Twickenham deflation was a reminder that we’re not as good as we think we are
Ireland’s tactical approach played into the hands of a well-prepared England side
Ireland’s Johnathan Sexton watches on as England scrumhalf Danny Care celebrates after scoring his side’s only try at Twickenham.
The deflation among the Irish at Twickenham last Saturday was so real you could nearly reach out and touch it. I hung around the stadium when the game was over to watch the women’s game and when the men’s team came out to watch it, you just got that real sense of an opportunity lost.
This wasn’t like one of those old defeats at Twickenham where you just wanted to get out of the place as quick as possible. This was nearly worse in a way. Irish teams have learned how to win there over the past decade so when a chance like this slips through your fingers, there’s an empty feeling that goes along with it.
I met some supporters outside afterwards and there was no real anger and no people giving out that they’d made a mess of it. People were just disappointed that a game that had been there for the taking was allowed to slip away. The better team on the day were the winners and even though Ireland could have won, nobody could argue that we deserved to.
That’s why it was so deflating. All the optimism of last week was gone. It felt like everyone was realising that we’re maybe not as good as we thought we were. Or that for all the plaudits we’ve been giving Joe Schmidt and his team, they probably didn’t get their tactics quite right for the job Ireland needed to do.
Our maul was something that was so strong in the first two games but we didn’t press it home against England. It was close to half-time before we had the first maul. We didn’t use it to set the tone, we didn’t use it to our advantage the way we could have.
Ireland were quite fortunate to only be 3-0 down at half-time. The effort levels were phenomenal from the Irish players but they were out on their feet at times trying to hold out the English boys. We just looked that little yard off the intensity needed and the pace needed.
I was sitting down at pitch level, really close to the action, and it looked to me like we were really just hanging on to England in that first half. We didn’t have a lot of momentum ourselves and England’s strategy was to stop us at source and really frustrate the Irish players who didn’t cope well with it.
The team looked a bit tense to me. They played a bit within themselves and played too much rugby in their own half of the field. They spent long periods of the game looking a bit stand-offish and then when they tried to go for it, it was too late. I got the sense that the players were nearly expecting it to happen automatically.
They were waiting on it. Waiting for the intensity to just come by itself. Waiting for the maul to click. Waiting for someone else to carry. That can happen. It only takes one or two players to be slightly off and it has a knock-on effect throughout the team.