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Ireland hold on in Houston to beat United States Eagles in front of record crowd
Ireland survived a huge scare as a youthful side managed to hang on to a 15-12 victory over the United States in Houston.
New coach Joe Schmidt was part of the record 20,181 crowd at the BBVA Compass Stadium in Texas that witnessed Mike Tolkin's hosts push Ireland all the way but just fail to finish off the job.
Fly-half Ian Madigan kicked all of the visitors' points while Saracens' Chris Wyles scored all of his side's 12 points.
Ireland were starting with a number of new faces, but they began well with new cap Robbie Henshaw making two big hits early on and Madigan scoring his first international points with a ninth-minute penalty, after Mike Ross got the nudge on his opposite number Shawn Pittman at scrum-time.
It was to prove a trend as the Eagles' front-row just couldn't handle the Irish trio of Dave Kilcoyne, Richardt Strauss and Ross and they forced another penalty minutes later for Madigan to double his tally.
America hit back with a breakaway leading to the Eagles eventually having a push for the line from Wyles, and although he was stopped the referee had his arm up and the Saracens full-back got his side off the mark.
While their scrum was dominant, Ireland's lineout was malfunctioning but it was from a rare success that Madigan was handed his third opportunity and he took it gladly to make it 9-3.
But Ireland could not pull away and Samu Manoa, who had earlier emptied Ireland captain Peter O'Mahony in a huge tackle, broke through the Irish cover and the scrambling defence conceded a penalty for Wyles to score.
The scrum provided one more chance for Madigan to make it 12-6 at the break, but with the temperatures continuing to hover in the mid-20s there was concern over Ireland's ability to endure even with the additional water breaks.
Buoyed by being so close, captain Todd Clever got the US on the front foot from the off after the break and he burst through a Kilcoyne tackle early on and only an excellent turnover from Chris Henry and Peter O'Mahony saved the visitors.
A Manoa mistake from a Wyles knock-on allowed Madigan make Ireland's total 15 and it should have been more when Fergus McFadden scythed through on an Isaac Boss pass, only for Henshaw to spill his pass with the line at his mercy.
Roared on by the boisterous crowd, Wyles closed the gap to six points after Henshaw failed to deal with a Manoa chip, putting his defence under pressure, before another ruck infringement allowed him make it a three-point game.
But Ireland weathered the storm as they emptied their bench and US coach Tolkin persevered with the majority of his starting XV.
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|14:30||Barbarians vs Australia|
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|Australia 28 - 29 New Zealand|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com