jackson to open the scoring. Was the beneficiary of a magnificent maul to touch down in the first half. Galloping line-break after the interval ruined by needlessly throwing offload. Athletic and aggressive.
Chris Henry 7 – A rock in defence, he brought new meaning to the word ‘physical’ in the 35 minutes he was on the pitch. Smashed the Samoan ball carriers at every available opportunity, unlike some of his teammates, and nullified Jack Lam’s threat at the breakdown. Barely touched the ball in attack but deserves another start this month.
Heaslip put in an efficient shift. ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan.
Jamie Heaslip 7 – Typical performance from the man who captained the side on the night. Many will question what exactly he did, but as always, the No. 8 will take comfort in the stats. Ireland’s leading tackler with 18, although he did miss a couple too. Chipped in with several carries and also showed his ability to see the opening for a pass.
Sean Cronin 5 - Not involved enough to impress in any way.
Cian Healy 6 – A worthwhile outing for the loosehead, who is now under huge pressure after McGrath’s display. A couple of strong tackles and showed he is still a carrying option
Declan Fitzpatrick 5 – Only had 20 minutes on the pitch, in which he had little to do.
Paul O’Connell 6 – Got one of the biggest cheers of the night when he bounded onto the pitch, proceeding to steal a lineout before getting boshed in defence. Mixed bag of a display in his 30 minutes or so, but will start next week.
Sean O’Brien 7 – Took his try superbly, showcasing his pace and power. Didn’t managed the breakdown as effectively as Henry had done in the first half, but still made himself a nuisance. So strong on the ball, although like O’Connell there is more to come.
Eoin Reddan 6 – Showed his ability to contribute in attack in the exciting lead-up to Kearney’s second score and was perfectly suited to how the game broke up late on. Schmidt will be pleased with the Leinster man.
Ian Madigan 6 – Glimpses of his attacking prowess late on, with a couple of smart passes. Has fallen behind Jackson though, even more so after today.
Dave Kearney 7 – Another man who came off the bench to plunder a try smartly (twice), dotting down in the right-hand corner despite the attentions of Autagavaia and then finished off the sweeping team move in the closing stages. Perfect debut for Kearney junior.
Like rugby? Follow TheScore.ie’s dedicated Twitter account @rugby_ie >