herald

Tuesday 21 August 2018

Disappointing... but a benchmark for days to come

OBSERVING the crowd at the end of the game, the look of deflation on many faces was akin to the calamitous situation a number of weeks back at the Stade de France.

To be fair, this time round everyone watching got their money's worth from a nail-biting Six Nations contest.

Ireland will feel the more disappointed after failing to register a single point in the second half. When someone asked me yesterday morning about how I felt the game would go, I replied that I would tell them at 3.20pm, such was the importance of the opening salvo.

Ireland, to their credit, did their homework on the French in many facets of the game, the fact that Ireland's defence had been passive in previous games meant that the home side were in no way prepared for the onslaught of the Irish defence.

The line speed and ability to smother the ball in the choke tackle frustrated the French. They also underestimated Ireland's prowess at the breakdown.

It was inept to think that they could win quick ball by sending a couple of players into the ruck, especially at the beginning of the game.

In contrast, Ireland swarmed them every time at the contact area in the early exchanges but were given little leeway thanks to one or two poor refereeing decisions.

Despite the setbacks, the pressure rarely subsided -- it eventually culminated in Tommy Bowe's first try as he duly intercepted a telegraphed pass from a laborious French attack.



sublime

Ireland's precision in their game was highlighted by Bowe's second try. Just before that point I was thinking to myself that, despite the success of Ireland's correct but limited tactical approach, if they were to beat the French they were going to have to start playing some rugby.

Bowe got a little lucky with his bounce for the second score, but there was no doubting that the build-up was sublime, highlighted by Keith Earls' ability to straighten the line at the last moment.

It was even more important that Ireland started the second half in the same manner, but a few errors crept in as they allowed the French a foothold to get back in the match.

Mistakes will always happen in games, but the errors at the line-out and some of the indiscipline that led to a high penalty count came from an overall anxiety that crept into the mindset, which looked so clinical and assured in the first half.

The Irish team did manfully regain their composure midway through the second half, but at that stage the French were level.



frustrating

In saying that, we continued to make some crucial errors when the game was hanging in the balance.

That will be the most frustrating aspect as the team reflects on the post-match analysis.

There were a lot of excellent performances, Rob Kearney was superb under the high ball in defence and attack. He instigated so much of what Ireland did on the day.

The introduction of Eoin Reddan at the expense of the unfortunate Conor Murray certainly aided Ireland's cause in very wet conditions, but one cannot help but feel that even on a drier day Ireland would still have needed that extra edge to their attacking game in order to carve up the French defence.

That remains one of the lingering questions, despite the enormity of the effort.

Where to from here? First of all, getting everyone to bring that physicality to the table in six days' time will be an enormous ask.

Scotland will travel in full knowledge that they will be the fresher side heading into the final quarter.

In many ways, next weekend is nearly as big an ask as the French test. Ultimately, this weekend's game has to become a benchmark for all our performances.

A little tweaking here and there in attack and the ability to churn out consistent hard-nosed performances, armed with a mental toughness, remains the biggest challenge.

Ireland can certainly expect no leeway next weekend as all those traits are put to the test.

Promoted articles

Entertainment News