Saturday 21 September 2019

There was energy, a bounce we haven't seen for a while - Stockdale

Wales 17 Ireland 22

Ireland's Jacob Stockdale. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire
Ireland's Jacob Stockdale. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

An improvement from the lowest base possible is still an improvement.

Ireland left Cardiff on Saturday night in better spirits than they had London a week previous, but with much to do to make sure they are ready for their opening fixture against Scotland in 20 days' time.

On Saturday, they welcome a full-strength Wales team to the Aviva Stadium for Joe Schmidt's final home game as Ireland coach. By then, he'll have picked his squad and, when Warren Gatland's men are done, we'll know far more about where they stand.

For four men this win was about putting Twickenham behind them.

Captain Peter O'Mahony, Iain Henderson, Bundee Aki and Jacob Stockdale survived from the 57-15 record defeat to England and thrived in Cardiff.

"It was definitely a case that we let ourselves down as much as anything last week and we let an awful lot of other people down. We just wanted to make sure that we changed that," Stockdale said.

Ireland's Andrew Conway. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire
Ireland's Andrew Conway. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire

"It didn't all go right out there, but I thought we came out for the first half and played really well.

"There was a good energy, a good bounce about us that we haven't seen for a while.

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"We're definitely back on the right track."

Having struggled defensively at times during the English onslaught a week ago, Stockdale got back to what he did best at the Principality Stadium; scoring tries.

Ireland's Garry Ringrose scores a disallowed try. Photo: Rebecca Naden/Reuters
Ireland's Garry Ringrose scores a disallowed try. Photo: Rebecca Naden/Reuters

His 16th and 17th efforts in his 21st international brought an end to a relative drought for Ireland's try machine. He hadn't scored since his howler in Ulster's European quarter-final defeat to Leinster in March, but he put that behind him with a double.

The first was the best piece of play Ireland have put together in a while, part of a first-half effort that saw them energetically throw themselves into contact with the kind of abandon we haven't seen in some time.

Dave Kilcoyne was to the fore with an outstanding display and he got the ball rolling for the 18th-minute try, following up Will Addison's excellent catch with a rampaging carry that put Wales on the back foot.

Jack Carty did brilliantly to keep the momentum going, finding Andrew Conway on his inside shoulder and the Munster winger went on a superb arcing run before drawing the final defender and floating a beautiful pass for Stockdale to race home.

Ireland's Peter O'Mahony in action. Photo: Peter Cziborra/Action Images via Reuters
Ireland's Peter O'Mahony in action. Photo: Peter Cziborra/Action Images via Reuters

Minutes later, he was racing on to Aaron Shingler's loose pass, hacking ahead and picking up for a trademark opportunist score.

"You feed off players around you, you try and make the players around you feel good and they try and do the same and the best way to do that is have energy," he said of the extra pep in Irish steps.

"It's not something that you can switch on, it's something that has to build and I think we're getting back into that, where we were a while ago.

"We got off the line a lot better (in defence), made a lot more dominant tackles and we worked a lot harder in defence to work together, stay connected and our defence was massively stepped up this week, it's going to have to keep stepping up.

"This is nowhere near where we want to be as the finished product, it needs to keep going and going."

They remain some way off, but this was better.

Amidst the squad-culling phone calls, Schmidt will be honing in on one big performance before their departure to confirm the impression that his team are heading in the right direction.

Andrew Porter's influence on the loosehead side after half-time was superb and he forced a yellow card for Leon Brown and a penalty try against 14 men, but the late stages were less impressive as the replacements came in and the visiting side wilted.

They conceded tries to Owen Lane and Rhys Patchell during a final quarter that will have soured their mood somewhat, but they held out for a win.

There were no big celebrations at full-time, but the result was important in turning the page on the Twickenham horror show.

Wales - H Amos; O Lane, S Williams, O Watkin, S Evans (J Holmes 47); J Evans (R Patchell h-t), A Davies (T Williams 47); R Carre (R Evans h-t), R Elias, S Lee (L Brown h-t, y/c 52); A Beard, B Davies (J Ball 47); A Shingler (A Wainwright 63), J Davies (S Lee 52-62), J Navidi.

Ireland - W Addison (G Ringrose 42-52, blood); A Conway, C Farrell, B Aki, J Stockdale (D Kearney h-t); J Carty, K Marmion (L McGrath 60); D Kilcoyne (A Porter HIA 45), N Scannell (R Best 52), John Ryan (T Furlong 52); I Henderson, James Ryan (D Toner 52), T Beirne, P O'Mahony (J Murphy 60), J Conan.

Ref - Romain Poite (France)

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