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Tuesday 12 November 2019

Schmidt: We got some of our rhythm back

Ireland 26 France 14

TOUCHDOWN: Jonathan Sexton dives over to score Ireland’s second try during the Guinness Six Nations match against France at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
TOUCHDOWN: Jonathan Sexton dives over to score Ireland’s second try during the Guinness Six Nations match against France at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Even before Ireland took to the Aviva, the Six Nations table had been tilted away from the grasp of the holders.

The fact that England whacked Italy and are left to host hopeful Scotland at Twickenham in the final round means Ireland know their goose is almost cooked.

The best they can do is deliver a performance becoming their pre-tournament position in the game, ruin Welsh Grand Slam ambitions and conclude this roller-coaster ride in second.

First, they had to find redemption, turn their house of gain for England back into one of pain for France.

It didn't bode well when Rob Kearney pulled out late with a tight calf and Josh van der Flier left early with a twisted knee.

The Joe Schmidt solution to Ireland's shortcomings has not been to racially alter the template.

It has been to do what they have been doing since 2013, just doing it far better than they have been in the last six weeks.

On the face of it, the wrinkles were there in the multiple tip-on passes between the forwards.

Even at their best, Ireland have evolved into a beast that wears you down rather than knocks you out.

"Getting the four tries, getting the bonus-point, that was what we needed," said Ireland coach Schmidt.

"It means we're one point behind England, two behind Wales, one round to go.

STEPPING OUT: Garry Ringrose of Ireland in action against Yoann Huget (left) and Gael Fickou of France. Photo: Sportsfile
STEPPING OUT: Garry Ringrose of Ireland in action against Yoann Huget (left) and Gael Fickou of France. Photo: Sportsfile

"From where we were the last time we sat in this room it's taken a while, but there was a bit of our rhythm back.

"I don't think I've seen, in the last six years, a team control 40 minutes like we did in the first half."

The inability of France to map a way forward in the first half made life almost unbearable.

The general consensus was that they could have been much further off the pace than the 19-0 half-time.

France carried the grit and grizzle gathered against Scotland to resist Ireland's maul as best they could.

However, Ireland were convinced by Rory Best's opening try in the fourth minute, from Iain Henderson's take, that it was an Achilles heel they had to hobble.

It was no coincidence that CJ Stander and Garry Ringrose were eager for work and the monster ruck clean-outs of Tadhg Furlong hurt from up here in the stands.

Ireland would not be denied their pre-game plan and Jonathan Sexton's wrap-around with Garry Ringrose was the key to the door for the out-half's converted try for 14-0 in the 31st minute.

Superb

Ringrose was denied a superb try from Sexton's skyscraper of a kick, picking Thomas Ramos's pocket, wheeling towards the posts only to lose a firm hold of the ball under pressure fro m Dupont.

Iain Henderson's rip on Demba Bamba caused a counter in which Ireland blasted forward for Jack Conan to carry through Guilhem Guirado for 19-0 in the 37th minute.

Ireland were forced into a period of defence in which Peter O'Mahony came to the rescue with a trademark turnover.

The ever-optimistic Antoine Dupont opted to run rather than to hide and Ringrose nailed the half-back in the in-goal area.

It became another bout of psychological warfare as Ireland struggled for their rhythm inside the 22.

There was Mathieu Bastareaud in the middle of it all, at times looking like a one-man barrier against complete annihilation.

The admirable Dupont spent more time running into trouble than running the game.

The bonus-point eventually arrived out of the hands of CJ Stander, often an unwilling passer, and into those of Keith Earls for the sealing try, converted by Sexton in the 58th minute.

France found favour from Yoann Huget's smart line and Camille Chat's drive from a maul to take the gloss of Ireland's previous 77 minutes.

Looking ahead to Wales, Kearney should be back from a tight calf and Van der Flier is a concern from a twisted knee.

Robbie Henshaw is less of a chance in slow recovery from a dead leg.

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