SYDNEY //The Ireland coach Andy Kelly spoke of his pride after his team pulled off the shock of the World Cup and how they drew inspiration for their stunning 34-16 victory over Samoa from the former boxer Muhammad Ali. After losing to Tonga in their opening game, Kelly's men had to beat Samoa by six points to top pool C on points difference and they emerged from a bruising and brutal encounter handsomely.
Kelly revealed after their pulsating win at Parramatta Stadium that his players received extra motivation after watching When We Were Kings, a film based on the build-up to Ali's Rumble in the Jungle fight with George Foreman. "They were inspirational things for the boys. We have left no stone unturned in our preparation," he said. Samoa played it physical and England could learn from the Irish, who stood up to the challenge magnificently.
"To learn the lessons of the Tonga game and come out that bit stronger and wise,r and to apply it on the field was a massive effort from the players," said Kelly. "If they keep on like that, the amount of pride I've got is going to bust me up. They were fantastic." Ireland's reward is a semi-final qualifier against Fiji on Monday, with the Kangaroos lying in wait for the winners. Their hero was Wigan's goalkicking winger Pat Richards, a former Parramatta player who was brought up in Sydney after his parents emigrated from Dublin.
Richards scored the first of his side's six tries on 11 minutes and two minutes from the end became the second Irish player to complete a hat-trick in the tournament following Damien Blanch's treble against Tonga. Richards, who scored Wests Tigers' match-winning try in the 2005 NRL Grand Final, rated the victory as a career highlight. "It's right up there. This is very, very special, especially having my family here. I made my debut on this ground," he said.
"We believed in each other and we've got some great players in our team. They don't really get recognised but I'm sure they will after tonight." Ireland withstood an early onslaught and stunned the highly-fancied Samoans with a three-try burst in seven minutes that put them 14-0 up. Sean Gleeson and Simon Finnigan added to Richards' first try while Liam Finn grabbed the clinching try 10 minutes from the end.
* PA Sport