It's hard not to respect Andrew Trimble. We will miss the Ulster winger's honesty when he eventually stops lacing up boots.
“That’s criminal getting down there but then not taking your opportunities,” he said of those four scoreless forays into the French 22 during the first half of Saturday’s 10-9 defeat at Stade de France.
“A lot of us have to hold our hands up and say we probably didn’t look after the ball as well as we should have. There was maybe a bit of sloppiness at the breakdown but definitely we coughed up ball a few times when we had scoring opportunities and that’s criminal, especially against a side like this.”
Of course, it’s not a criminal act. Just a figure of speech from a decent man relaying his thoughts in the immediate aftermath of a defeat tinged with regrets.
As early as the second minute Ireland's first try-scoring opportunity was denied when Wenceslas Lauret stole Rory Best's lineout throw which was intended for CJ Stander.
In the fifth minute Robbie Henshaw towered to catch Johnny Sexton's garryowen over Teddy Thomas. From the resulting penalty Sexton kicked to touch and Ireland won this lineout, but referee Jaco Peyper incorrectly adjudged that Henshaw knocked on, when it hit his midriff, and so denied Dave Kearney a legitimate try. In the 18th minute Seán O'Brien carried into the French 22 only to be turned over by Yacouba Camara.
In the 21st minute Henshaw again carried into French territory but Stander knocked on and France cleared their lines when Best was penalised for “losing the bind” in the scrum.
With those missed opportunities went hopes of retaining their Six Nations title.
“It’s not in our hands anyway. That’s a little bit miserable, thinking on it that way but from our point of view, and I know it’s a boring answer and you’re sick of hearing it, we have to look at going to Twickenham and getting a result,” Trimble said.
Twickenham is never boring. Soul-destroying, it has been, but also uplifting.
One of Sexton’s three penalties came off a scrum, interestingly enough, with the other points from Yoann Maestri’s late bump of the outhalf and hands in a ruck just moments after Guilhem Guirado’s crunching high smash, which seems to have ended Dave Kearney’s campaign.
The second half was grim, a turn-off for any curious neutrals peering into the drenched cavernous amphitheatre of rugby. The exact scenario France hoped to bring to bear. Peyper was summoning the saliva to blow for a penalty try with the locals in ebullient mood; an untruth needs to be uncovered here because Parisian crowds love their grunt as much as their flair.
The try gave them both in equal measure as the brutality of eight ogres hugged together raised the din as much as Maxime Médard slithering out of Tommy O’Donnell’s grasp and gliding under the same crossbar.
“We had a decent little [9-3] lead but in the second half we were under pressure from minute one, it seemed like. They’re a big heavy pack and you’re trying to shift them around and unfortunately the conditions weren’t conducive to doing that. So once the game slows down, they can carry and get over the gain line, they get momentum and they become a very hard side to deal with,” Trimble said.
So Ireland draw and lose their opening games of the 2016 Six Nations.
Twickenham awaits. Never boring on that walk over the bridge out of Richmond to a stadium dripping with history, the venue that just gifted us such thrilling World Cup semi-finals and a final when the greatest players and team ever bid adieu to the game.
“I hope we’re building something ahead of Twickenham. We’ve passed up three or maybe four points from two games already. And now we have a big challenge,” Trimble said.
“We can look at it one of two ways: we could be daunted by that, no wins yet and still have to go to Twickenham. That’s tough. That’s a big ask.
“But we need to treat it as a big opportunity to get back in to the hunt. It’s a challenge. Going to Twickenham is not easy. Slipping up today means we have to go there and get a result. That’s the big challenge but I think this is a group of players who are going to react to that challenge in the right way.”
You want to believe in Andrew Trimble. You know he means it. That’s something.