• Home
  • /
  • Rugby
  • /
  • The 5 Things We Learned From Ireland's Crushing Defeat In Cardiff

The 5 Things We Learned From Ireland's Crushing Defeat In Cardiff

The 5 Things We Learned From Ireland's Crushing Defeat In Cardiff
By Michael McCarthy Updated

It was an exhausting, pulsating slog of a night in Cardiff, and ultimately a very disappointing one for Irish rugby. A second defeat of the 2017 Six Nations and while like the Scotland game, Ireland can blame themselves, this time it's tough to say they deserved any more than what they got. There won't be a third Championship in four years for this team, but there is still a huge game with England in Dublin next weekend to look forward to.

So, what did we learn from an utterly disappointing 22-9 defeat to Wales?

 

1) Ireland's on-field decision making is a problem

In the aftermath of the France game, Joe Schmidt said straight out that all on field decisions in terms a penalty are made on the field. And while he insinuated the decision is ultimately Rory Best's, he also mentioned Johnny Sexton, Jamie Heaslip and others as being involved in the decision. Is that what we want from our captain?

Ronan O'Gara spoke on RTE about the need for a captain to take the decision out of the out-half's hands when it comes to a penalty. He also pointed out that between them, Johnny Sexton and Paddy Jackson have scored their last 18 kicks, an incredible stat. Basically a kick at goal is almost a guaranteed three points.

Advertisement

Today we had a dysfunctional lineout and for the most part, our attacking moves weren't breaking through the Welsh defence. It felt like a day to take the points that were on offer.

I don't want to be critical of aggressive tactics but at a certain point, when the option isn't working, it's time to change tactics. It's what they did against France successfully. In an away game with the tide going against them, punishing Wales on the scoreboard every chance they got was essential, and ultimately, it's not what Ireland did tonight.

 

Advertisement

2) Joe Schmidt needs to trust his bench

All day, we've been ridiculing the England team line-up naming their replacements for tomorrow's game against Scotland as "Finishers"

And we'll continue to ridicule it. But there's an obvious point here. Modern rugby is a 23 man game. That's not a cliche, it's an imperative. Ireland have been slower than most to move to this model in crunch time, mainly out of necessity. We just didn't have the backup. If John Hayes or Mike Ross came off, the game collapsed. That's no longer the case.

Advertisement

Conor Murray might be the best scrum half in the world, and we can't do without him, when fit. But he was injured today for twenty minutes (plus half time) before he was taken off. In that time, we had no impact in attack, and conceded the ten points that ultimately put the game out of reach. When Kieran Marmion eventually came off the bench, he improved things massively. He is an international scrum half and proved it today.

It's the same situation in the front row. After the third Welsh try, with the game now out of reach, John Ryan and Niall Scannell finally made an appearance. Ireland immediately overturned the Welsh scrum. What was the point at that stage? Rugby is so attritional, you can't expect even the world's best front row forward to be as good as his bench replacement after 60 minutes of a test match. Cian Healy, who is trusted by Schmidt and therefore used him properly, gave Ireland an extra dimension when he replaced McGrath.

Being picked on the bench in international rugby these days means you've a massive part to play for every other team. For Ireland to progress that needs to mean the same here too.

Advertisement

 

3) Wales Haven't Gone Away

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1lHdVGTXms

Advertisement

It may have featured a forward pass, but this was a brilliant try.

From a very early stage you could tell that Wales were up for it tonight. They were far from perfect. Leigh Halfpenny was terrible under the high ball, and George North wasn't much better. For the most part, Ireland let them away with it. Dan Biggar was loose in possession and Ireland were an interception machine in the first half.

But this looked more like the real Wales than we've seen in quite a while. except for maybe portions of the England game. George North played like the finisher that we know he can be. Rhys Webb was outstanding, especially from the boot. Their defence was solid and comfortable, making 100 tackles in the second half and conceding only three points. They even brought Jamie Roberts and Toby Faletau off the bench. That's scary. We, as Irish fans, may have been a bit blasé about how tough a task going into Cardiff in the Six Nations would be. If they can beat France next week, expect a lot more talk about The Lions with regards to Welsh players than we've heard recently.

 

4) Ireland were one dimensional and sloppy in attack:

The first attack of the second half pretty much summed up Ireland's night. 16 solid phases in attack, going forward but never really threatening. This is followed by a sloppy pass, and a Welsh break that ultimately led to North's second try.

There was a lot of that today.

We went through phase after phase in the second half in the Welsh 22, but never got anywhere near the try line in open play. When we tried something else, it was invariably the Sexton cross field kick. There didn't seem to be any other plan to unlock the Welsh defence. It was like there was an assumption that it would just happen eventually.

There was also a serious sloppiness.

Knock ons, offside, poor passes, they were all there in abundance. There were two plays that summed it all up. One was Robbie Henshaw getting ahead of himself (and the ball) by joining the maul that looked certain to get us our only try of the game, giving away a game changing penalty.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qU3b5qqP3u4

The second was our last chance. We started on our own 22 with 3 minutes to go. For phase after phase, Ireland went backwards until eventually Sexton had to try something. It reminded me of that awful moment that ended Ronan O'Gara's Ireland career against Scotland in 2013. The ball is blocked and Jamie Roberts ends the game. 22-9. Nine points is a terrible return for Ireland and the one dimensional and sloppy attack is to blame.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJM4BcvPotQ

5) Ireland still could have won that game

This is the thing.

In the last ten minutes, Henshaw's transgression probably stopped a try that would have put us in the lead. Another time, a blocked kick in the Welsh in-goal area very nearly falls to Keith Earls on the line. It really could have went the other way. Ireland scored three points in the second half despite have 63% of the territory. The lineout didn't function at crucial times. There was possible a forward pass for the first Welsh try.

This isn't all to say that Ireland deserved to win. They didn't. But a lot of what went wrong is fixable. It's not indicative of a team in crisis. There will be an overreaction to this result, no doubt, but we ultimately lost a tough away Six Nations game against a very good team. There is a chance for redemption next Saturday in the Aviva. It's not time to write off Joe Schmidt and Ireland just yet.

Join The Monday Club Have a tip or something brilliant you wanted to share on? We're looking for loyal Balls readers free-to-join members club where top tipsters can win prizes and Balls merchandise

Processing your request...

You are subscribed now!

Copyright © 2022. All rights reserved. Developed by Square1 and powered by PublisherPlus.com

Advertisement