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Thursday 8 December 2016

Peyper view costs Ireland dear

Referee's refusal to look to video is inexplicable as France target Sexton

Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton walks off the pitch after picking up an injury during the Six Nations match at the Stade de France on Saturday Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton walks off the pitch after picking up an injury during the Six Nations match at the Stade de France on Saturday Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland’s Dave Kearney is treated for an injury by team doctor Dr Eanna Falvey in Paris on Saturday Photo: Sportsfile

Shudda, wudda, cudda. This is one that will stick in the memory for a long time.

It will be the one that was given away, not got away.

How Ireland managed, or mismanaged, to throw this game away would have had the coaches and players still turning in their beds long into last night, never mind Saturday.

It is a mantra, a needs-must approach that what has gone before is re-combed, reviewed and returned to the video library so that what happened yesterday won't happen tomorrow.

Surely Joe Schmidt had to bite down hard, very hard, on his lip so as not to scream out loud about the lack of protection for his players at a time in the game where officials can call on the all-seeing eye of the camera.

Cheap Shots

What did Ireland get for taking the cheap shots, staying disciplined, refusing to get embroiled in the underhanded, pre-meditated French attitude to this churned-up-turf war?

It had been there right in the meat of the build-up to Ireland's matches against France since Jonathan Sexton's move to Racing Metro over two years ago.

The Ireland out-half was right on Thursday when he said it was "personal." It was personal for Sexton. It was personal for France too.

Sticks and stones may break bones, but late and high hits win matches when not policed with any discernible authority.

It is inconceivable that referee Jaco Peyper - he was worse than the weather - would not have noted the French targeting of Sexton in the media and on the pitch in recent times.

The shoulder from Yoann Maestri into Sexton in the 13th minute was a yellow card, at least. It happened right under the nose of the referee.

Peyper never even called for the Match Official George Ayoub to investigate, despite Sexton requiring attention and looking the worse for wear.

The dangerous head-high hunting of Dave Kearney by France captain Guilhem Guirado in the 28th minute was also a certain yellow.

Once again, the outside eye of the camera was not used, as Kearney was withdrawn with an AC shoulder injury and the welfare of the player once again deemed to be an after-thought.

If both incidents had been examined, both French men would have been given ten minutes to rethink their approach.

The looseness with which southern hemisphere referees apply the laws in Super Rugby is nothing short of irresponsible when translated to the atrocious conditions and the explosive attrition of Six Nations rugby.

Ireland were left with the macho rugby position of sorting out the French when the referee wouldn't.

The man who would have pulled in the troops and taken it right up the guts of the French was seated somewhere above pitch-side providing the BBC with his take on the game.

Ugly Nature

Away from the ugly nature of what was going on, it was obvious the state of the game required Ireland to trim their approach back to that which won back-to-back Six Nations.

Ireland went to the break with a 9-3 lead and soon witnessed the incoming weapons of Rabah Slimani and Eddy Ben Arous in the 45th minute.

Then, they were given the gift of 20 year-old hooker Camille Chat coming on in the 48th minute.

The trend towards evolving the attack had to be shelved in such conditions and the ball regularly put to the corners for Devin Toner and the pack to apply pressure on the lineout throwing of Chat, a baby of international rugby.

It was France who had to chase the game. It was they who were behind and had to take chances. It never happened.

Ireland did activate the kicking game. The problem was they went to the air rather than the touchline.

A combination of inaccurate execution of their kicking game and France's better-than-expected work under the high ball when it was accurate gave the home side traction.

In the last quarter, the power of their bench really came to the fore with the arrival of second row Paul Jedrasiak and flanker Loann Goujon.

More importantly, scrum-half Maxime Machenaud became the sniper who asked a tiring Irish pack to react quicker than they were able.

The Top-14 is a grinding League and this international turned into the kind of test match the French have been playing at club level.

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