Ahead of kick-off in Cardiff, the Virgin Media panel was a little bit worried because there appeared to be nothing to worry about, what with Ireland playing like Gods of late and finding themselves atop the world rankings. And you know how it is, we tend to fret when things are looking that rosy.
Add to that, Ireland won the mother of all landslides in the Virgin Media poll that asked viewers who would win the Six Nations, Andy Farrell’s men coming out with a whopping 72 per cent.
Matt Williams was impressed, but then he saw that five per cent had tipped Italy – England, Scotland and Wales mustering four per cent between them and losing their deposits. This prompted a deafening chortle from Matt and a suspicion that either (a) mickey-takers were spoiling their votes, or (b) they thought they were voting on the outcome of the Eurovision Song Contest.
Anyway, Joe Molloy welcomed Matt, Rob Kearney and Shane Horgan back to Six Nations duty, telling them all that they were ageing “beautifully”, which left Matt and Shane blushing a little, while Rob just pursed his lips.
“This is not a jolly at the office,” said Joe of the trip to Cardiff, reminding us that it was a whole decade since Ireland registered a Six Nations win in the city.
Over on the BBC, Gabby Logan was reminding Tommy Bowe of the very same stat, lest he was feeling over-confident, but she had the good grace to show him his 2009 try in the same stadium that sent Ireland on their way to the Grand Slam. Along with Jim Neilly’s legendary commentary, which, she said, demonstrated “BBC impartiality”, it concluding with the immortal line: “Holy God in heaven, what a try by Tommy Bowe!”
[ Wales v Ireland: Opening flourish helps Ireland secure bonus-point victory ]
[ Wales v Ireland player ratings: Keenan, Sheehan and Doris lead the way in Cardiff ]
The Beeb, incidentally, opened their coverage with a very lovely tribute to the late, great Eddie Butler, a reminder, once his voice filled the air, that watching the Six Nations will never quite be the same again. Although, in Andrew Cotter they have another gem, he being the fella who makes even the Boat Race an aural joy.
Meanwhile, down pitch-side. “Holy God in heaven, what’s that on your shoes,” Sonja McLaughlan must have been tempted to ask Donncha O’Callaghan when he joined her for a chat, Donncha proudly pointing to the patriotic luminous green laces on his brown boots.
Are luminous green laces on brown boots a rugby thing? If so, it adds to the factors that make this sport a touch impenetrable for some of us. Like when the Virgin Media panel were debating who was the greatest Irish player of all time and Rob nominated Johnny Sexton, partly because off-the-field “he is a cultural architect”.
Not even Joe was courageous enough to ask Rob to expand on that theory, instead opting to focus on the closed nature of the roof in Cardiff. Rob and Shane begged to differ on the significance of this, Matt not caring a great deal about the issue. “Close the bloody thing, that’s what it’s built for.”
Confidence all ‘round, though, when it came to predictions, the entire panel tipping Ireland, if a touch nervously, to prevail.
A nervous opening too, Ireland taking a whole one minute and 58 seconds to settle before scoring their opening try. After that? Holy God in heaven. They’re going to win the World Cup.
[ Wales v Ireland: Ill-discipline takes shine off dominant Irish display ]
[ Ireland’s Andy Farrell delighted with win over Wales but sees room for improvement ]
Half-time, 27-3. “What were we worried about?” asked Joe, who then proceeded to worry us with his suggestion that it was all so easy, Ireland should “empty their bench” in the second half. By now, some of us were envisioning headlines along the lines of “WALES COMPLETE STUNNING 28-27 COMEBACK”.
Matt reassured us a bit by pointing out that the “Welsh defence is as slow as a month of Sundays”, so even if you brought on your great-grandmother she’d out-sprint them. But still, when Liam Williams got that try...
Order restored, though, when the cultural architect that is Josh van der Flier, bless him, did his thing. Full-time, 34-10.
Hugo Keenan was man of the match. “There’s a reason you’re in my Fantasy team, so thanks for that,” Sonja said to him, never once considering the feelings of those who had not only selected Jamison Gibson-Park, but had made him captain too.
The Virgin Media panel? Happy, but critical of that iffy second half spell. When you win in Cardiff for the first time in 10 years, by an entire 24 points, and people are going “hmmm”, you’d have a notion that you’re in a decidedly good place.