FUKUOKA, Japan (AP) — Ireland crushed Samoa 47-5 despite playing more than half the contest with 14 men on Saturday night to secure its Rugby World Cup quarterfinals spot.
Flyhalf Johnny Sexton scored two of Ireland’s seven tries and finished with 18 points. Ireland moved atop Pool A with 16 points before host Japan’s game against Scotland on Sunday. Scotland needs to win that game to have any chance of progressing, but will have to wait until World Rugby assesses conditions in the wake of Typhoon Hagibis before knowing if the game will go ahead at Yokohama.
If the game is cancelled, it’ll be logged as a 0-0 tie and both teams will be awarded two competition points, enough for Japan to qualify for the knockout stage for the first time.
Ireland needed to ensure it controlled its own quarterfinal destiny with a big win over the Samoans, and had wrapped up a bonus point by half time.
But they had to play more than 50 minutes with a player short after center Bundee Aki became the first Ireland player sent off at a World Cup.
Aki, who is of Samoan descent, was red carded in the 29th minute for a dangerous high tackle on Ulupano Seuteni, leading with his shoulder in the flyhalf’s face.
It took the tournament tally for reds to a record-extending seven.
But it made little difference to the contest, such was Ireland’s domination in the forwards allied to the quick-thinking of Sexton and his halves partner Conor Murray.
The score was 21-5 when Aki was sent off — Ireland’s tries coming from hooker Rory Best, prop Tadhg Furlong and Sexton — and 26 unanswered points followed.
Sexton got his second try of the game right on the halftime buzzer, fed quickly by Murray on the blind side from a close-range scrum, and converted fullback Jordan Larmour’s early into the second half after Murray’s smart miss-out pass fooled Samoa’s ragged defense.
No. 8 CJ Stander and replacement winger Andrew Conway added further tries.
They were converted by Sexton’s flyhalf replacement, Joey Carbery, who set up Conway’s score with a neat grubber kick.
Backrower Jack Lam scored Samoa’s only try, although both teams had a second-half try ruled out by TMO.
Best, the Ireland captain, got the first try in the fourth minute from a driving maul. It was awarded after one of several video reviews.
TMO was used again moments later to sin-bin hooker Seilala Lam for planting his shoulder into left winger Jacob Stockdale’s face as both player crouched.
Ireland punished that sloppy mistake with a converted try in the eighth. Furlong broke four tackles, even going through one with an almost ballet-like pirouette that is most irregular for a player of his imposing size.
Then Sexton swapped passes neatly with Larmour and sprinted over the line before converting his try for 21-0.
Samoa reduced the deficit when Lam — the captain and brother of Seilala — burrowed over from close range.
Then, Aki clobbered Seuteni, sending him down to the ground and rocking back on his knees. It was a heavy hit, and Seuteni needed treatment on the field before going off.
Ireland upped its urgency.
Right on halftime, old hands Murray and Sexton combined for Ireland’s fourth try of the game.
After that, Ireland kept attacking and Samoa played almost the entire second half camped in its own half. The Samoans weren’t helped when TJ Ioane was also yellow carded.
It was dominant performance from Ireland, the intensity unrelenting, and the red card for Aki seemed to focus collective Irish minds.
But from the Samoans, it was sloppy, and they go home in next-to-last place having only beaten Russia.