Bowe insists Ireland rewarded for keeping faith in game plan
Published 29/11/2010 | 05:00
As the accountancy goes, two from four is barely a pass rate, but to end with a win, rather than a defeat, leavened much of the frustration that has trailed this Irish squad for the month of November.
Although their progress remains too glacial for some, and perpetually undermined by fundamental errors, dispatching their historical bete noire, on another winless trek to Dublin, at least buoyed morale on the last day.
"As a whole, the lads are very happy with the win," reported Jamie Heaslip, standing in for the hospitalised Brian O'Driscoll. "There are a couple of tins in there and the boys got stuck in. I was delighted we won. I always say I play to win."
Substance more than style, perhaps, but, in the first-half at least, enough tentative suggestions that Ireland are beginning to have a little more faith in their game plan, although some sloppy second-half decision-making undermined that feeling.
"Granted, we probably wanted a bit more ball in second half and it did get a little loose," offered Heaslip. "The opposition did tighten down when it got loose. One or two decisions we made went a little bit awry, but that's where we learn."
Tommy Bowe assented. "In the first-half, we cut them open once, we want to play that kind of rugby. We did manage to play a little bit, but the second-half was more frustrating."
His overall audit remains upbeat.
"When we got a dry ball, we've shown we can do it, putting the likes of New Zealand under serious pressure, where they were kind of wondering what was going on. We were able to move the ball from side to side. We're not trying to copy them or Australia or any other team.
"We've got our own style of play, with our own players who know we can take teams on. It's just a case of working on it. We've shown glimpses of it, but there's still a long way to go.
"It is difficult with the wet ball and in the first two games and we probably tried too much, if it's dry in the Six Nations we can take teams on. We still have faith in the game plan.
"We've shown we can cut loose given the right conditions. Maybe we've made mistakes late in the play, but it's the type of rugby we want to play, we have the players to play exciting rugby and other teams have shown it can work."
Much of that depends on the platform and it was in this area, especially repelling Argentina's early threat, which ultimately decided both the course of this game and the residual faith placed in Tony Buckley by the coach.
"Coming into it, a lot of questions were asked of the front-row. Sean Cronin, myself and Cian Healy were referred to as a 'callow' front-row. People expected us to be pushed around the place, but we gave a pretty good account of ourselves against one of the best front-rows in world rugby," Buckley said.
"That early scrum laid down a good marker for us going forward. They came into the game with two props on the bench. They expected to go to town on us in the scrums. So that gave us a big lift as an eight.
"As the game went on, we had some pretty good scrums. Just before I got taken off, I thought we had one of our best scrums of the game. I got a great hit, got through the mark and we got a penalty. Concentration was good for the 80 minutes scrum-wise.
"I think we got three penalties from scrums."
For Pumas captain Felipe Contepomi, the continuation of Argentina's winless streak on Irish soil possessed an even more bittersweet taste, as it will probably represent his last appearance in a country he graced for six magical years.
"Ireland played a good first-half and we didn't score when we had to," he summed up succinctly. "We lost the game in those moments. Ireland broke the line a few times and scored points.
"It was always hard to chase when you're 20 points behind. I think the last five minutes really summed it up, we're putting pressure on in their territory, but they turn over the ball and then score a wonderful try to finish it off."
If Irish rugby is to be particularly thankful to the classy doctor for one thing above all else, his husbandry of Jonathan Sexton at Leinster stands out.
"I think he's getting better and better," added the 33-year-old, whose flawed kicking display stood in stark contrast to Sexton's unblemished stint off the tee. "He's always been comfortable, but he's getting even more confident now.
"It's nice to see his progression. With the Six Nations and World Cup coming up, these are important times for him, but I'm sure he'll arrive there and give a good performance for Ireland."
As for the Pumas? They required failure in '03 to realise how much improvement they required in '07, where they excelled, finishing third. He is fearful that history may repeat.
"We're miles away," he says, when assessing his limited outfit's chances of competing in 2011.
And Ireland? "They and France remain the two best teams in Europe," he says, although southern hemisphere types may be forced to restrain a snigger. "Ireland are a very good team and they know each other very well.
"They have been bringing in new blood who are assimilating very well. It's funny, I spent six years here and people always complained about the fact that the Irish team didn't rotate players.
"Now Ireland are rotating players and people are still complaining. Maybe it's just journalists always need something to complain about! But these young players have shown they can play international rugby. Irish rugby is well set."