Ireland outmuscled by experience
RUGBY: Autumn InternationalsAs encouragement gave way to a feeling of anti-climax, you came away from the Aviva on Saturday evening with the thought that if this is a transition to a new dawn then the clouds might not lift entirely any time soon. The Irish camp could have a few quibbles with the view of the game in Wayne Barnes’ world, but they couldn’t really have any about the outcome.
Ireland were credited with 60 per cent of the possession and almost 60 per cent of the territory, and along with the energy and enthusiasm, there was thought and ideas in the way they sought to suck in the Boks’ backrow off shortened line-outs, attacked either way with Jonny Sexton and Simon Zebo in a straight line behind scrums, and in their use of decoy runners and trailers.
At times they were a little too lateral or deep, and lacking ballast up front, manfully though they huffed and puffed Ireland never looked like blowing down the typically sturdy Springbok defence.
Hence, encouragingly though Simon Zebo ran and well though Tommy Bowe played, not only did Ireland not score a point in the second-half, they didn’t really create one clear try scoring opportunity and nor, did they truly look as if they would.
After earning a 12-3 interval lead only to suffer a fifth successive defeat – albeit three of them away to the best team in the world – perhaps too there is a deficit in belief.
Declan Kidney attributed it more to acquiring more experience of Test matches. “They take approximately five twists in every game, and for fellas to learn from that experience, that what we were doing in the first-half today, say, wouldn’t necessarily apply in the second half, and that we have to come out with the smarts to make sure that it doesn’t happen. But that’s not through lack of effort, that’s through experience.”
“So they definitely haven’t forgotten how to win, they’re still confident in what they’re trying to do; it’s just a frustration. And I know they’re going to click. We have had ourselves in some situations like that alright and they’ve gone against but you just have to stay the pace with it, because then you know it will turn. It’s a learning process, it’s a tough one but like I’ve said before, I’ve been down this road before and I know how it twists, but they have to twist it themselves.”
In particular Kidney highlighted the way Ireland conceded field position in the pivotal early stages of the second half. The ‘championship minutes’ either side of the interval were doubled by the yellow cards for JP Pietersen and Jamie Heaslip. Ireland couldn’t punish Pietersen’s sinbining in a scoreless ten minutes, whereas South Africa scored ten unanswered points in the ten minutes Heaslip was off the pitch. And so 12-3 became 12-13.
Yet there’s something wrong with the game when one act of skulduggery amongst a rap sheet that incorporated 11 penalties merits the same punishment as a case of ‘fringing’ at a line-out maul when it’s only the sixth penalty against that team after more than 40 minutes.