Rob Kearney accuses Ireland of being ‘soft’ at Murrayfield

Joe Schmidt’s disappointed players expect torrid Monday morning in Carton House

Gerry Thornley and Liam Toland react to Ireland's defeat to Scotland in their Six Nations opener.

 

“There were times on the edges there when we just chased shadows,” said Rob Kearney. “We let Finn Russell play the game all day long, there wasn’t a speck of dirt on him coming off.”

An equally disgusted Rory Best concurred: “If you let a let a player like Finn Russell take a couple of steps and throw 20-metre passes to guys like Hogg, Seymour, Maitland on the wings you are always going to be struggling.”

A clear example of Russell’s time and space was evident for Stuart Hogg’s second try in the 21st minute. Despite the threat of Russell and Hogg being forewarned, particularly in Gordon D’Arcy’s column last Wednesday, Ireland were unable to contain these new front-runners to tour New Zealand with the Lions this summer.

“Our line speed was so poor in the first half,” Kearney continued. “Your line speed is the best way to get into a game sometimes. You win your collisions, you slow the ball down, you turn over some ball.

“We did the complete opposite. We were soft, we weren’t winning the collisions, they were getting quick rucks and they were just toying with us for the first 20, 30 minutes.”

Soft. That’s as honest it comes. Nor did Kearney seek to hide behind a tardy bus journey from hotel to stadium – “I think it’s probably a little bit weak-minded to use excuses like that” – and the fullback even highlighted his own misguided fling into touch during that crucial 69th minute.

My darling

Before the ensuing lineout a coasting Romain Poite enquired of touch judge Jaco Peyper: “Okay, my darling?”

Referees enjoying a one-point Test match suggests very little lava is flowing down the mountain side. Ireland versus New Zealand at the Aviva this was not. Or the promise of Wales in Cardiff, heavyweight France in Dublin and the English visit on March 18th.

Not that we witnessed a soft game, not for its entirety anyway, but when it really mattered, when Ireland had dug a trench to defend their 22-21 lead, Ultan Dillane – “Going off your feet and hands,” said Poite – gifted Scotland an entry route into Irish territory.

Seconds later Jamie Heaslip – a towering performer in this otherwise questionable resistance – was exonerated of the game-changing penalty.

“Not you,” said Poite. “You.”

Paddy Jackson was fingered for his inability to roll away, despite Ross Ford belly-flopping on top of him, which allowed Greg Laidlaw to back up his sulphuric pre-game comments.

The Scots were giddy in victory. Laidlaw climbed cold concrete steps to collect a Quaich bowl from Princess Anne that barely any Irish folk knew existed. There followed a team photo and lap of honour.

Seriously, a full lap.

All the while Schmidt’s reconnaissance men – Mervyn Murphy and Vinny Hammond – sliced up clips for their workaholic coaches to devour ahead of a torrid Monday morning back in Carton House.

Extra tough

“It’s tough sometimes when you win games,” said Kearney. “I think it will be extra tough now. The fact we had the chances and we didn’t capitalise will be the most disappointing part. We just didn’t front up physically in the first half, I’m sure Andy [Farrell] will have a lot of footage to show us as well. So yeah, it won’t be nice but sometimes you have to eat humble pie and take it head on.”

Farrell arrived with a massive reputation last year and was supposedly the coaching alpha dog during England’s crumbling World Cup bid of 2015. Stuart Lancaster is doing more than alright at Leinster these days, running both defence and the continuity attack with some dazzling results, while Farrell must stand over the 22 tries Ireland have conceded in eight Test matches since he was appointed defence coach.

Despite the stacking of such ugly numbers, the man is clearly held in high regard – just ask Warren Gatland – but questions remain about the lack of aggression that injured duo Peter O’Mahony and Johnny Sexton guarantee.

“We gave Scotland nice clean ball for the most part,” said Seán O’Brien.

Soft some might say. Some did say.

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