Six Nations 2019: Ireland rely on 'cool customer' Joey Carbery in victory over Scotland
Ireland captain Rory Best has praised fly-half Joey Carbery for responding to an early set-back to steer the team to a vital Six Nations win over Scotland.
One of Carbery’s first acts after his introduction for Johnny Sexton was to throw an intercept to Finn Russell, which led to Scotland’s only try.
But the Munster playmaker recovered to set up Keith Earls for a second-half score that sealed Ireland’s victory.
“You could just see Joey grow into the game,” said the Ireland skipper.
“I thought he bossed the forwards as well in a game that was very difficult, it really was about inches – every time you carried it was about getting an inch because that’s all you were getting.
“So I thought Joey did super and that’s ultimately what you need, when you lose a world-class player like Johnny so early on – for things not to go badly – and for Joey to step in there and to recover from that (intercept pass), Finn Russell is a poacher and we should have set a little bit tighter to him on that slower ball, but Joey just bounced back and he is a cool customer.”
Sexton withdrawn after HIA
Carbery, 23, was introduced as a temporary replacement mid-way through the opening half when Sexton hobbled off for treatment on an injury but the World Rugby Player of the Year was unable to return to the pitch after he failed a HIA (head injury assessment).
Head coach Joe Schmidt confirmed that Sexton had suffered an ankle injury and a concussion during a bruising opening quarter at Murrayfield but the Leinster star is expected to return for the round three match against Italy on 24 February.
“It was a little bit cumulative really,” Schmidt said of Sexton’s forced withdrawal after a number of heavy knocks on the gainline.
“He got a stamp on the ankle and it was really when they were going out to treat that, that they just decided he wasn’t 100% and that they needed to do a HIA and he didn’t pass that.
“I don’t even think it was a Scottish foot, it was one of our guys who tripped over him.”
The 24th minute departure of Ireland’s most influential player forced the Grand Slam champions to make changes to their style of play and scrum-half Conor Murray had to shoulder more of the play-making duties in Sexton’s absence.
“I think Conor started taking a bit more responsibility when Johnny was feeling a little bit sluggish,” continued Schmidt.
“Particularly because Johnny’s ankle was very sore – and it is just swelling, you can see the graze down his leg, so he should bounce back from that pretty quickly.
“Conor then was trying to kick from positions that he wouldn’t normally kick from and when you try too hard to do something, sometimes it goes awry.”
Carbery reaping rewards of Munster move
Schmidt also applauded Carbery for responding to his early mistake as the fly-half also kicked a conversion and a late penalty to deny Scotland a losing bonus point.
“The thing that probably defined him was his chop-tackle at the end to earn us an opportunity to get the ball back,” noted Schmidt.
“He’s a guy who is growing in confidence and hopefully the more often he’s in big games like that then the greater his confidence will be and the more comfortable he’ll become in the role.”
Former Leinster academy player Carbery made a controversial switch to provincial rivals Munster last summer after serving as an understudy to Sexton and his decision to move in search of more regular game time in the number 10 shirt now appears to be paying off.
“I think he’s benefitting greatly from being down in Munster. He’s doing really well there and you could just see him grow into the game,” argued Best.
“Some of the things that you see him doing… when that ball was scrappy, he went down and picked it up and he made something out of nothing and that’s what Joey can do.”