Bringing You the Daily Dispatch

Ireland lose their grip on grand slam in dignified but familiar fashion | Jonathan Liew
Rugby union Sport

Ireland lose their grip on grand slam in dignified but familiar fashion | Jonathan Liew

During this occasion, there would be neither the usual comforts nor encouragements. There would be no commendations like “well played, lads” or praises for “good processes” and “great effort”. There would be no story to find solace in, about how this is a developing team facing much stronger opponents, and how ultimately, it’s the performance that counts at this point. It was simply another defeat for Ireland at Twickenham, and somehow, this one appeared to hurt a little more than the others. When aiming for a second consecutive grand slam, these losses are just part of the game.

The days before this game were filled with high anticipation. This is a unique experience for Irish teams playing in England. The usual arrogance was seen from various sources, such as Jamie Heaslip claiming that England would need to lose two players for them to win. There was also talk in the Irish media, before Scotland’s loss earlier in the day, about easily winning the championship with a four-try bonus.

However, for those who were not able to forget the tough times, Twickenham will always pose a challenge. The bitter recollections are ingrained too deeply. The consistent beatings during the 1980s and 1990s. The staggering number of wooden spoons received in just 19 years. The crushing 50-18 loss at the start of the Six Nations era, causing doubts about Ireland’s ability to compete. The humiliating 45-11 defeat at the hands of Jonny Wilkinson in 2002, which prompted Eddie O’Sullivan to acknowledge that “our efforts in the second half only prevented the score from being higher.”

Ireland is now focused on achieving tangible and ethical successes instead of pyrrhic victories. They no longer approach events with just hope, as evidenced by the vibrant green sea of fans at the recent match in West London. This spectacle is a clear departure from the past, as Ireland now travels with a large group of supporters. In contrast, England seemed to drawn upon a different, unexpected source of motivation, eager to disrupt Ireland’s chances of winning.

Although Ireland may be considered favorites now, there are times during certain games when you can still apply pressure and put them in an uncomfortable position. This opportunity arose during the second half when captain Peter O’Mahony received a yellow card, the crowd was energized, and the team was struggling due to injuries to Calvin Nash and Ciaran Frawley, exposing flaws in the 6-2 bench split strategy implemented by coach Andy Farrell.

Peter O'Mahony yellow card proved pivotal in the second half

Display the picture in full screen mode.

Frawley himself had been a replacement for Nash, who had come off second best after taking a fearsome hit from a running Tommy Freeman. Now his departure forced Jamison Gibson-Park to the wing, with Conor Murray on at scrum-half. And Ireland really did look terribly disjointed in those subsequent minutes, a monumental wave of England pressure culminating in Ben Earl plunging over with 20 minutes remaining. Lowe responded with a scintillating score after a magnificent aerial claim by Hugo Keenan. Crowley missed what would prove to be a crucial conversion.

Throughout the match, it appeared that England was the team taking charge and attempting new strategies. Despite Ireland being dominated in possession and territory, they were lucky to be ahead at halftime. This may have caused them to become complacent. Despite England’s dominance, Ireland showed composure and stuck to their game plan without panicking. In a dignified manner, they eventually lost their hold on the game. Coach Farrell made the decision to keep the starting forwards on the field until the 60th minute.

Ireland had a similar experience during the World Cup quarter-final match against New Zealand. They were in control of the game until the last moment when they lost it. Did Ireland lack urgency during the crucial moments? Did they focus too much on controlling the pace and become vulnerable when England increased their speed? These are the queries that Farrell and his team will contemplate in the upcoming days.

Ignore the advertisement for the newsletter.

O’Mahony did not have a good performance, but he was correct about one aspect. In the lead-up to the match, he had stated, “It is extremely difficult to win at any stadium in this competition.” He acknowledged that while Ireland has achieved victories before, they had to play exceptionally well to do so. At the time, you may have thought it was just an attempt to downplay their success. However, O’Mahony was genuinely acknowledging that for an Ireland team, the next challenge is always the most challenging.

Ireland will continue to move forward and rally. They still have a chance to win the championship against Scotland next weekend, and despite the difficulties in this game, they have achieved many positives in recent years. This loss may speed up the process of transitioning towards the younger generation, such as Ryan Baird, who have been waiting for their opportunity. On a positive note, they do not have to play in another World Cup quarter-final for at least three years.

Source: theguardian.com