Sunday, 10 February 2008

Ireland v France - same old, same old

I have been watching Irish rugby for long enough to recognise a glorious defeat when I see one. I for one have seen too many. I don't see this most recent episode one as a step forward - I see it as a step backward but hopefully a short one. Yet again the most talented team that I have ever seen wearing the green left it until they were 20 points adrift in Paris before they woke up, when they did they showed how talented they really are against an inexperienced French side - but it was too late. Defeat again.

Ireland's first half display in defence was abject. The gaps left by the Irish out wide were vast; the combination of Trimble, Murphy, Kearney and Dempsey were like ol' coyotes chasing the French road-runners - Rougerie, Clerc & Heymans. The results were predictably unfunny from an Irish perspective.

We did lots of good things in offense - right up to the point where we won lineouts in the French 22. Then, obligingingly, we passed the ball back to the French while we rigged anvils to ropes and put sticks of dynamite in all the wrong places to stop them. Not good enough. On this showing the Jackman fans (myself included) must be a little quiter this morning as Best did well when he came in.

The second half saw a big improvement from Ireland and a dip in interest for the French that they nearly became their undoing - Ireland were rampant at times with the pack putting in as good a performance as I have seen from them in many years. The sight of a French scrum moving backward required a double-take. However lets not forget that for all the Irish dominance and valour in the second half, we scored only 3 points in the last 20 minutes of the game. Too little too late.

There was merit in this performance and comfort to be drawn from it - but we cannot go back to the bad old days where getting within a score of France was considered a victory. We had - and spurned - an opportunity to beat France in Paris for only the 2nd time in my living memory. Ireland must start, and finish off games like this. Starting late and falling just short does not impress me much.