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Ireland defeats USA Eagles in Setanta Challenge Cup

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Ireland made tough work of the USA Eagles in Santa Clara on Sunday night in the Setanta Challenge Cup, winning 27-10 despite a spirited performance by Eddie O'Sullivan's men.

Bob Casey put Ireland ahead in the 12th minute, with further scores from Ian Keatley and Ian Whitten giving the visitors a 13-0 half-time lead.

The Irish were awarded a penalty try in the 53rd minute, with Keatley converting, before the USA staged a mini-fightback through Ata Malifa and Roland Suniula.

Ireland's superiority eventually told, however, with Rory Best going over minutes from the end to put some daylight between Declan Kidney's men and the hosts.

It was a dreadful first half as neither side could grab a foothold. Ireland, shorn of the players who had brought them their recent Grand Slam victory in the RBS 6 Nations, finally got a score on the board in the 12th minute when Casey made excellent use of Ireland's rolling maul to go over.

Keatley failed to convert, but he made amends ten minutes later when he finally remembered where his kicking boots were.

At 8-0 to the Irish Mike Hercus, six days shy of his 30th birthday, had his first real opportunity to get some points on the board for the Eagles. His wind-assisted kick looked to be heading over, but went wide at the last second.

The unfortunate Hercus managed to repeat the feat twice more before the end of the half, and his misery was compounded when Ireland scored the second try in injury time.

Keatley spotted a gap and passed the ball to Best who could have gone himself. Best, however, chose to offload to Ian Whitten who went over for 13-0 at the break, with Keatley again wide with the conversion.

The USA started the second half reasonably well, nullifying the attacking threat of Ireland without troubling the scoreboard. Hercus missed his fourth, and possibly easiest, kick at goal in the 48th minute, a damning statistic for a player of such experience.

Kidney's men were awarded a penalty try by referee Chris White when the Americans illegally attempted to take down the maul when Ireland were in a clear scoring position. Keatley deposited the conversion accordingly.

In the 63rd minute there was a complete turnaround.

First of all, American replacement Malifa bagged his side's first points with a drop goal, before the same player released his team-mate Suniula who managed to evade Darren Cave's despairing tackle to go over.

Ireland, however, quickly got back into their stride. Malifa was turned over near his own line and, as the Irish forwards piled through, Eoin Reddan found the grateful arms of Best, who made no mistake before Keatley converted.

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