Flowering Scotland send Kidney and Ireland homeward to think again
Rob Kearney looks dejected after yesterday's 12-8 Six Nations defeat to Scotland at Murrayfield. Photograph: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire
RUGBY:The nagging suspicion at half-time, more a gnawing fear really, was that an utterly dominant Ireland had only translated 80 per cent possession and territorial dominance into a paltry 3-0 lead. Had it been a football scoreline, it still wouldn’t have reflected their dominance, and bumping into Graham Steadman at half-time, the former defensive coach with both countries and now with Newcastle, reverted to the old maxim that a team which doesn’t take their chances is usually punished. And how Ireland paid.
Not only did Ireland’s Six Nations title hopes lie in ruins after yesterday’s demoralising 12-8 defeat to Scotland, but it undermined their entire campaign on what was a bad day for Declan Kidney and the coaches, and also for Jamie Heaslip’s captaincy.
The committee decision making on the pitch, the decisions to decline shots at goal, the lack of variation as the Scots began to defend more and more comfortably against one-off runners, the loss of discipline again and the endgame implosion compounded the failure to convert any of four first-half try-scoring chances. In almost two and a half games since Brian O’Driscoll’s 44th minute try in Cardiff, Ireland have scored 14 points.
Hence, in a fortnight’s time, Ireland host their equally wounded bugbears from France, with the feel good factor generated by the win in Wales all but dissipated.
“It’s hugely disappointing,” admitted Kidney afterwards. “This isn’t what you get into it for. To have got into those two matches, you have to close out tight games and that’s what we need to learn how to do. We won’t make excuses, we all know that’s not going to get us anywhere so we just need to work ahead and look how to finish off those. Had we taken one of those try-scoring opportunities it would have been a completely different day today. It would have been a very good win given the circumstances we are working under.”
Out of jail
His counterpart, Scott Johnson, couldn’t have looked more relieved or happier than if he had just out of jail after witnessing his team do just that. “We took our opportunities and they didn’t take theirs, that was the sole difference,” said Johnson. “I keep saying the ‘W’ will come when we get out part right, this time we got the ‘W’ without getting out part right. Let’s put our qualities together with the strong character we showed today, because that wasn’t perfect from us.
“At half-time I was thinking it was like Ali-Foreman; we were lulling them into some false sense of security, my neck was getting sore looking down one side of the pitch. I’ve been on the other side, it puts pressure on you when you’re not taking chances. They’ll be hurting, we’ll enjoy the next 24 hours but if we want to be a good-quality side we’ve got to acknowledge we’ve got to work on some things.” Bully for them.
Quite how Ireland now salvage something from this campaign is difficult to gauge. For starters, in the unlikely event that Jonny Sexton recovers from a grade two hamstring tear in time, what they do about the outhalf position is anyone’s guess.