Sunday 3 February 2013

Reaction: Steady on lads

The more I think about the game yesterday, the less and less fantastic I feel about it.

First off, what a game. The entire build-up, the ferocity of the opening minutes, the intense atmosphere and the tension towards the end will put this down as one of the more enjoyable rugby experiences I've ever had.

The Irish fans in particular are getting ahead of themselves again. Yes, It was great performance. For 45 minutes. It wasn't an 80 minute performance, and it nearly cost us. To only have 37% possession, and 35% territory is poor for a side that supposedly "dominated" the game.

Especially when you think that it was 3 tries apiece, and only kicks made the difference. That should really bring us back down to earth and focus the minds for next week.

And this side under Kidney don't usually produce two good performances two weeks in a row. Next week against England is a big test, especially with their new-found warranted confidence, and the fitness doubts over D'Arcy and Ross.

Not that I'm turning into a George Hook pessimist, moral fibers and all else aside. In the first half, there was some outstanding individual and collective performances. Rory Best and Sean O'Brien were everywhere. Moving from ruck to ruck making tackles and challenging for the ball. Outstanding the two of them. If only Best was as good as his primary function, the darts at lineout time, which let him down a bit. And Sean O'Brien was guilty of getting isolated after a barnstorming run, and a great low tackle from Leigh Halfpenny.

Ireland more than held their own at scrumtime, with Cian Healy more than managing Adam Jones, which should surely enhance his reputation as a scrummager, not to mention world class in the loose.

Apart from Best's inaccurate darts, of which, there wasn't too many, the second rows performed exceptionally, with both putting in a huge number of effective tackles, and both turning over a huge amount of ball with the choke tackle.

Conor Murray has improved too, he was noticeably faster from the rucks, taking less steps before passing and this made a huge difference to the cohesion of the backline.

The two wingers looked very dangerous in attack, with Zebo getting more change out of Cuthbert, than Gilroy out of North. Both defended with a lot of heart, putting in some big hits and choosing good moments to come in to stifle attacks, however, both also mistimed coming in at least once each, that shows how inexperienced they are.

Kearney still looks like he is returning from injury, and will want to improve soon, as Halfpenny is in great form and is leading the race to be fullback on the Lions. One other Welsh player caught the eye in particular and that was Justin Tipuric. What a performance. If he had been on the whole game, not only would Wales have won, they would have won comfortably.

Going forward, were D'Arcy not able to make next week, it has to be McFadden at 12, and Earls did himself no favours. The performance was barely acceptable, and we can't afford that indiscipline against England. This can't be one of those flatter to deceive performances, and if England next week don't get their minds focused, then it'll be a long Championship.

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