After a weekend that really couldn’t have gone better for Irish rugby, we should be celebrating in offices around the country (and any ex-pats abroad), instead it appears that the media and the social media experts are slowing turning on the Irish rugby team. Instead of looking at a 10 point win against a dangerous side AND Scotland channelling a non-racist Mel Gibson to beat the old enemy, people are complaining about the scoreboard. It really is getting tiring. Nearly everything I have read or head since Saturday has the opening of positivity and then the journalist/pundit licks their lips and goes into a monologue of negativity. So let’s separate the truth from the obvious attempt at a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Firstly let’s have our regular post-match stats watch. (Ire/Wal)
Tries – 5/3
Possession – 69%/31%
Meters Run – 454/257
Tackles Made – 87% (77 of 89) – 92% (208 of 225)
Penalties Conceded – 4/9
Territory – 75%/25%
Passes – 183/120
So that is the summary of the game, we can talk about players in a sec. But just look at the stats first off. Against a tough Welsh side who were bringing back key players, leaders and go to play makers in Biggar and Halfpenny. Coming in, most with a brain thought this would be a very tough game. Wales have a game plan of bash wide bash wide or wide wide. It is wide-on rugby. Usually great to watch (especially as a neutral), a lot of movement, trust and skill. Ireland where coming in after 2 wins but a defensive structure that appeared to be still finding its feet. Maybe it was too complicated maybe communication wasn’t where it should be on the field but either way there where issues.
Ireland also came in with Henderson, Henshaw and the almighty Furlong missing. Another issue the media clung to hoping for them to be right. In fact, while the lads where obviously missed as they would be in any team, Porter and Ryan stepped in with confidence and an ability very close to the injured players,. Both in their early 20’s both massive futures in green. Porter making runs and not missing any tackles all day. Ryan making runs and only 1 missed tackle on his record. Leavy also stepped into the backrow making 12 tackles and showing himself to be ready to start anytime. Hugely important for the team. And the first pre match myth of frailty shot down by the team. Farrell coming in with a man of the match performance that showed strength, fairy liquid soft hands and speed that would make bolt blush.
Now let’s look at some of the other players singled out. Stockdale being the first. Him shooting up to make a tackle cost Ireland a score. It appears that he has been given the option of shooting up if he sees it. Not a bad idea. The welsh try (Shingler I think), wasn’t a mistake for Ireland it was a win for wales with some great feet from Wales. BUT, if the return on Stockdale every week is 1 miss and 2 tries then I will take that. We have to remember that that mistake won’t be happening regularly. His overall play around the field was immense. The last interception try shows confidence, fitness and belief to call the play as he saw it! This is what Stockdale is being allowed to do in the system. The ratio on the game with his shooting out of the line was 1:1. Let’s not get carried away, a small readjustment and that problem is eradicated.
Back to the team, after going behind, after J10 not having the predators tuned in (but having an absolutely massive game) Ireland showed champion spirit in the championship minutes. Bullying a tough Welsh defence and Aki finishing off the score. 15-13 at half time. Tide is turning.
At 45 minutes (championship minutes) Leavy again finished a bully move to score under the posts. If you watch it back, have a look at Rory Best leading him into the score. Fantastic team work, awareness and trust to get the score. Worth more to the team than the resulting 7 points.
54 minutes and proper church pushed through the entire country of Wales. A bonus point in the bag. Not many saw this coming. The team did!
Wales needed to score next to remain in the game. They went wide and Shingler scored that try. 27-20. the game wasn’t over, but Wales knew they had only one option and that was wide. Murray put the kicking boots on and scored bringing it to 30-20. Ireland really should be home and hosed here. But Wales are no joke; they stuck at it and scored a very nice try at 77 minutes following a cheeky offload. Well worth a watch, it wasn’t a go wide try it was an offload in the tackle try. Classy stuff. 30-27 with 3 minutes to go.
Wales attacking, Ireland staying strong in defence while wales wend wide again. This time Stockdale was watching the play unfold and showed maturity to pick the ball out of the air and score under the posts. A massive score and a massive win!
Once again, Ireland fought to the last second. Worked hard in defence, and Stockdale was able to read the play to intercept for his try.
We need to remember that no game of rugby will go perfectly; there will always be something to work on. There is no such thing as perfection in sport. The issue I have had all week is the self-fulfilling prophecy of the media just to end up being right. If you say something for long enough, you will eventually be found right.
How many times have Ireland put 37 point on Wales? When has the age profile of the squad ever been lower? How many times in history have the team put themselves in position to win a grand slam? And most importantly, how often have the team had belief to bring it home?
Bring on the Scots!
And to close, I have just read that Iron Man Jamie Heaslip has retired from rugby. There is a slight tear in my eye this morning while writing this. He has been an absolute warrior in blue and green. A massive leader on and off the pitch and a role model for anyone coming through into the professional realm. I doubt he will have to reach into his pocket for his wallet in any pub in Ireland ever again, but if he reads this, Jamie, the first 4 pints are on me! Enjoy the couch, the ice cream and the family!