Last week there was trouble off the field in the Scotland squad when six players broke team protocols and left the team hotel for a few beers without permission. Finn Russell was one of the six and he lost his place to Blair Kinghorn, but given the patchy shape of his form, that change was probably in Gregor Townsend’s favor.
n yesterday at the Aviva Stadium Scotland’s discipline on the field was just as poor and despite a brilliant start some really gentle penalties allowed Ireland to clear their lines as Scotland picked up the momentum. Scotland only has one style of play and it’s fast and furious.
However, the ‘new’ Irish style is fast paced and the first quarter was hectic. Jamison Gibson-Park was in his element, whether it was exploring the blindside, making quick taps, or testing defenders on the brink of collapse.
Ireland played imprecisely in the first quarter but Johnny Sexton evened things out with a brilliant 50-22 that gave us our first five meter lineout throw that the Scottish pack was able to hold.
From the next kick to the touch in the corner, Dan Sheehan broke and charged past from close range. Sheehan was a real Livewire ball in hand and a great burst put his team in strong field position and after some incisive picks and gos, Cian Healy came around for his tenth try for Ireland.
Ireland went 14-0 up but after a half break from Garry Ringrose we couldn’t protect the ruck and when the ball spilled Scotland capitalized and when they got out from five yards they went to their power play and buried its large base Pierre Schoeman his way past. The TMO tried to talk Wayne Barnes out of forgiving the attempt, but I think he pulled it off.
All three attempts in the first half were scored from the front rows, which does not paint an accurate picture of a first half that saw a lot of ball movement and touching for both teams’ back threes.
Scotland started the second half well and should have scored a try only for an incredible tackle from Hugo Keenan against opponent Stuart Hogg.
I felt Barnes was very lenient with the forehand against Schoeman’s Iain Henderson, who I felt deserved at least a yellow card. Ireland took the field and despite a slight white line fever with some handling errors we pushed through the relentless Josh Van der Flier.
Leading up we saw brilliant interplay from Mack Hansen and James Lowe, both of whom have an innate ability to keep the ball alive and beat defenders. Hansen really showed his will, physicality and ability to make good decisions on defense and showing up as a real starting option is a huge boost.
Ireland pushed hard for the fourth try bonus and finally made ends meet in the last minute with a beautiful finish from Conor Murray. While it was far from a perfect performance, there was a real feel-good factor.
The way Ireland play is high risk/high reward and we have to understand that there will be days like yesterday when some of the passes don’t hold up.
It was really positive to see the impact the bench had in the last quarter, particularly David Kilcoyne and Robbie Henshaw. Kieran Treadwell is a decent option as a bencher.
We’ve built the exciting brand that Mike Catt promised. There’s real consistency with our selection now, as Andy Farrell selects players who fit that style, with Gibson-Park, Lowe and Hansen tailoring to create and utilize space. This squad will gain great confidence from this Triple Crown and it’s the perfect way to end this block.
It is said that Ireland are hoping to get an extra two games in the summer tour to New Zealand to add to the three Tests already on the schedule. Those two games are likely to be played against the New Zealand Maoris during the week. It appears Farrell plans to bring 42 players onto the tour if he gets those two extra games that will give him a chance to play his frontliners but not overexpose them.
Some of the other home nations are planning to leave their Lions at home this summer, but I think we need to bring ours if we’re going to be competitive against the All Blacks.
I look forward to thinking about the future growth we have as a team. This Ireland squad is full of leaders and is incredibly fit. Our ability to earn bonus points and finish strong is really positive. We may be lacking in size and power, but I believe our coaching staff has the ability to overcome some of that.
Overall it was a six-nation tournament with a clear distinction between excellent and average. England and Scotland are treading water at the moment and I’m delighted that Italy are finally getting the win they want, but I think that says a lot about where Wales are at the moment.
It was nice to see Josh Adams present his Player of the Match award to young Italian star Ange Capuozzo, whose brilliant counterattack resulted in the win.
Great sportsmanship should be commended just as much as a great piece of play or skill, and Adams did a fine thing.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/rugby/six-nations/future-looks-exciting-for-new-look-ireland-41466743.html The future looks exciting for Ireland with a new look