Ireland’s dominance yesterday was epitomised by a late Keith Earls try, which summed up who had truly dominated this titanic encounter.
Ireland stuck to their task manfully despite some poor decisions from |referee Jonathan Kaplan allied to some gamesmanship from the Azzuri.
The Cian Healy incident will take care of itself and should heap more insult on a vindictive display from Sergio Parisse and his men.
I despise any match being played in such a manner. It’s a hard enough sport without having to resort to so many off-the-ball incidents and eye gouging.
One suspected that emotions were going to get the better of Italy once they sensed Ireland were on their game.
Ireland would have learned from the Italians’ game against Australia that they were going to be targeted in the first half.
Special treatment was reserved for the likes of Healy in more ways than one. Thankfully, the half-time whistle blew before Ireland could get really rattled but, in saying that, Italy did well to keep up with Ireland in a controversial opening half.
One wondered how Ireland were going to unlock the Italian defence. |In open play the Azzuri looked comfortable and they coped with Ireland’s intent to play a more open game at a high tempo.
Too often we got tackled out into touch despite a number of line breaks, and that should not happen at this level. It left much for Ireland to ponder heading in at the break.
Ireland’s domination out of touch on their own ball began to reap dividends in the second half.
The platform for Brian O'Driscoll’s try was laid from a dominant lineout; he ran a wonderful support line off |a Tommy Bowe break and it provided a massive incentive for the rest of |the game.
Martin Castrogiovanni's loss in tandem with a few more key injuries meant the Italians were right up against it, but overall it would not have made much difference to what Ireland produced in the second half.
Sean O’Brien and Stephen Ferris were superb once again and Ronan O’Gara’s kicking always kept the momentum going.
Conor Murray did some great things but also struggled at times at the base of rucks and scrums, small errors which will become all the more crucial as the stakes get higher.
Much like the No 10 issue, one could wonder if Kidney really knows who his best No 9 is. All have their strengths. I suspect he will go for a horses-for-courses type selection for the Welsh game.
The way he is dealing with the questions regarding the No 10 position has promoted much interesting comment. He knows deep down that Jonny Sexton has not been kicking well.
He would rather deny that to the media instead of admitting it in public, which could undermine the confidence of Sexton.
Some people could be right in saying that these players are mentally strong enough to hear the truth about how they are performing. But Kidney could be a lot more up front with his two No 10s behind closed doors than he is portraying to the media.
Whatever the speculation, you would have to back the coach as he should know the personalities of his players |better than anyone.
He certainly does not owe it to the media to divulge everything that he may say to his men in private.
In a tournament that is gathering momentum, the Irish fans seem to be outumbering all but the home support at all of the games.
The injury to New Zealand’s Dan Carter has attracted much hype and certainly adds spice to the next stage of the competition.
Outside of ourselves, if the All Blacks come out winners, considering their worst nightmare has just been realised, then no one can have any complaints.
There is much to look forward to. All these games now are one-offs. The next few weeks should be pretty special.