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Rónan Kelleher to the four as try-happy Ireland finish season with a smile

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Ireland 71 USA 10

On an idyllic sunny evening in Dublin, this was the largest crowd at a rugby game in Ireland for almost a year and a half. The 6,000 in attendance was double the total last week and the roar after the anthems was certainly twice as loud. In return, they were treated to something akin to exhibition rugby.

Ireland ran in 10 tries to one, with four of them dotted down by Rónan Kelleher, who sure has an eye for the try line. Rumour has it that he was wanted by Warren Gatland for the Lions’ pre-tour game against Japan and could soon be bound to join the tourists.

Ireland operated off quick ball almost without interruption, had more offloads in this game than probably the rest of the season and after the USA were reduced to 14 men after a red card for Pretoria-born flanker Riekert Hattingh, used the wide-wide game to maximum effect.

The fun was started by Robert Baloucoune, who scored within 17 minutes of his debut with a breathtaking finish. In one gallop he was a crowd favourite and every time he touched the ball there was a buzz of anticipation – the same also being true of Andrew Conway on his return before departing at half-time.

Nick Timoney also scored on debut as did Gavin Coombes in his first start, and were it not for Kelleher’s exploits one ventures Coombes would have been the man-of-the-match. He graced this one-sided romp with wonderful handling as well as ballast.

Caelan Doris ought to have had one or two to augment another classy display and with Jack Conan on Lions duty suddenly Ireland are awash with ‘8s’ in the post-CJ era.

Craig Casey, another making his first start, had a pleasing zip to his game and it was good to see Joey Carbery purring in a green shirt again, varying his game nicely, prepared to take on contact and pulling the strings smoothly.

These two games have underlined that there is a lot more to Stuart McCloskey’s game than straight hard carrying, James Hume looked a class act and Hugo Keenan again seemed to be everywhere in his 13th successive Test start.

In addition to the four starting debutants, another four were given an introduction to Test rugby which, admittedly, doesn’t come much more gentle this. Demoralised even before they were depleted, from the outset the Eagles’ defence had more holes than a soup-strainer.

Initially, the Eagles were full of endeavour and ambition, misleadingly spending much of the first 15 minutes deep in Irish territory. Thrice they turned down kicks in front of the posts for Luke Carty to kick to the corner as they backed their maul, which had driven over the English line twice last week.

Ireland’s Nick Timoney scores a try at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Ireland’s Nick Timoney scores a try at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

But thrice the Irish pack defended the maul and all that huffing and puffing seemed to take more out of the USA pack.

Like last week, the Irish lineout twice malfunctioned early on, but the first that worked saw McCloskey shape to truck it up, only to pull back for Carbery, who went off script with a dummy, half-break and sumptuous offload for Conway to break clear.

James Ryan instructed Carbery to take three points before Ireland opened a porous USA midfield again off a lineout from deep.

Again McCloskey pulled the ball back for Carbery, who put Baloucoune through an inviting gap as the Eagles were bamboozled by three decoy runs. Whereupon Baloucoune bamboozled Mike Te’o and Ruben de Hass, turning them 360 degrees as he veered back to his right in that Doug Howlett-like manner of his and accelerated clear.

No sooner had Carty finally taken three points than Ryan turned three down to go to the corner, where Kelleher hit Ryan and after a sustained drive had the touchdown.

After Coombes released Conway for a sprint up the narrowest of corridors along the touchline, several phases later Keenan grubbered for Conway to chase and Te’o fumbled over the touchline. Cue Kelleher hitting Ryan once more and this time Timoney scored off the drive.

The fourth was probably the pick of the 10.

From inside the 22, again Carbery took the pull back and again Coombes released Conway up the touchline once more. This time Conway regathered his quick-witted little grubber and linked with Keenan to put the supporting Kelleher over. Some mobility and pace for a hooker.

There might have been a fifth by the break. Conway calling and winning a sharp box kick by Casey for Tom O’Toole to claim the deflection and start a sequence of offloads by him, Conway and Ryan only for a double tackle to knock the ball from Doris’s grasp.

The first half ended with Doris having the ball dislodged from his hands after some lovely interlinking between forwards and backs.

It was but a brief stay of execution for the Eagles, as another lineout drive led to another Kelleher try.

After Hattingh’s 54th-minute red card the floodgates opened. After lengthy deliberation, Mathieu Raynal adjudged that Hattingh, the son of a Springbok and who plays on the edge, caught Kelleher on the chin with his shoulder, although the initial contact seemed just below that.

In any event, Ireland could cut loose. To begin with, from the ensuing penalty for Hattingh’s high hit, Kelleher showed no ill effects as he wriggled over from another lineout drive.

Another break by Hume led to Will Addison finding Baloucoune on the touchline with a bounce pass and his offload afforded McCloskey a strong finish in the corner to bring up the half century, Harry Byrne hitting the post with Ireland’s only miss.

After Coombes won turnover ball on the deck Keenan called for and raced on to McCloskey’s chip into a completely unguarded backfield.

Baloucoune was wrongly denied one try and then after another gallop and offload inside by the Enniskillen flyer, Coombes seemed to be wrongly denied a touchdown.

No matter, helped by Paul Boyle, he soon powered over off Caolin Blade’s pass after Keenan probably should have given Addison the try-scoring pass.

To their credit, the USA drew some energy from their bench and their pack’s close-in driving was rewarded with a consolation score by Michael Baska. But, off a lineout steal by Doris and more running amok by Balouocoune, Blade was inches away from a debut try before his Connacht mate Finlay Bealham plunged over. Addison even landed the touchline conversion.

Smiles all round.

SCORING SEQUENCE – 8 mins: Carbery pen 3-0; 17: Baloucoune try, Carbery con 10-0; 19: Carty pen 10-3; 24: Kelleher try, Carbery con 17-3; 27: Timoney try, Carbery con 24-3; 30: Kelleher try, Carbery con try 31-3; (half-time 31-3); 44: Kelleher try, Carbery con 38-3; 54: Kelleher try, Byrne con 45-3; 56: McCloskey try 50-3; 62: Keenan try, Byrne con 57-3; 71: Coombes try, Byrne con 64-3; 78: Baska try, Magie con 64-10; 82: Bealham try, Addison con 71-10.

IRELAND: Hugo Keenan (Leinster); Robert Baloucoune (Ulster), James Hume (Ulster), Stuart McCloskey (Ulster), Andrew Conway (Munster); Joey Carbery (Munster), Craig Casey (Munster); Dave Kilcoyne (Munster), Rónan Kelleher (Leinster), Tom O’Toole (Ulster); Ryan Baird (Leinster), James Ryan (Leinster, capt); Caelan Doris (Leinster), Nick Timoney (Ulster), Gavin Coombes (Munster).

Replacements: Will Addison (Ulster) for Conway (h-t), Paul Boyle (Connacht) for Timoney, Harry Byrne (Leinster) for Carbery (both 54), Dave Heffernan (Connacht) for Kelleher, Ed Byrne (Leinster for Kilcoyne (both 55), Fineen Wycherley (Munster) for Baird (58 mins), Caolin Blade (Connacht) for Casey (60 mins), Finlay Bealham (Connacht) for O’Toole (73 mins).

USA: Mike Te’o (Utah Warriors); Christian Dyer (USA Sevens), Calvin Whiting (Utah Warriors), Bryce Campbell (Austin Gilgronis, capt), Mika Kruse (Utah Warriors); Luke Carty (LA Giltinis), Ruben de Haas (Austin Gilgronis); David Ainu’u (Toulouse), Joe Taufete’e (Lyon), Paul Mullen (Utah Warriors); Gregory Peterson (Newcastle Falcons), Nick Civetta (Rugby United New York); Hanco Germishuys (Rugby United New York), Riekert Hattingh (Seattle Seawolves), Cam Dolan (Nola Gold).

Replacements: Nate Brakeley (Rugby United New York) for Petersen (h-t), Kapeli Pifeleti (Saracens) for Taufete’e (48), Dino Waldren (Nola Gold) for Mullen (58), Michael Baska (Utah Warriors) for de Haas (59), Will Magie (Austin) for Dyer (64), Psalm Wooching (San Diego Legion) for Germishuys (66), Matt Harmon (Nola Gold) for Ainu’u (68), Dyer for Carty (70), Andrew Guerra (Nola Gold) for Dolan (73).

Red card: Hattingh (54 mins).

Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France).

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Fraser to attend Oireachtas committee on Zappone controversy

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The State’s highest ranking civil servant will appear before an Oireachtas committee to explain the circumstances around the now-scrapped appointment of Katherine Zappone as special envoy.

The secretary general of the Department of Taoiseach Martin Fraser will appear before the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs next week.

Members of the committee are expected to ask Mr Fraser to explain in detail when precisely Ms Zappone’s name was communicated to the Department of the Taoiseach.

Controversy erupted in late July over an attempt by Minister of Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney to appoint Ms Zappone as a special envoy for freedom of expression and LGBTQ+ rights.

On Monday, former minister Zappone turned down an invitation to appear before the committee to discuss the matter.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin was not aware of plans to appoint her before they came before Cabinet just before the summer recess.

Moreover, Fianna Fáil has disputed a claim from Tánaiste Leo Varadkar’s that Ms Zappone was named as a UN special envoy in a memo sent to the Taoiseach’s office the day before the Cabinet discussed the proposed appointment.

“The memo with the name of Katherine Zappone was in the Taoiseach’s office, the day before the Cabinet meeting,” Mr Varadkar said earlier this month.

“Notwithstanding that, Simon Coveney and I had a responsibility to flag that to him as a Minister, me as a leader in Government, there should be good faith and no surprises, and I’ve spoken the Taoiseach about that, and apologised.”

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath disputed this and said that an “under the arm memo” sent to the office of the Taoiseach the day before the Cabinet meeting on July 27th did not mention Ms Zappone.

Mr Fraser’s decision to appear before the committee means the controversy will continue into another week.

Mr Fraser, who has been secretary general at the Department of the Taoiseach for a decade, is to move from Government Buildings late next year to become the Irish ambassador in London.

In mid-September, the Dáil voted confidence in Mr Coveney by 92 votes to 59.

Separately, Mr Varadkar has now sought to downplay reports of a “sting” operation arising from the Zappone affair, whereby a junior minister reportedly gave false information to a senior minister during a phone call, which then made its way to a journalist.

The Tánaiste said he had spoken with Patrick O’Donovan, reportedly the junior minister involved, but said he had not been shown text messages arising from the “sting” and that “there have been no confrontations” about it.

“He’s shown me no text messages or anything like that. This is an internal matter that will be dealt with within Fine Gael,” Mr Varadkar said. “I’m aware of what’s been reported and I’ve spoken to all the Fine Gael cabinet Ministers about this.”

Asked whether Ms Zappone should attend or otherwise respond to written questions from the Oireachtas committee, Mr Varadkar said it was a matter for her and the committee, arguing the Government had “moved on”.

Speaking in New York on Monday, the Taoiseach also sought to draw a line under the controversy, saying Ms Zappone was a “private citizen”. Mr Martin said: “As far as I’m concerned we’ve had enough debate about it now.”

“This was in effect, an under the arm memo which means it is brought to Cabinet on the morning of the Cabinet meeting itself and that was the first time that the name Katherine Zappone was with the Taoiseach and with all of the other Cabinet colleagues so that is certainly the case.”

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How much it costs to buy near new Nine Elms and Battersea tube stations

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Two new Underground stations opened this week – Nine Elms and Battersea Power Station.

But while the areas feature lots of new housing for London, people looking to move to there and jump on the Tube’s extended Northern Line will pay a hefty price tag.

The average price of a house in Nine Elms is £726,131, according to Zoopla, but they have got cheaper. This is a drop of more than 6 per cent on a year ago, the equivalent of £50,000. 

But that average price doubles to £1,501,091 once you narrow a buyer’s search area from the wider Nine Elms area to just the Nine Elms development site, which is the new housing just south of the River Thames. 

And there’s the opportunity to spend much more – among the three homes we found below in the location was a flat in Battersea Power Station for £16million.

A luxury penthouse high up on the eleventh and twelfth floors of Battersea Power Station is for sale for £16million with estate agent Copperstones - see more details below

A luxury penthouse high up on the eleventh and twelfth floors of Battersea Power Station is for sale for £16million with estate agent Copperstones – see more details below

Two new Underground stations have opened this week: One at Nine Elms and the other at Battersea Power Station

Two new Underground stations have opened this week: One at Nine Elms and the other at Battersea Power Station

Buyers looking at the Nine Elms development will need a typical budget of £1.5m, according to property website Zoopla

Buyers looking at the Nine Elms development will need a typical budget of £1.5m, according to property website Zoopla

Billions of pounds of investment have been pumped into the area in recent years, including through the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station.

The decommissioned coal-fired power station is now luxury flats and penthouses – while there has also been the building of a new US Embassy in Nine Elms.

Despite the recent falls in average house prices near the stations, property experts suggest that values will rise, at least in the surrounding areas.

Billions of pounds of investment have been pumped into the Nine Elms area in recent years, including through the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station

Billions of pounds of investment have been pumped into the Nine Elms area in recent years, including through the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station

Buying agent Henry Pryor said: ‘While some might expect the new stations to be full of people fleeing the Nightmare on Nine Elms Street, these new infrastructure nodes are really going to give the area a genuine lift.

‘Lower Chelsea and the area around Battersea Park may well see prices bumped up by as much as 10 per cent, even if many buyers in SW11 thought that they were high enough.’

We take a look at three properties for sale at Battersea Power Station and Nine Elms 

1. Two-bed flat, Battersea Power Station, £1.15m

This luxury flat is close to the Battersea Power Station Underground station, which opened this week in London

This luxury flat is close to the Battersea Power Station Underground station, which opened this week in London

The modern property is on the market for £1.15million and is being sold via estate agents Martin & Co

The modern property is on the market for £1.15million and is being sold via estate agents Martin & Co

Inside, there is an open-plan living area with a fully-fitted kitchen, while outside there is a covered and tiled private balcony

Inside, there is an open-plan living area with a fully-fitted kitchen, while outside there is a covered and tiled private balcony

There are two bedrooms, including the main one boasting an en-suite shower room and room for a baby's cot

There are two bedrooms, including the main one boasting an en-suite shower room and room for a baby’s cot

There is also a smaller balcony at the rear of the flat that overlooks the railway tracks that carries commuters in and out of central London

There is also a smaller balcony at the rear of the flat that overlooks the railway tracks that carries commuters in and out of central London

This luxury two-bedroom flat is in the redeveloped Battersea Power Station and has an asking price of £1.15m.

It has an open-plan living area with a fully-fitted kitchen and a large private balcony.

Residents have access to a library, private cinema, communal gardens, a gym, swimming pool and a concierge service. The flat is being sold via estate agents Martin & Co.

2. Six-bed penthouse, Battersea Power Station, £16m

The modern interiors include designer crittall-style doors and walls, which are made from many panes of glass

The modern interiors include designer crittall-style doors and walls, which are made from many panes of glass

The property has six bedrooms, seven bathrooms - including this one with a cooper bath -, a roof terrace and two parking spaces

The property has six bedrooms, seven bathrooms – including this one with a cooper bath -, a roof terrace and two parking spaces

The penthouse boasts far-reaching views from the private balcony across the River Thames and towards the city

The penthouse boasts far-reaching views from the private balcony across the River Thames and towards the city

The London penthouse has a hefty price tag and is being sold via estate agents Copperstones for £16million

The London penthouse has a hefty price tag and is being sold via estate agents Copperstones for £16million

This luxury penthouse is on the eleventh and twelfth floors of Battersea Power Station, with views across the River Thames and the capital.

It has six bedrooms, seven bathrooms, a roof terrace and two parking spaces.

You’ll need deep pockets to buy it due to its £16million price tag. It is being sold by estate agents Copperstones.

3. Three-bedroom flat, Nine Elms, £3.95m

The three-bedroom flat is in the Ambassador Building in Nine Elms and has a light interior with walnut parquet flooring

The three-bedroom flat is in the Ambassador Building in Nine Elms and has a light interior with walnut parquet flooring

The luxury home has floor to ceiling windows and is being sold via estate agents Johns & Co with an asking price of £3.95m

The luxury home has floor to ceiling windows and is being sold via estate agents Johns & Co with an asking price of £3.95m 

The famous Sky Pool floats 10 storeys up between two skyscrapers at the Embassy Gardens development in London

The famous Sky Pool floats 10 storeys up between two skyscrapers at the Embassy Gardens development in London

This flat is in the Ambassador Building in Nine Elms at the Embassy Gardens development – home to the Sky Pool.

It is three bedrooms, walnut parquet flooring, marble work surfaces and floor to ceiling windows.

It has an asking price of £3.95m and is being sold via estate agents Johns & Co.

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What to expect in Budget 2022? Small tax cuts and modest welfare increases

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Public spending may have rocketed over the past 20 months due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic but it appears that tax cuts and welfare increases will be on the table nonetheless when the Government sets out its budget on October 12th.

As Tánaiste Leo Varadkar recently said, there will be tax measures aimed at “middle-income people in particular”, as well as a welfare package to offset the impact of the rising cost of living.

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