Much head-scratching as All Blacks engine comes steaming down the tracks
Ian Madigan gets his opportunity but Ireland endure frustrating second half
Ireland’s Luke Marshall is tackled by Nic White of Australia. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
The Joe Schmidt era. Leinster followers were probably less traumatised than others as Ireland shuddered and creaked and finally gave way. But those who spent the early days at the RDS learned that this is the path Schmidt has walked before.
Therein lie the barely visible crumbs of comfort as a freight train called the All Blacks is stoking up and steaming down the tracks. But for those who had come to Aviva Stadium with open hearts and high expectations and perhaps looking for the dawn of a new rugby era, they may have left feeling the cold chill of a possible nuclear winter.
“At Leinster Joe lost the first few games and people were calling for his head,” Irish prop Mike Ross dryly remarked.
There was nobody calling for heads to roll but there were a lot of them being scratched. Reasons, excuses there were none really there amid a fair amount of self recrimination. Ian Madigan hadn’t had much training on the pitch as part of the team prior to the match, Johnny Sexton too.
“It’s an opportunity I would have wanted,” said Ian Madigan. “I certainly felt I was ready for the opportunity. Unfortunately things didn’t quite go our way in the second half.
“You can look to excuses like that if you want. At the end of the day we’ve played enough rugby this year to put a good performance together. You know . . . we were just a small bit lose in our play and crucial parts of our game didn’t go our way. That’s what it came down to in the end,” added outhalf Johnny Sexton’s replacement cutting to the chase. “When you are on the bench you’ve got to expect you could come at any part of the game.”
Luke Marshall, fresh-faced and still in the fledgling years of his international career, offered to make some sense of Ireland’s poorest performance in many years. Marshall had flashes of good play but put his hand up for allowing Quade Cooper wriggle his hips and make the Irish defence look porous with a second-half try.
‘An easy score’
“There were good and bad bits,” said the inside centre, who came in for Gordon D’Arcy. “We were working off new defensive combinations but it was annoying to let in such an easy score.
“You just have to deal with it. It’s the standard of rugby I want to be playing. You make mistakes and you’ve got to put your hand up sometimes, take the flak from it, move on and learn from it. I was happy enough I got a couple of good line breaks and a couple of runs but there are a lot of areas to improve, definitely,” added Marshall.
“He (Schmidt) came over to be straightaway after in the changing room and said it was just one of those things and that I have to move on,” added Marshall. “It’s Test rugby and one mistake can sometimes cost a try. But I appreciated him coming over. He did understand and it’s nice to have that backing. It showed a lot of confidence in me to put me in there. I was appreciative of it.”
Ireland had too many areas of weakness. From personal mistakes to set-piece problems, wrong decisions to kick the ball away and an inability to move the scoreboard when Wallabies were down a man in the sin bin, compounded an already complicated crash rugby day for the new coach and his players.
“It’s not something we didn’t work hard at this week or didn’t take lightly,” said Ross. “The feeling out there is that they didn’t have a great forward pack. They do. It’s nothing we weren’t aware of coming into (the match).”
“We ended up chasing the game. A lot of the penalties were in the 22. They did pay the price for it but unfortunately we weren’t able to capitalise on much beyond putting the points over with a penalty.”
And kicking the ball away?
“Well,” added the tighthead “that’s a question that you be better addressing to the backs.” But the video review next week, it’s fair to say no one will get out unscathed. “No probably not.”