Coming into the weekend we had hope, we had late Saturday night rugby (never a good idea) and the possibility of silverware.
How was your Saturday night?
Going in I was hopeful but trying to remain realistic. I felt that if Ireland could stay close, stay strong and start well the French may retreat, especially without the crowd behind them. It started strong for both teams, some big hits and attempts at sending messages which is what we are looking for, but a mistimes shoot (I will try to not mention players by name as it is a team sport) opened a gap that Fickou delightfully skipped through for a finish by the immaculate Dupont. Not the start Ireland wanted and a sign that France are for real. Not a lot went wrong for Ireland, just a millisecond of bad timing and the French ate Irelands dinner. Ireland replied with an 18th minute bully try, an important message sent when some thought the green pack would be smashed by France. A positive sign. And a salute to the great Cian Healy on his 100th!
At 29 minutes it starting to become a frustrating day in green. A mistake at the back allowed France to take advantage of massive confusion to be given a penalty try. Now to me, the penalty IS the try so to have a player carded and concede the try is a bit much, later in the game it happened the other way around. It is a tough call but for me, the penalty is the conceded try, there is no need to card a player also. The only caveat there being if there was harm done, if I stop a try by elbowing you in the face, then it is a penalty try and a card of course.
But the frustrations where setting in here. The small mistakes where adding up and you could see that around the team, calm players looked a bit tetchy. There needed to be something to calm the nerves and get everyone back on the same page. That happened just before half time, to bring the score line to within a score, Ireland could have taken the points, instead electing to go up the line, ended up misfiring on the lineout and leaving the France red zone with nothing.
Again, if that play works, it is a ballsy move full of bravery and belief, but when it didn’t come off, suddenly Irish leaders are not worth the jersey. According to the online reaction ….. More on that below.
So Ireland needed to eliminate the silly mistakes and take advantage of more possession than they expected to have, 65% possession for 72% territory in the first half. France needed to basically keep doing what they where doing, force mistakes from Ireland and take advantage of them. Seems like a simple game plan, but it takes a lot of gas in the tank to not have any possession and it puts pressure on the team to execute when they have the ball. France did that on the day and in doing so, sent a big message to world rugby.
France opened the second half with an early score through some classy wing play again from Fickou, an absolute joy to watch. Which included the majestic Dupont and the classy Ntimak with the try. Again great to watch, just a pity when you have the green jersey on. Much like the first half, Irelands stall was set out well, everyone was in the right place but the concentration just wasn’t quite there. France capitalise.
So now the pressure is all on Ireland, do they go for the tries or the win? The head went and mistakes kicked in, when you are being strangled it is always hard to breath and Ireland struggled to take a breath.
And then Robbie Henshaw pulled a rabbit out of a hat, after a lineout that misfired, Sexton passes to Henshaw who just goes himself, spotting that the French had fanned out on the opposite side, he ran for the try line, rounding a couple of players and showing real class in finishing the try. This was something that could have really gotten the team going, 28-20 with 10 left and Ntimak showed magic to chip Ireland and pass to Vakitawa and it was all she wrote. A class try that can only be applauded. The speed of the decision making was beyond impressive.
Ireland finished with a really well taken try by Stockdale that included play from Byrne to Keenan (another strong day for him) into Stockdale with a classy turn and straight line to the try.
It finished 35-27, a fair result. Ireland ran for 10 less at 316 metres, had 60% possession for 64% territory, made 99 of 114 tackles, France made 151 of 173. France offloaded 14 times and conceded 14 turnovers, Ireland offloaded 3 times and conceded 16 turnovers. Penalty count was 14 to France and 7 to Ireland.
So what is the problem?
Well the game was the game and it was tough to take but in sport you have bad days, dust yourself off and go again. There is no skill issue, no beef issue and no game plan issue. It is a coach 5 games in and getting used to the big chair. That takes time.
My issue is the online reaction. I understand that late kick-offs leads to more alcohol and that leads to more outbursts, but if you are tagging players in your vitriol directed at them then you are just a horrible person. It is that simple. The arrogance of someone to think that any player needs to hear your opinion is mind blowing and a massive issue with social media. A lot of you have a predilection for failure that is a bit sickening and you really do need to look at yourselves.
It was a bad day at the office, everyone is gutted, no one more so that the players and staff. They don’t need to hear your views while you sit on your couch drinking beer in your replica jersey.
Until they GIVE you the jersey to play in, keep your outbursts to yourself.
Ireland march into November with players to comeback and an anger from Paris that needs to be used as ammunition.
It was a bad day at the office, but in sport, you win some and you lose some. Maybe get up off the chair and play sport and you’ll find out.