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

Voice Of EU



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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Cladding-hit flat owner to send repair bills to developer after floor collapses

Voice Of EU



‘I’ll be sending the bill to the chief executive’: Cladding-hit flat owner hits out at developer after his floor collapses in latest building fiasco

  • Homeowner sees floor at his London flat collapse in latest building fiasco
  • We exclusively reveal the full extent of the damage – a hole that is 40cm by 30cm
  • The damage is the latest question about building work in flats across Britain
  • Many flats have already been hit by the cladding crisis and face huge repair bills 

A leaseholder who is already having to deal with expensive cladding issues has hit out at poor craftsmanship after the floor of his flat collapsed beneath his feet.

Liam Spender explained that he was at home at the weekend when he felt the floor give way.

‘I felt the floor go and moved quickly out of the way. I turned back and there was a dip in the carpet. I nearly fell through the floor,’ he said.

Leaseholder Liam Spender (pictured) has hit out at poor craftsmanship at his London home in Canary Wharf

Leaseholder Liam Spender (pictured) has hit out at poor craftsmanship at his London home in Canary Wharf

Mr Spender lifted the carpet at his London flat near Canary Wharf to reveal the full extent of the damage – a hole that is approximately 40cm by 30cm.

He explained that his flat is across two levels, meaning that the floor between is allowed to be made as it is – with chipboard and wooden joists – and does not need to include concrete. 

However, Mr Spender claimed that the sheets of chipboard were not adequately supported by the floor joists. 

The damaged floor is on a gallery above his bedroom. ‘It could have been a lot worse and I could have gone straight through,’ he said.

Taking to Twitter, Mr Spender explained how the floor was not adequate, saying: ‘There is only air between the floor boards and the room underneath.’

Mr Spender claimed that the chipboard floor was not adequately supported by the floor joists

Mr Spender claimed that the chipboard floor was not adequately supported by the floor joists

The flat owner revealed the full extent of the damage - a hole that is approximately 40cm by 30cm

The flat owner revealed the full extent of the damage – a hole that is approximately 40cm by 30cm

It is the latest challenge Mr Spender has at his building, as he already faces a bill for remediation works due to cladding issues.

‘I’m going to get the bill for fixing the mess on cladding. The broken floor is literally a step too far. 

He said: ‘I’m going to get the bill for fixing the mess on cladding. The broken floor is literally a step too far.

‘I have not had my bill for the cladding issues yet. But I’ll be sending the bill for the floor and the cladding – when it comes – marked for the attention of the chief executive and chairman of Berkeley homes.’

Since the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, concerns about cladding have become a national issue.

Lenders have refused to provide finance on some types of cladding, leaving some flat owners trapped in unsafe homes that they are unable to sell.

Berkeley Group was approached for comment, but declined to comment. 

Mr Spender said the broken floor was 'a step too far' as he was already expecting a repair bill for cladding issues at his building

Mr Spender said the broken floor was ‘a step too far’ as he was already expecting a repair bill for cladding issues at his building


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How do you feel about the new carbon budgets?

Voice Of EU



We want to hear your views on the proposed new carbon budgets which, the Government says, will change how people live and work. The proposed budgets, published by the Climate Change Advisory Council, will apply to every sector of the economy and will outline a limit for total emissions that can be released.

The first carbon budget, which will run from 2021 to 2025, will see emissions reduce by 4.8 per cent on average each year for five years. The second budget, which will run from 2026 to 2030, will see emissions reduce by 8.3 per cent on average each year for five years. The council says the budgets will require “transformational changes for society” but that failing to act would have “grave consequences”. Environmental campaigners say the budgets will provide a cleaner, healthier and safer future but some rural groups such as the Irish Farmers’ Association say they will have “serious repercussions”.

How do you feel about the new carbon budgets?

Now we’d like to hear your views: Do you support the budgets or are you against them; do they go too far or not far enough?

We will publish a selection of your responses online (If you are reading this on the Irish Times app, click here to access the form for submissions).

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House sales shoot up a THIRD in September amid fears of mortgage rate hike

Voice Of EU



The number of homes bought and sold in Britain rose by two thirds in September compared to August, with experts believing buyers are seeking to get ahead of a potential rise in mortgage rates. 

There were nearly 161,000 property transactions in September on a seasonally-adjusted basis, a 67.5 per cent increase on the previous month, according to latest figures from HMRC. 

They also increased by 68 per cent compared to September 2020, and 63 per cent compared to the ‘normal’ market average in September 2017 to 2019.

The cost of a mortgage could be set to increase, if the Bank of England base rate rises

The cost of a mortgage could be set to increase, if the Bank of England base rate rises

Experts say the sharp rise was only partly a result of the Government’s stamp duty holiday, which has fuelled price growth of around £25,000 in the last year but finally ended on 30 September. 

It initially allowed buyers to save up to £15,000 in taxes as they did not need to pay stamp duty on the portion of their property purchase under £500,000. 

But in September, the tax break would have had a more subdued effect.

In England and Northern Ireland, it was tapered down between July and September so that buyers could only save £2,500.

And the holiday had already expired in Scotland and Wales, on 31 March and 30 June respectively. 

Given that the impact of the stamp duty holiday was lessening, some suggest that other factors have become more important in maintaining high levels of activity in the housing market. 

There are a number of things at play, according to Lawrence Bowles, senior research analyst at Savills.

‘There’s more to this activity than a stamp duty holiday: record-low mortgage rates, desire for more space, and a core of unmet pent up demand all continue to push up transaction volumes,’ he says. 

Although it is one of several reasons why the housing market remains hot, the desire for a cheap mortgage has become more of a pressing issue for buyers in recent days and weeks. 

This is because speculation about a rise in the Bank of England’s base rate has threatened an increase in the current super-low rates.

At the moment, rates are available as low as 0.89 per cent – but they are already rising. At its lowest, the cheapest fixed rate on the market was 0.84 per cent.

Major lenders including NatWest, HSBC and Barclays have all moved to increase rates on some mortgages, after months of sustained falls. 

With a base rate rise being predicted by some for December, experts are suggesting that the threat of mortgage rates going up is the ‘new stamp duty holiday’ and that the rush to complete sales before rates rise is now keeping the housing market buoyant.

Simon Bath, chief executive of technology company iPlace Global which created the property advice app Moveable, says: ‘We have reached another crossroads in which following the stamp duty holiday, there is another potential deadline for Brits to prepare for.

‘It seems likely that house prices will continue to rise before demand slows down, as Brits race to obtain lower mortgage rates.’

Rising costs: Those buying homes have seen the typical sale price increase by £5,000 in the last month alone, according to data from the property platform Rightmove

Rising costs: Those buying homes have seen the typical sale price increase by £5,000 in the last month alone, according to data from the property platform Rightmove 

Early statistics back his price rise theory up. According to Rightmove’s latest house price index, which covers the first half of October, the average house price jumped £5,000 compared to the previous month. 

In addition, every UK region broke asking price records for the first time since March 2007.

The property portal noted in its report: ‘The continued fast turnover of property for sale and a window of opportunity to buy before a potential interest rate rise seem to have overcome the final expiry of all stamp duty incentives and are keeping activity robust.’

This trend is keeping the market buoyant for now, but could it really lead to another buying frenzy? Iain McKenzie, chief executive of The Guild of Property Professionals, says so. 

‘With demand for properties still high, and a potential mortgage rate rise on the horizon, this could be the perfect storm to see another frenzy to buy, so long as the shortage of stock doesn’t continue,’ he says. 

There is also the simple fact that people who were trying to meet the September stamp duty deadline, but failed, are unlikely to abandon their purchases, and will continue to add to the totals over the coming months. 

But others are less sure about talk of another buying boom. With the base rate rise only tipped to be from 0.1 per cent to 0.25 per cent, the difference in people’s mortgage payments may only be a few pounds per month. 

For example, for someone with a £120,000, two-year fixed rate mortgage on a £200,000 home, the difference between a 0.89 per cent rate and a 1.04 per cent rate would be just over £8 a month, or just under £200 across the fixed period. 

Office for National Statistics data showing house price increases over the past 15 years

Office for National Statistics data showing house price increases over the past 15 years

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, says: ‘People will still move without stamp duty holidays and will continue to refinance their homes, whether mortgage rates are below 1 per cent or around 2 per cent.

‘Borrowers are keen to secure these historically-low mortgage rates but if the right property comes along, they are still likely to buy even if they have to pay say 15 basis points more and won’t qualify for a stamp duty holiday.’

But as the stamp duty holiday proved, the psychological impact of thinking you are saving money can be powerful, even when the actual cash saving is negligible. 

While buyers did indeed ‘save’ up to £15,000 in tax, house price rises during the stamp duty holiday were upwards of £20,000, eclipsing the actual saving.   

The true impact that the mooted rise in mortgage rates will have depends on myraid factors, including whether there is further clarity on if and when the base rate change might actually happen, and how mortgage lenders continue to respond to the situation. 

All eyes will be on the October transaction statistics and house price indices to see whether the market is remaining buoyant. 

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