With a new game plan like this, many reasons to be cheerful
Fifty per cent of possession and seven tries, six coming from the back three and the outhalf with the seventh from the hooker. Something happened over the weekend that will take at least two articles to explore.
I was in Marseille to witness Argentina first hand in the 2007 World Cup, where I adored watching war horses like Rodrigo Roncero, Mario Ledesma and Juan Martín Scelzo. Watching the game unfold last Saturday I got a sense that Argentina really missed their legends, but I was struck by how comfortable Ireland looked without theirs.
In fact I’d go as far to say that the Ireland players unshackled themselves from all that baggage, while Jonny Sexton looked his most comfortable and assured in a green jersey.
Inside him Conor Murray aided and abetted Sexton to unlock that flow and direction to infuse the Irish style amongst their team-mates.
The game started out like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, bizarrely led by Sexton’s kick out on the full, bringing the first contact of these two old adversaries in the form of a scrum; hardly a tactical ploy?
Argentina didn’t bring the scrum challenge of former encounters but huge credit must go to the Irish front five where the secondrows blended rugby football around the pitch to application at scrum time (very fatiguing).
Lineout set the tone
But it was the Irish lineout that set the tone and pace for much that followed. It was inventive, accurate and full of pace. Donnacha Ryan managed it brilliantly regardless of throw in as Ireland launched their attack and stifled the Pumas equally. Hardly cause for concern but the final 20 minutes was less accurate where standards did slip.
What’s the difference between 71 international caps and just one? Gordon D’Arcy’s performance was his 71st with Craig Gilroy’s being his first. I remember back to D’Arcy’s first outing and the same enthusiasm and optimism abounded in him then as did Gilroy on Saturday.
The difference now is but the subtlety of the pass. For Sexton’s opening try D’Arcy sucked in four Pumas before the deftest of offloads inside to his outhalf.
These positive combat indicators came from somewhere and for the first time the entire Irish entity looked assured, with a unity of effort to the task in hand. Put simply, the team had a game plan that they all bought into. It was simple and extremely effective and based around the assets available to the team.
Both wingers were encouraged into the game, be it Gilroy who is a nightmare to marshal (defensively) and was brought into play from first phase, or Tommy Bowe throughout. Both had an immense impact on the game.