Irish stars rise up in Houston


Stars rise up in Houston
@AdamRedmond reports from the BBVA Stadium, Houston
IRELAND'S hard-fought battle in Houston deserves to be viewed as a positive result given the suffocating conditions, lack of fluency in the team selection and the growing strength of the USA.
Here we take a look at five of the most pleasing performances to savour on a night that may not live long in the memory, but will stand as a character-building memory for many of the young men in green.
15 Robbie Henshaw
The 19-year-old was desire personified on his Ireland debut. Within minutes of the opening kick-off he had already leathered into two Americans and his appetite to dominate tackles and any other physical duties was a credit to him.
He looked threatening and composed all evening, while his angles of running were as reassuring as his meaty hits in defence.
Afterwards he admitted that he slightly overran his line when Fergus McFadden's pass inside the US 22 slipped through his grasp and denied him a valuable try on his debut.
Recovered well from that disappointment and can be proud of his first appearance for the senior international side.
14 Fergus McFadden
Took responsibility for leadership in the backline with so many of Ireland's top performers absent. Wore his now trademark head bandage and delivered a typically tough display in defence while his breaks off the blind wing and his ability to scramble extra yards in tight circumstances were vital for Ireland.
Carried his Leinster form into the Irish jersey and will hope for more opportunity to showcase his ability this weekend against Canada in Toronto.
12 Stuart Olding
At 20 years of age you could forgive him if his first cap passed him by but he was the perfect sidekick to out half Ian Madigan and performed with real distinction.
Forced to carry hard target balls Olding consistently managed to retain possession for his team while his ability to make good decisions at first receiver helped to take some of the pressure off Ian Madigan.
Managed to exploit a few spaces in attack but his cover tackle on USA wing Luke Hume in the first half prevented a certain try and that awareness he displayed were crucial in helping Ireland to a narrow victory.
10 Ian Madigan
Kicked five from six and controlled the tempo large portions of this game. Never forced his own running game into this contest, instead he was patient and tried to marshal his side into working good attacking positions through phase play.
Showed acute rugby intelligence by manipulating the American defence into leaving space out wide and his willingness to make cross-field kicks while also putting up high balls did not get the rewards it deserved.
Thrived amid the intense booing during his place kicks and his five from six off the tee ensured that Ireland saw off the US challenge.
There is so much more to come from this young man, but for the moment we should be more than happy about what he offers his country.
8 Peter O'Mahony (captain)
O'Mahony is a captain's captain and his willingness to lead his team through brute force was admirable in this contest.
He also rode a seismic hit from Samu Manoa which shook the stadium in the first half but how he held onto the ball is known only to him, however, it proved that Ireland would not retreat in the face of the most physical intimidation.
Carried well and was unfortunate not to have enough options off his shoulder whenever he got over the gainline. Unlucky with some lineout malfunctions, proved why he has been a leader of men all the way up through the levels.

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