herald

Sunday 19 August 2018

Forwards' ferocity laid the foundation for famous victory

WE knew a big performance was in them, but very few would admit that they saw this coming. Most of the pundits, including myself, had been a little critical of late. What else did we have to go on?

I got more frustrated for the players as I knew there was so much more in them compared to what we had seen from them over an extended period of time.

Those same good players who had continually underperformed finally lit up a competition that had generally gone to form thus far. What a fillip for Ireland and the the rest of the tournament.

Two things pleasantly surprised me -- how easily the Aussies succumbed to the Irish pressure, even considering their lack of experience as a team on the biggest of stages; and, secondly, Ireland's ferocity at the breakdown. An area that had been a weakness for them in recent matches in tandem with the set piece, in particular the scrum, laid the platform to win the game.

Ferris and O'Brien were immense on the day. They continually kept Ireland on the front foot in close contact where some great decision making and offloading complemented Ireland's direct approach to the game.

Tactically, Kidney got it spot on. One wonders if he has been toying with everybody all along. Australia, in their build up, certainly took their eye off the ball. At times during the week they nonchalantly dismissed Ireland's chances in pre-match interviews.

The fact that Kidney likes to keep plays or patterns in the locker for certain matches is questionable in relation to Ireland's consistency. At times we have lacked precision and a coherent plan, but on Saturday everyone to a man knew their role and the team's cohesiveness and collective will was testament to that. Ireland will have little time to toast their greatest ever World Cup win. I hope that O'Driscoll got his players together in the changing room after the game before celebrations kicked in to highlight the opportunity this team now has.

Ireland must focus on the next two games but the result has really turned the competition on its head. In short, the most likely scenario is that all the Tri-Nations teams are now on one side of the draw if all other results go to form.

Kidney in his aftermatch speech was quick to highlight the potential battle of the two hemispheres. We are one step closer to that now, but what an opportunity that gives the likes of ourselves, the French and England.

Let's hope the anxiety finally disappears from our play. There were still a number of unforced handling errors, especially at the outset. On the video the players will see that there were a number of opportunities left out there.



mixing

These are chances that we are going to have to take later in the competition, but for now it seems that Ireland have found a brand of football that suits the group of players at our disposal.

Mixing our game and knowing when and where to kick, run and pass is a solid template from which to build. If the forwards continue to lay the foundation with that same aggression and appetite, then something special can happen. Mentally we have to be on our game every time we take to the field.

A potential Italian banana skin remains, with the Russian game in between. The win on Saturday will do an immeasurable amount for the game in this country. It is fitting that this generation of players has already left something tangible behind for others to follow, although greater things could be coming very soon.

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