Depleted Ireland not good enough for energetic Barbarians
Ireland came up woefully short 22-21 against The Barbarians at Thomond Park tonight.
This was an end of season jaunt for the multi-national Barbarians, the next step on the road to the World Cup for Ireland.
Those are two totally different approaches to the game and completely different mindsets leading up to the kick-off.
The Baa Baas came with the responsibility to entertain in the best traditions of the Black & White jersey.
Ireland were dedicated to the single-minded goal of winning, while working under Joe Schmidt’s template.
The Irish were exposed when Craig Gilroy unnecessarily left his man Alex Cuthbert for the opening try in the fifth minute.
The Ulsterman quickly made amends on a darting line which owed much to tight-head Tadhg Furlong’s solidity at scrum time.
Ian Madigan succeeded where Jimmy Gopperth failed in converting for 7-5 in the 16th minute.
The Baa Baas were compelled to move the ball, whether it was the best option or not, wing David Smith fending off Dan Tuohy as the tourists threatened.
Hooker Richardt Strauss snapped onto a ball in contact to force a penalty which Madigan sent deep into the right corner to no avail.
Then, Ireland loose-head Jack McGrath suffered the pain of a yellow card for the use of his knee into the defenceless back of Konstantin Mikautadze in the 33rd minute.
All Black Joe Rokocoko’s angle onto the ball was spotted and dealt with by Devin Toner as Madigan picking up the pieces off the floor to earn a penalty.
This delivered territory. Strauss connected with Toner, not for the first time. The uncapped pair of Collie O’Shea and Furlong were prominent before Luke Marshall’s side entry into a ruck.
Ireland’s Robbie Diack pinched a lineout without profit as Barbarians captain Shane Jennings poached a ground ball.
Chris Henry returned the compliment on Gerhard Vosloo and Madigan smacked the ball close to the line.
It was prime real estate for Ireland. O’Shea came hard. Hooker Deon Fourie was in position to stem the tide.
The continuous illegal scrummaging of loose-head Roberto Tejerizo caused referee Greg Garner to garnish a yellow card in what was a reflection of the tarnished standard of rugby as Ireland held a two-point lead at the interval.
It wasn’t long before The Baa Baas struck gold. Joe Rokocoko’s delicate palm down of Madigan’s chip to Ruan Pienaar put them in control of the ball.
Nathan Hines spun away from a lineout with ball-in-hand. It was moved right for Zane Kirchner to slide inside Madigan, chip over Dave Kearney and collect the reward on the other side.
Kirchner’s former Leinster colleague Gopperth converted for 12-7 in the 44th minute.
Ireland were beginning to look stressed in defence as Pienaar enjoyed a free hand at the base of the ruck.
The scavenging of Dave Kearney resulted in a tackle-into-maul for a scrum.
The ball retention was just not good enough from Ireland. Full-back Rob Kearney made up for his loose pass with a take from Gopperth’s cross-field ball.
The Irish were struggling for possession and position. Heaslip’s work of his feet allowed Gopperth to make it 15-7 from straight in front in the 54th minute.
A loose pass almost opened the way for Paddy Jackson to close the gap. But, Rokocoko was vigilant in his defensive work.
Son, the All Black’s cockiness cost him a knock on. It was compounded by a deliberate knock-on by Jennings.
Ireland looked pedestrian in attack until Strauss found Jordi Murphy out of touch and Chris Henry was the main beneficiary from a powerful maul for Madigan’s conversion to narrow it down to 15-14 in the 63rd minute.
The nails were driven into Ireland’s coffin when a period of heavy pressure ended with Cuthbert squeezing home from no more than a metre.
Gopperth’s conversion made it a two-score game in the 74th minute.
Jackson was instrumental in kicking Ireland into position and then exploiting the short side for a try which he converted from wide out with time for one play left on the clock.
It wasn’t enough.