Life of Brian has a day of ups and downs
The faces of the Irish fans tell the tale of a 12-6 defeat to England yesterday. photograph: dara mac dónaill
For Irish rugby fans, it was a day of podiatrically contrasting fortunes. In the morning, thanks partly to Brian O’Driscoll, we heard the patter of tiny feet. In the afternoon, we heard the squelching of large ones, in boots, and the outcome then was not so happy.
We had spread our dreams of a Six Nations grand slam under the studs of a visiting England team. They did not tread softly. Now the best we can hope for is that the English will slip up – something they failed to do in a sodden Aviva Stadium .
Still, in the result that really mattered yesterday, Amy Huberman presented O’Driscoll with a baby girl. As always, he was in the right place at the right time – in this case the maternity ward. Then, three hours later, he lined out for his 122nd cap. And when the game was started with celebratory explosions, they might have been for him.
Sadly, the fireworks ended there. A weekend of heavy rain had threatened to play to the strengths of a powerful, risk-averse England. So it proved, as weather and visitors combined to spoil the Christening party.
Thanks to an attritional game, the new father was not the only Irish player visiting a hospital. One of the heroes of Cardiff, Simon Zebo, limped off early with a broken foot. The talismanic Jonny Sexton (hamstring) soon followed.
Even O’Driscoll, fresh from the maternity ward, looked like he was heading for AE at one point, limping heavily. Heroic as usual, he carried on.
When it wasn’t being caused by England, meanwhile, damage was self-inflicted. In a warped version of Saturday’s protest marches, the Irish team appeared to be conducting a “Drop the Ball” campaign, knocking on with alarming frequency. The English, by contrast, had Teflon fingers.
The only time the ball looked truly safe in Irish hands was when hooker Rory Best dried it with a towel before line-outs.
On those occasions, it would be swaddled lovingly like a new-born baby. Unfortunately, he always had to throw it back onto the pitch again. And, in fairness, the Irish never threw the towel in after it. But if they had, given their luck yesterday, it probably wouldn’t have gone where it was intended.