There may be trouble ahead…
For the first time ever, I think, I spent 80 minutes with my back to an Ireland rugby match, occasionally glancing over my shoulder when the crowd at Lansdowne Road raised the volume above a murmur.
I say crowd, but congregation might be a more appropriate description for the gathering, each one of them no doubt praying for entertainment on a dreary afternoon.
If you were one of those who paid for the privilege today, you could not be happy. I heard of 50 kids who were given free tickets yesterday after their chaperone initially refused a request for a tenner a head from the IRFU. He then dismissed the notion of a fiver per child and eventually got them couriered to his door for free. Even he must feel robbed this afternoon.
It seems around 8,000 ticketholders saw it coming because official figures claimed 38,000 were sold but only around 30,000 seats were filled. They may well be having second thoughts about next week too, because on this evidence, things could get real ugly.
In the commentary box, Tony Ward was baffled by an abject performance and gave his man-of-the-match award to the beaten and visiting scrumhalf.
Needless to say George Hook was as disparaging as ever at halftime and fulltime. Hooky can be a tiresome troll at times, but one couldn’t argue with him today, and neither Brent nor Conor tried.
The low-point of the game, in which Ireland were bullied for long periods, came when Stephen Ferris, brought on to steady the ship, hit the deck all too readily after getting a tame enough forearm in the face from David Lemi.
In terms of who made a case for inclusion against New Zealand next week, Devin Toner did his job at the lineout but twice he and/or his lifters misjudged restarts.
Seán Cronin looked good in the loose but the frontrow was decimated regularly, though Tom Court and John Hayes are really the ones with questions to answer there.
Paddy Wallace will not be starting against the All Blacks because he offers nothing like the physicality Gordon D’Arcy does and the latter’s defence will be imperative against the number one team in the world.
There’s a lot of work to be done between now and then because, as Hooky so rightly pointed out from his pulpit, Samoa are ranked 11th in the world. New Zealand, they ain’t.