Some rustiness inevitable but Ireland have plenty of room for improvement
Despite victory, Paul O’Connell not overly impressed by visitors’ performance
Paul O’Connell and members of the Ireland squad undergo their pool recovey session at the Hotel Turismo Corrientes in Argentina. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Ireland 29 (Tries: Henry, Sexton, Trimble. Pens: Sexton 2, Madigan 2. Cons: Sexton 1) Argentina 17 (Tries Montero, de la Vega.Pens Sánchez 1. Cons Sánchez 2)
The occasion verged more on quaint than hostile, and even the Estadio Centenario pitch in Resistencia held up better than expected as the forecast rains never materialised. Admittedly this meant for warm, clammy conditions against a typically motivated and bruising Pumas side. The impact of the hits could be heard from the sidelines and by the end Ireland knew they had been in a game.
After his 100th Test, including seven for the Lions, Paul O’Connell noted that even the super-fit Felix Jones was sucking diesel before the finish.
“When you see the likes of Felix Jones struggling with five minutes to go from a fitness point of view- he is one of the fittest guys I’ve ever played with – it just shows how physical a game it was and how draining it was fitness-wise. So for a few of the young guys and a few of the guys who got their first cap and who maybe aren’t regulars in the side it is good to come down to a place like this and get a real tough test and come through it.”
Admittedly, O’Connell’s reflections came after he also noted: “You would love to have done similar to what England have done in New Zealand and followed the Six Nations up with a really big performance which they seem to have done down there. We didn’t do that but at the same time it was a really tough game.”
Nagging knowledgeThe Irish captain was evidently disappointed by aspects of the performance, but also the nagging knowledge that England took a bigger step forward over the weekend in altogether more testing circumstances.
“We probably were expecting their physicality, we probably didn’t deal with it as good as we would like to have,” admitted O’Connell. “I think the result was good, the performance was disappointing. I think we started quite well and I suppose left them back into the game. It was a real slog throughout, a real tough physical game.”
O’Connell agreed in large measure with Joe Schmidt’s summation of the game and Ireland’s performance. The set-piece was strong, with Robbie Diack’s agility and hands providing a crisp supply of attacking ball from the tail of the line from which Ireland launched some good starter plays.
However, once they began going through the phases they had less joy, and didn’t convert telling breaks by Darren Cave and Luke Marshall into tries before defensive frailties saw them fall behind. That said, Conor Murray was adamant that he had scored following Cave’s searing early break and O’Connell was imploring Glen Jackson to check the TMO when instead he penalised the skipper for going off his feet and Argentina countered with a quick tap off their own line.