Saturday 21 April 2018

Fiona Coghlan: I never thought it would be this bad

Ireland’s Jamie Heaslip looks dejected after last night’s defeat in Cardiff. Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images
Ireland’s Jamie Heaslip looks dejected after last night’s defeat in Cardiff. Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Fiona Coghlan

For any neutral fan this was just an amazing game of rugby - the line-speed in defence, the tackles, the ferocity of it, all of those elements were just unbelievable.

But Ireland will live to regret far too many costly mistakes and especially two pivotal moments with 10 minutes to go.

Right up to the 73rd minute I genuinely still felt we could win it. All we needed was to get over the line once, and we had good chances to do that.

First we won a lineout, formed a maul and looked like we were heading for a try when Robbie Henshaw gave away a penalty for joining in front of Rory Best.

By the letter of the law the ref was absolutely correct. Henshaw had to join the maul behind Best and it was a huge turning point. Ireland were camped on Wales' line and it looked like we could have scored even without Henshaw because I felt the weight of the maul looked like it was shifting just as he arrived.

Then we get back down to their 22 and there's a knock-on.

And then we try to salvage a bonus point and Johnny Sexton is blocked - when do you ever see that?

That allowed Roberts get in for their third try and all this from a team who'd only scored five tries all season - and three of them against Italy.

Our problem was that we were so careless with the ball but you have to credit Wales; they were ferocious in the tackle and their defence was just incredible. Every one of them put their bodies on the line.

There was national pride and the World Cup rankings at stake and they were a different team last night, played clever rugby and took every chance in attack.

But it's noticeable that they scored 10 points while Sexton was in the sin-bin and their first try also came when he was off the pitch for a head injury assessment (HIA).

Everything that could possibly go wrong probably went wrong for Ireland - with the injury to Murray too - although I thought Marmion did well when he came in.

But we just made far too many basic mistakes. For their first try Paddy Jackson was just on the pitch, there was a bit of a disconnect in our defence and they got a line break.

The second try came off another Irish error in their 22 when Sean O'Brien dropped a pass.

They kicked downfield, got a line-out and a great maul. We only had Zebo on the blind side, with no defensive pillar and Webb was clever enough to spot it, setting up North for his second try.

We actually had an awful lot of possession in the second half but too many times Ireland were going through phases but had no momentum.

When you have possession like that the ball should be speeding up, like falling down a stairs, but we just lacked speed and sharpness. Then we'd make a silly error and suddenly were on the back foot again.

At one point, around the 60th minute, we actually lost two lineouts in-a-row and they've been a mainstay of our game.

Defensively we put in a huge amount of tackles but so did Wales. I think the tackle count was Wales 155 and Ireland 150, which is phenomenal in one game.

Wales played to their potential and we had far too many silly errors and sadly Paddy's Weekend could be a very damp squib now.

This was a game I was always afraid of. I know we've won some big games in the Millennium Stadium but we don't always play our best rugby there and I always felt it was a game that could catch us on the back foot. I never thought it would be this bad.

Irish Independent

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