Jordan Larmour has long been tipped for international stardom and he showed why with a hat-trick of tries in Ireland’s 54-7 win against Six Nations rivals Italy.
The full-back, making his first Test start, has already showed glimpses of what he can on the biggest stage but he took Chicago by storm in the second half – running in three tries in a comfortable win, including a superb individual score to complete his treble in the 80th minute.
Tadhg Beirne and Luke McGrath also sent strong messages to head coach Joe Schmidt with tries of their own, while Michele Campagnaro marked his first Test as captain with a try for Italy.
However, Conor O’Shea’s side could not live with Ireland, who again showed they will be tough to crack when they defend their Six Nations crown next year.
The Men in Green now go back home to Dublin but it was a welcome return to Chicago, where they so memorably put New Zealand to the sword two years ago at Soldier Field.
However, only Jack McGrath of the starting XV was retained as Schmidt showed off his enviable strength in depth.
Joey Carbery, Luke McGrath, Jack Conan and Quinn Roux were just some of the names given a rare start by Schmidt and from the off they played with an intensity that suggested they did not want to relinquish their place.
A PERFECT START
One man who might not have to is Beirne, who has been widely tipped for a long and successful Test career, and it took the Munster man just five minutes to make an impact as he powered over from close range following a line-out.
Italy hardly caught sight of the ball in the early stages but they quickly settled – with blindside flanker Johan Meyer particularly eye-catching on debut.
With ball in hand, Conor O’Shea’s man punched holes in Ireland’s defence but they struggled to turn that into points, with Braam Steyn adjudged to have knocked on from just two metres out.
That disappointment only increased when Ireland added a second try in the 32nd minute as the exciting Larmour burst through Italy’s defence from a high ball and slipped a pass to McGrath to score.
THE LARMOUR SHOW
Italy hit back and scored on the brink of half time with Campagnero intercepting a Rhys Ruddock pass and sprinted clear to touch down.
Carlo Canna’s conversion reduced the gap to seven points but Ireland hit the accelerator early in the second half, with Beirne rumbling through for his second and Larmour grabbing his first of the day.
Replacement hooker Sean Cronin scored a fifth Ireland try following a maul before Larmour jinked his way through for his second of the game.
Garry Ringrose added a seventh after a Bundee Aki pass before Larmour stole the show, by wriggling his way through several despairing tackles and sprinting away for a superb score to round it all off.