‘We learned more from this than against the Griquas’ – Simon Easterby credits Emerging Ireland prospects

Emerging Ireland head coach Simon Easterby hailed the character of his young players for digging deep and seeing out a 28-24 win over the Pumas in Bloemfontein this evening.

lthough Emerging Ireland raced into a 21-0 lead after quarter of an hour, they were pegged back by the Currie Cup champions, but crucially, they dug deep to hang on to a victory that sets up a possible clean sweep against the Cheetahs on Sunday,

“The reaction is a credit to the players,” Easterby said.

“They stuck to task as best they could, at times it was tough going. It’s probably hard to get a feel for the conditions back home because it was tough going.

“A lot of lads were cramping up and the second half was a lot faster than the first. Credit to the lads.

“We could easily have allowed them to score at the end but we didn’t. There’s lots of things we need to fix and lots of good learnings from the performance individually and as a group. We have some pride in what we did at the end, we managed to get the win.

“We set out on this tour to test the players, challenge them in a different environment, a different game. There are loads of really good things we can learn from this performance. The group will only get stronger going into the last game of the tour.”

Easterby admitted that he and his fellow senior coaches learned more from today’s hit out after Emerging Ireland were easy winners over the Griquas last Friday.

“We certainly learned more from this than we did in some of the periods against the Griquas,” he continued.

“We had to manage situations when we’re in our territory and how we applied the pressure. When we held onto the ball and played our game, we were hard to deal with. That was a little bit few and far between.

“We coughed the ball up a little too much and therefore couldn’t sustain the pressure on that you need at this level to put a side to bed. I will say there were still some really good tries.

“James Culhane’s try in the second half to the left of the posts, that was excellent. A lot of guys involved in it, a lot of good running lines, etc.

“So there was some real positives as well as much as we’ll be disappointed with letting them back into the game. There will be some real positives to come out of this game.”

With the Cheetahs up next on Sunday before Ireland return home, Easterby is expecting another tough challenge from the South African side, who will be playing at home in Toyota Stadium.

“We saw the Cheetahs’ game against the Bulls last Friday and they’re probably more like the Pumas than the Griquas in terms of wanting to play a bit wider,” Easterby added.

“They also have a good forward pack who can mix it in the tight. It will be a really good challenge and we’re excited about that one. It’s a short turnaround but credit to the players, they’re already thinking about their recovery and making sure they’re available for selection on Sunday.”

Cian Prendergast, who led by example as captain, echoed Easterby’s praise for the manner in which Emerging Ireland ran out four-point winners.

“In the first 20 minutes, we were playing our game,” the Connacht back-row said.

“We were playing the way we wanted to play, it wasn’t loose, we weren’t giving them easy access. Then we probably got a bit too ahead of ourselves. We gave away a few penalties, a few poor exits, a few opportunities missed.

“That gave them a bit of life when we had moments in the 22 when we could have taken the life out of them if we had scored. That was definitely the feeling.”

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