Friday 20 April 2018

An unforgettable day to restore your faith in rugby

Attacking mindset on display must be the way forward

Sean O'Brien, Ireland, scores his side's second try against Scotland
Sean O'Brien, Ireland, scores his side's second try against Scotland

Conor O'Shea

This truly was one of the great days of Six Nations rugby. Teams forced to go for scores from the off took up the mantle and went for it giving us a day remember. If you wanted an advert for the game this was it. Seven hours of rugby just flew by.

I love golf and if ever a day was set up to give us rugby's equivalent of a final day of a Major, then this was it. This was rugby's equivalent of the US Masters in Augusta, which is renowned for the thrills and spills of Amen Corner and the back nine on its final day.

Wales, the also rans of the day, went out early and posted the clubhouse score for all to chase but even at the end of a magnificent performance there was a twist. Gareth Davies dropped an intercept pass when he would have scored a try, then on the stroke of full-time Leonardo Sarto ran the length of the pitch to score a try for Italy that meant the winning margin required by Ireland was 21, not 28. Little things can change your mindset.

So as Ireland took to the field in Murrayfield they knew exactly what they needed to have any chance of winning the Championship. What transpired was inspirational stuff from Ireland.

Scotland may have lost to Italy in this Championship but there have been seeds of hope in some of their performances. A proud rugby nation at home fighting to avoid the wooden spoon were never going to go down without a fight but Ireland's start was sensational and gave us all the hope and belief we needed.

First Tommy Bowe split the Scottish defence apart, which led to Paul O'Connell's try, with Johnny Sexton tacking on a conversion and penalty. Ireland were ambitious, running from deep on every occasion.

It was a brilliant training ground try from Sean O'Brien that gave Ireland a lead that meant they no longer needed to chase the game, but the swings and roundabouts of the day that it was becoming were there in all its glory with Finn Russell scoring minutes after O'Brien and Tommy Bowe looked certain to score Ireland's third try.

The game was tense as Ireland edged towards their goal. The positive mindset that the team went out with shone through and although Wales had set the target Ireland had the mental and technical ability to do the only thing they controlled, and that was set a new target for England.

Ireland were magnificent, with Peter O'Mahony and O'Brien almost unbelievable. Jared Payne scored the try that brought us level with Wales and then in the 52nd minute Scotland conceded a penalty that put us on top of the Championship. It was gripping stuff and the tension was becoming unbearable.

O'Brien's second try confirmed his return to fitness but if margins in sport are ever shown in all their glory then Jamie Heaslip's tackle on Stuart Hogg may well be one of the defining moments in Irish rugby. Just like Warren Gatland will ponder the 14-point swing at the end of the Wales-Italy game, then Joe Schmidt will hug Heaslip for that tackle. That 14-point swing had put us in pole position.

Next stop was Twickenham to see could England not just beat France but beat them by 26 points. What followed was one of the greatest games we have ever seen. Words just fail to describe what was delivered on the final day and you just have to hope that the attacking mindset we saw is the way forward. England fell agonisingly short and the glory and trophy went to Ireland.

For Ireland to win this Championship in the manner was truly exceptional and they will head to the World Cup with back-to-back Six Nations Championships and confidence that with France and Italy in their group and the odds on facing Scotland or Argentina in a quarter-final high, we go with real hope. These are heady days indeed. Ireland won't get ahead of themselves but we as punters can dream, anything is possible. For the Six Nations, the last day with all teams having an attacking mindset has restored your faith in the game we all love. A day to remember, a day we will never forget.

Sunday Indo Sport

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