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Owen Doyle: Ireland contributed massively to the championship’s best match so far

‘Return’ match in the Aviva next season will be eagerly awaited by supporters

The Day is Done, Henry Longfellow’s poem, speaks of people folding their tents and silently stealing away.

Well, at 22-7 the day in Paris did indeed look all done and Ireland could well have felt enough was enough, and done some tent folding of their own.

The commitment and mental resolve the team showed in going on to score the lion’s share of the 25 points which followed was phenomenal, no one would have bet a brass farthing on it. They swarmed all over their bigger opponents and contributed mightily to by far the best match so far in the championship. The ‘return’ match in the Aviva next season will already be heavily penned into all diaries.

It did not start well, a badly skewed kick by Jamison Gibson-Park found a poor touch. From the lineout France went wide to the left, switched back right, and Antoine Dupont scored a magnificent try. Seven points down, 70 seconds played.


Gibson-Park did many good things, especially his excellent darting try, but some of his kicks just presented the ball back to the French, without pressurising Les Bleus.

He'll have expected referee Angus Gardner to have returned for a penalty to Ireland after he made another break and then kicked deep. It was, if you like, the old form of playing advantage, when he wouldn't have had a snowball's chance in hell of the penalty. But advantage is refereed very differently these days and Gardner should have gone back. Andy Farrell has a legitimate question here.

Great expectations are delivered by high performance, and very early on the Scots looked to do so

The pressure on a referee in this type of ferocious contest is intense, and Gardner came out of it with quite some credit, communicating calmly and firmly, doing well to correct his TMO on a suggested take out by Tadhg Beirne.

Of course, there will be other queries around the accuracy of some calls, particularly around the breakdown, which was furiously contested.

Other decisions will be reviewed, for example Andrew Conway got a couple of tight ones, and Paul O'Connell will study the rights and wrongs of France's lineout pressure.

Gardner, and the rest of us, will have appreciated that both teams, as expected, wanted to scrummage; there were very few issues here, for a welcome change. When teams are positive, decisions are much easier, so hats off to the specialist scrum coaches on both sides, William Servat and John Fogarty.

A shambles

The same could not be said of the earlier match in Cardiff. The scrums were a shambles. It's not acceptable, and we had reset after reset as the front rows continuously went to deck. The common denominator, again, was Scotland, and they really need to be taken to task. It's quite extraordinary that coach Gregor Townsend doesn't insist that the set-piece is used more positively as an attacking platform, particularly given the type of game he wants to play.

The referee Nic Berry took a softly, softly approach when more was called for. There was an opportunity, and a need, to up the ante, and throw in some hard penalties in an effort to get an important change in behaviour. We also used to hear, "If you two don't want to scrummage, I'll get two others on who will". Where has that, with yellow cards to follow, gone? There is a reluctance to do it, but it's a potentially potent weapon in the referees' armoury.

Great expectations are delivered by high performance, and very early on the Scots looked to do so. Finn Russell sent a stunning pass, all of 15 metres, to Darcy Graham, who finished off brilliantly in the corner.

But then, late on, Russell foolishly stuck out his mitt, deliberately, unnecessarily, knocking the ball forward. Surprisingly, Berry was happy it was all okay, and was about to award a scrum, while his TMO, Brett Conran, felt that the referee should have been heading back for a penalty. Thankfully, the correct decision emerged, yellow card included, and Russell was gone, only coming back for the final moments, too late.

The Italians had an excellent U20s win against England. But the match was marred, and totally brought into disrepute, by the actions of the visitor's medical team

Not the case here, but I have more than a nagging suspicion that some referees will not whistle these type of infringements until the TMO comes in, and suggests he takes a look. It’s not refereeing, it’s referring.

Wales, mauling and kicking, tightened things up in the second half and Scotland could not break loose of the shackles; it'll be a long wait for them before they get out again, they did not deliver.

There is nothing worthwhile to report from Rome, a small crowd demonstrating that Italian fans are as fed up as everybody else with the team’s inability to compete.

England went through the motions, and won without a bother. Another Australian referee, Damon Murphy was in the middle, and I trust that he'll have learnt a lot from his outing in a match of little intensity, first up will be England's flopping protection of the ball at the tackle.

Medical team

In Treviso, the Italians had an excellent U20s win against England. But the match was marred, and totally brought into disrepute, by the actions of the visitor's medical team.

Towards the end of the match, English winger, Deago Bailey was upended, hitting his head on the ground as he fell. No foul play was called, but the independent match doctor called for a head injury assessment. The English doctor then confronted the referee, saying that he had assessed the player, insisting Bailey was fit to continue.

Disgraceful, and, while some reports talk of the doctor embarrassing himself, he did so much worse. He risked endangering his own player – a cursory check cannot possibly tell if someone has been concussed, and that, in a nutshell, is precisely why there is a HIA system in place. Everybody who saw this, parents particularly, will have been horrified, incensed.

The referee, Frenchwoman Aurélie Groizeleau, under unacceptable pressure, is to be highly commended for standing her ground, ensuring Bailey went off. And what of the RFU in all of this, the English governing body, and World Rugby, must surely tell us what disciplinary action is being taken, there are clear grounds for severe action.

We await the news.