TV View: No panic at the disco as Ireland get the job done
Ronan O’Gara reminded us that it’s not about entertainment but about winning
Jacob Stockdale of Ireland breaks clear to score their second try during the Six Nations win over Scotland at Murrayfield. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images
They were giddy on the BBC at half-time, John Inverdale asking us if we’d ever enjoyed 40 minutes of rugby as much as the one we’d just witnessed, Martin Johnson describing it as a “crazy bonkers, fun first half of rugby that had everything”. It is, of course, quite easy to take pleasure in such spectacles when you’re a dispassionate neutral, unlike Paul O’Connell beside them who had the look of a man who had just lost his lunch during a rollercoaster ride.
Over on Virgin, Shane Jennings tried to echo the BBC’s take on the first 40 – “It’s a good game ... isn’t it?” – but Ronan O’Gara was having none of it, this wasn’t, after all, about entertainment he reminded us, it was about winning the feckin’ game. Matt Williams’ intensely furrowed brow agreed with him, while so nervous was Joe Molloy about the whole thing he wore the look of a lad about to open his Leaving Cert results.
All had been going perfectly grand after Conor Murray and Jacob Stockdale’s tries but a little dollop of Finn Russell sorcery brought Scotland back in to it, the fella creating a try for Sam Johnson with so chilled a poppy-up pass, having been decked by Keith Earls, that Chris Paterson on the BBC suggested he looked like “he was lying on the sofa”.
In fairness to Joe, he’d had a premonition about Russell causing us considerable consternation, showing Ronan a bunch of clips of him doing wondrous things for Racing 92. “Some of that is electric,” he swooned. “But that’s club level, Joe,” said Ronan, “it’s like a disco under lights on a great dance floor.”
Still, though, Russell’s dancing feet had intercepted that Joey Carbery pass and narrowed the half-time lead to an uncomfortable two points, Ronan admitting that he was worried and that it would be a sizeable help if Ireland, on occasion, could get hold of the ball.
Virgin had, though, prepared us for a testing afternoon by opening their coverage with a clip of two people trying to climb up very snowy peaks, the message being that we had a Six Nations mountain to climb. And Joe maintained the theme by telling us that Ireland had scaled new heights in recent times, but had slid down the mountain a little bit against England and now needed nothing but a victory in Edinburgh to have any chance of reaching the Six Nations summit again.
Any worries about the cross words exchanged between the Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay of Irish rugby – Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray – last week during the England game? “Na,” said Matt, “a lovers’ tiff.” Sorted.
And what about Rory Best’s comments about Ireland’s pre-England warmup lacking an edge and featuring a few dropped balls and missed kicks? “I’ve had great warmups,” said Ronan, “and then gone in to the game and kicked like a turkey.” Nothing to see here.
Back on the Beeb, meanwhile, Inverdale was attempting to introduce his four-strong panel who were sitting in an outdoor blustery spot but hadn’t as yet, he reassured us, “been blown away by the elephants ... elements”. A trip to Edinburgh, they all agreed, was a Jumbo-sized task, but Inverdale reckoned Ireland would enter battle “like a wounded buffalo, nostrils flared”. By now it felt more like the Serengeti than Murrayfield.
It was, though, Scotland who spread their wings, rather than the buffalo, in the early stages, but then all changed utterly, 12-3 for our lads and the national crisis was over. Until Russell murdered us on the dance floor.
“I’m out of breath just watching this game,” said Jamie Heaslip, signed by the BBC during the transfer window, and he wasn’t alone.
Second half? Now we’re whistling. It was, mercifully, less crazy bonkers, Carbery’s twinkle toes needing no disco lights at all to set up Earls for a try, 22-13 in the end.
“Good day, move on,” Ronan gushed. “A Formula One car in third gear,” bubbled Matt. “We’re back on the horse,” said Shane, somewhat more positively.