The Offload: James Lowe glad to go on the defensive after dream night

Farrell set to shuffle pack against Argentina; Ireland send signed jersey to family of Sean Wainui

Ireland’s James Lowe celebrates a penalty in the final seconds of the game against New Zealand at the  Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

Ireland’s James Lowe celebrates a penalty in the final seconds of the game against New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

 

James Lowe enveloped Rieko Ioane in a bear hug tackle on 72 minutes near the halfway line as 51,700 people inhaled simultaneously. If the pass goes then a try not so much beckons but is a racing certainty. New Zealand’s shot at an unlikely redemption was snuffed out in a nanosecond.

Lowe’s read was as beautifully judged as his timing. Peter O’Mahony completed the pincer movement by latching onto the ball and winning a penalty turnover. Two independent actions fused in perfect harmony. The explosion of noise from the stands was both recognition for the actions of the two players and a massive outpouring of relief.

The Irish wing offered his insight into the pivotal play flecked with typical humour. “I saw we were in trouble. I thought s**t, we are under the pump here. And then I just tried to anticipate where I thought the ball was going to be, get myself in a better position, make the tackle, and was able to wrap, and then Peter O’Mahony got the turnover.

“Mate, it was huge. What you b******s always get on to me about [defence] I’ve been working on for the last six months. Hopefully you can abuse me for something else.”

So was it better than the try he scored on 13 minutes, dotting down in the corner in defiance of Jordie Barrett’s last-ditch tackle? “One hundred per cent, that’s what I told you I’d been working on, to be able to show it on the biggest stage, [80] minutes of rugby, that’s what it’s about.

“To play against the best team, the way they probably play the game and to beat them at their own game in a lot of ways, it’s huge for the confidence. I feel like people will be like ‘that’s not the Ireland of old, the box-kick Ireland, it’s playing off the cuff, pretty tight shapes, making defenders make decisions. It’s huge and it’s what we want to carry on doing.

He admitted that he was pretty blown away by the atmosphere. “Absolutely amazing, the whole cliche of the 16th man sort of thing, it was electric from start to finish; when we needed a lift they were there. When we needed an extra hand the crowd was there, they stayed around to the end.”

Argentina’s Facundo Bosch celebrates after scoring a try during the game against Italy at Stadio di Monigo in Treviso. Photograph: Juan Gasparini/Inpho
Argentina’s Facundo Bosch celebrates after scoring a try during the game against Italy at Stadio di Monigo in Treviso. Photograph: Juan Gasparini/Inpho

Farrell set to consider his options against Argentina

Ireland’s opponents at the Aviva Stadium next Sunday, Argentina, ended a run of seven consecutive defeats with a 37-16 victory over Italy at the Stadio Comunale di Monigo, a performance that included five tries from Marcos Kremer, Juan Martin Gonzalez, Matias Moroni, Santiago Cordero and Facundo Bosch.

It should be noted that during that losing streak Argentina were missing several players through injury and that those defeats came against high-calibre opposition, world champions South Africa, world number one side New Zealand, and a resurgent Australia. Head coach Mario Ledesma will be grateful for the win as the Pumas head for Dublin.

The composition of the Ireland team that awaits Argentina will be an interesting selection. Andy Farrell will want to continue the momentum of brilliant wins over Japan and the All Blacks but at the same time aware that the game represents a final opportunity to experiment a little ahead of the Six Nations Championship.

It is also an opportunity to rest several frontline players who have carried a significant load through the first two matches and others who are a little banged up following the victory over New Zealand. Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki and Johnny Sexton all bore the scars of battle.

Robbie Henshaw would be a strong contender to start after recovering from injury, while Farrell might be tempted to have a look at Robert Baloucoune and James Hume in the backline. There’s an argument that Joey Carbery needs to start a Test match to see how he controls a game and that it would be preferable to stick Harry Byrne on the bench rather than have the Ireland captain, Sexton backing up.

There may be a little flip-flopping with some of the bench being handed a start, while for Gavin Coombes if he has recovered from illness, and Ryan Baird, playing against a very physical and abrasive Pumas team would be a good test in every respect.

There is scope there for Farrell, the only question as to the number of alterations. It’s a great chance to see who can play with the style and substance of Ireland’s performances over the past fortnight.

All Blacks appreciate Wainui jersey gesture

Ireland captain Johnny Sexton presented his All Blacks counterpart Sam Whitelock with a signed jersey to give to the family of former Chiefs and New Zealand Maori player Sean Wainui as a mark of respect and empathy. The 25-year-old died recently in a car crash. He was known to James Lowe, Jamison Gibson-Park and Bundee Aki.

Whitelock explained: “Johnny had a gift for Beauden Barrett for his 100th cap a few weeks ago. We wanted to give Johnny a gift of a few bottles of New Zealand red wine for him. Johnny and the team made a very nice gesture on the passing of Sean Wainui [by presenting] a jersey dedicated to him.

“That will be passed on to his family once we get back to New Zealand so that was very special for the team to do and something we don’t take for granted.”

Quote

“The beautiful thing about Test matches is the one you are currently playing is the most important one and that’s the way we treated it. We wouldn’t say something like ‘this isn’t a World Cup game or whatever’. Sometimes you just have to accept that you are second-best on the night.” New Zealand coach Ian Foster after his team lost to Ireland at the Aviva Stadium.

Number: 2

The number of offloads made by Ireland during the 80 minutes both of which according to the official statistics were made by try-scoring left wing James Lowe.

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