Friday 28 July 2017

Endless errors pave way for deserved loss

Unlucky Ireland? France were hanging on at the end near their own line, having just survived a sweeping Irish break-out. Three tries to one for Ireland on the scoreboard, it could so nearly have been a fourth, which would have won the game.

But unlucky Ireland? You must be joking. Ireland may have scored more tries but the errors they made throughout this game were a scandal. You don't deserve to win any game if you make so many simple mistakes.

For a top-notch international team, the number of errors should haunt them. They got out of the match what they deserved: nothing.

France were much the superior side, even if they couldn't quite provide a finish to their other excellent efforts. As for Ireland, they had only themselves to blame for the extinguishing of their Grand Slam dream.

The scrum was vulnerable all game, and only the referee's obvious inability to decipher exactly what was going on saved Ireland even heavier punishment.

But the list of technical infringements went far beyond just the Irish scrummage. Ireland simply didn't have the precision of execution to deserve to win the game. Tactically, they were ordinary in the extreme until Ronan O'Gara came on to give them some shape.

composure

When Rory Best threw away a lineout ball over the top into no man's land deep inside the French 22 with just six minutes left, it summed up Ireland's complete failure to demonstrate ruthless precision and composure in finishing.

Fergus McFadden, Sean O'Brien, Tomas O'Leary, Sean Cronin and many others were all guilty of shocking dropped passes. Tom Court collapsed a scrum and conceded a penalty, and O'Brien handled in a ruck. Finally, Best was miles offside in another ruck and Dimitri Yachvili drilled home the penalty which ultimately won the match for France.

You cannot expect to make such errors and win a schools match, never mind an international. Gordon D'Arcy's woeful missed tackle on Aurelien Rougerie left a gaping hole in the Irish defence which Maxime Medard exploited for France's only try. That mistake alone cost seven points.

There was also a plodding element to Ireland's game. O'Leary's laboured passing and his tendency to leave the ball for ages at the back of the ruck in attacking positions cost Ireland any chance of a dynamic thrust. And when the ball was released, almost every time it went to a player standing still; meat and drink for the French defence.

For a side to be so riddled with technical errors yet get within three points of their opponents does not speak highly of the French. Yet they always looked the stronger, more cohesive unit and for sure they were able to demonstrate greater continuity simply because they never made all the mistakes of the Irish.

Major questions arise for this Irish side. Jonny Sexton is in a poor spell of form and, for whatever reason at the moment, O'Leary looks well short of the quality required at this level. The difficulties with that half-back axis meant Ireland were unlikely to win this game. But the errors made defeat certain.

Peter Bills

Irish Independent

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