What a pleasure! For all the reasons discussed on Friday and all the evidence |on the field yesterday, this performance surpassed the unexpected 15-6 win over Australia.
Yesterday was a story of composure exemplified by our rock in the front row, Cian Healy.
Nick Mallett’s pre-match comments turned to ashes as neither the Irish front row nor the referee succumbed to his tripe.
The Irish gave as good as they got but as the game went on it became certain that Healy was being targeted.
Unfortunately for Italy, our loose head is all grown up.
In the face of getting dragged around the eye, late hit after late hit, taunt after taunt, Healy showed incredible self-control and delivered more than we could have wished.
From the front-row through the whole team, all our wishes were coming true.
Sean O’Brien won man of the match but it could just as easily have been Stephen Ferris.
While Healy was coming in for all the cheap stuff, Ferris wiped the floor with the hard man of Italy, Martin Castrogiovanni.
It was the hit that set the tone for the whole game.
We had the innocent certainty of Conor Murray, the lived-in certainty of Ronan O’Gara and Brian O’Driscoll’s assured restraint.
Rob Kearney was like a rock at the back, Keith Earls ebullient, Goron D’Arcy back to his best and Tommy Bowe beleaguered but unbowed.
It had everything. It was a game to be proud of.