Joey Carbery forgets horror moment to produce decisive play
‘On a personal level it was great to get out there and get the experience,’ Munster man says
Ireland’s Joey Carbery making a break to set up the third Ireland try against Scotland at Murrayfield. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images
As is usually the case when Johnny Sexton takes repeated hits and requires treatment, Irish fans clucked like mother hens. When he gingerly left the fray with a bloodied face, most would have presumed it would be temporary.
Let’s be honest, when Joey Carbery’s pass was picked off by Finn Russell for the Scottish try that trimmed Ireland’s comfy 12-3 lead to squeaky bum levels, most would have hoped it would be temporary too.
But need no fear. Carbery gradually put that horror moment behind him to steer Ireland’s improved if less cutting second-half, and produce the decisive play of the match in his own inimitable style as well as landing two tricky kicks and making his seven tackles.
Although this was his 18th test, of which five have been from the start, his near hour on the pitch was Carbery’s third longest at test level, and both longest and most significant in the Six Nations.
“It was great to get out,” admitted Carbery, before quickly adding: “It’s not great seeing Johnny go down, but on a personal level it was great to get out there and get the experience.”
To concede an intercept try within six minutes wasn’t exactly ideal, although it also made this a “test” of him mentally as well.
“I suppose you just have to focus on the next moment: ‘what’s the next thing I can do to make a positive impact’. It’s obviously not great to throw the intercept, but a great chase by Earlsy in behind. We came back together as a team, and we got to half-time after that huge defensive effort.”
Then Carbery et al regrouped, and thereafter effected a game plan that threatened to pull away with a bonus point win save for untypical failure to protect possession.
That was thanks, in the main, to Carbery retrieving to gather Sean O’Brien’s loose ball, accelerate through two tackles, break clear and, showing composure and vision, veer towards Keith Earls, and then float a sumptuous pass into the winger’s path.
“The ball felt like it was in the air for an eternity. I knew Earlsy was going to be out there so I kind of just chucked it out there and hoped that he’d get it, and he did. He’s a great man to stick with the play and follow through, so I kind of had an inkling he was going to be there.”
Johann van Graan was pitchside to welcome Carbery off the pitch at the end, and if ever a game utterly vindicated Carbery’s relocation to Munster this was it.
“For me to be able to play week in and week out at ‘10’ in big games, like in the Champions Cup and in the Pro 14, it’s crucial for me, and I’m loving every minute of it. Not everything is going well, but I suppose all you can do is learn from it. Yea, it’s giving me huge confidence to bring it to this level, knowing that I’ve put that behind me.”
As with Earls for the try, his improved understanding with Conor Murray is another beneficial aspect of the move.
“It’s great to know someone so well inside me, and he can kind of take a bit of heat off me and a bit of pressure and make a few calls. I know what he’s thinking, and he probably knows what I’m thinking, so it’s great to have that link.”
Finn Russell, happy to hold court at length after the game, gave an interesting perspective on Ireland’s two out-halves.
“Johnny controls the game well, him and Conor Murray have played a lot together. When Joey comes on, he offers a different threat to Johnny. Johnny controls the game a lot better, is a lot more experienced. For him having Conor there, a bit like me when I first came in, I had Greig.”
“It’s probably not a good thing now perhaps having him coming on but with the World Cup in mind getting more experience is good. He is a different threat, you saw that try he set up, making that break and throwing the pass to Keith Earls. He’s a different threat, and he’s playing really well this year.”
Carbery spoke about learning from his mistake, perhaps with the lesson applying even a few years down the line, and Russell concurred.
“I think especially for a team, you’re not going to get everything right. Whether it’s kicking, passing or running. The way he plays, it’s an exciting game. He looks to run and have a go, setting guys up or taking it on himself.
“When you play an attacking game there are going to be mistakes. Everyone does it but it’s how you learn from them and bounce back. He’s having a great season for Munster, that will help him a lot, being the starting 10 there rather than being behind Johnny.”
Russell made a superb read when picking off Carbery’s pass, but said that the latter did not have a “trigger” to prompt him.
“We try to bring a lot of line speed to our defence. For a 10 if you’ve forwards outside you, a team is shooting up and you can see that early on so that is a trigger for myself. Either pick him off or get him to turn back inside. Luckily enough he threw the pass. That was one of the mistakes and he will learn from it. I think the next time he doesn’t throw that pass.”