All aboard for the biggest 12 hours of your Irish sporting lives. Ryle Nugent was in something approaching Don King mode at the start of the rugby, pointing out – like any self-respecting Head of Sport would – that it's not often that the country's three big representative sides play internationals so close together. Rarer still, went the subtext, that all three games would be live on RTÉ. Ryley's Comet stuff, this was.
South Africa first, and immediately there was a problem. Of the main international rugby teams, Ireland’s green jersey only ever clashes with that of one other team, the Springboks. You’d imagine, then, that when the IRFU was commissioning a new alternative jersey, the brief might have mentioned something about maybe not clashing with that of one other team, the Springboks.
Ahem. “Ireland are playing in their changed strip of grey,” lied Ryle, as the players peeled off from the national anthems. Grey? This was not grey. It was borderline navy, verging on black. At best – at very best – you might get away with calling it a deep charcoal.
One way or the other, it clashed with the dark green of South Africa. In a wide shot on TV, there was no definition, high or otherwise, to make you mind up for you. And for those watching in black and white . . . well, it’s 2017 – they’d pay you a fortune for your TV on the Antiques Roadshow.
Game on. Fair to say it's not a classic. Not a lot happens and not a lot keeps happening. If the Ireland jerseys were as grey as the game, you'd have no problem telling which team was which. Andrew Conway skates in for the first try after the quarter-hour and Ireland are out the gap. The Springboks are, not to put too fine a point on it, cat.
“So, it’s Ireland 14 South Africa 0,” says Daire O’Brien at half-time. “Some people have been on about the strip change. It is the tradition in rugby union that the home union changes to facilitate the away side and Ireland have gone for grey instead of white. But if you’re confused, the team that are Ireland are the team that are organised, disciplined and half-decent. The other team are South Africa.”
Brent Pope is outraged. “What’s to analyse? They’re just rudderless. The forwards don’t seem to be playing the same game the backs are. It’s a matter of just kick it anywhere. They’ve no kick chase. Their discipline is poor. I don’t see any way back for South Africa in the long term. We asked how the All Blacks beat them by 57 points – you can see how they did it now.”
Forget the All Blacks, the All Dark Greys/Navys/Deep Charcoals weren’t letting up come the restart. By that stage in fact, even the ref wasn’t buying the grey jersey thing anymore. “Touched by black!” he shouted at one stage, meaning Ireland. Somewhere, a Canterbury suit clicked on a file in his laptop marked CV.
Over on Sky, Mark Robson was enjoying himself regardless. Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson and Conor Murray all trooped off to be replaced for the final quarter, leading Robbo to wonder aloud: "You think those Lions will sleep tonight?"
Given that level of word wizardry, we can't help but feel he missed a trick with the flame-haired Springbok prop replacement Stephen Kitschoff. It must be killing Robson this morning to have allowed the game pass by without suggesting that Kitschoff's team-mates must call him 'Getyer'. You can picture him driving home, banging the steering while like George Constanza in The Comeback episode of Seinfeld. Another time, perhaps.
Speaking of other times, did you know that there is such a time as 4.45 in the morning? Apparently there is. This column knows because this column actually got up for the International Rules game from Adelaide yesterday morning. Oh sure, we could have set the DVR and watched it at our leisure later in the day but we figured, what the hell, let’s go exploring.
You know what's on TV that time of the night/morning? Nothing. Anything that wasn't Euronews was most likely to be dangerously buffed Adonises trying to sell you work-out machines. Which explained why RTÉ went with Michael Lyster to present their coverage.
Marty Clarke and Ciarán Whelan were the panel guests and you could see why. Clarke is still young enough to be used to just coming out of Coppers at that time of night – at that age, you need a sharp mind circa 5am to remember the directions to the party. As for Whelan, it's not long since his kids were of the pre-dawn monster variety. He knows the drill.
Game on. It’s hot in Adelaide, hot enough for the Aussies to spend their time on the sidelines pouring water over themselves and standing in front of huge whirring fans. Quite why they’re playing in the hottest part of the day while reducing the Irish viewing audience to TV columnists and players’ mothers is never explained.
Ireland keep it tight for a couple of quarters, mostly because Australia for some reason don't see the point of marking Conor McManus or Michael Murphy. At half-time, Lyster is wondering why they're having trouble with the round ball. "I mean, the round ball is a world football," he says to a half-bemused Clarke. "Everyone knows what a round ball is like. It's not as if it's square or anything. What's their problem with it?"
Hmm. As the Aussies run out handy 10-point winners by full-time, it’s clear the answer to that question is none. They have no problem. Zero problemo. Which doesn’t bode overly well for the second test in Perth.
Anything to be said for playing in grey next week?