Sunday 19 November 2017

O'Connell admits Irish have only themselves to blame

Marie Crowe

Marie Crowe

Paul O'Connell wasn't making excuses after Ireland's shock defeat to Scotland at Croke Park yesterday. He admitted that when so many errors are made, games can't be won.

He felt that it was the simple things that let the side down; dropping the ball and giving away penalties allowed Scotland to get going and gave them momentum and belief in themselves.

"Their try came off our mistakes and most of the penalties we conceded were in kicking range and you just can't do that in international rugby," he said.

"We gave away clumsy penalties that we just didn't need to give away and then Parks put them over and it put us under pressure. On days when you are not playing well you can't gift the team points. We should have been disciplined."

Under-performing as a unit in so many facets of the game is not something O'Connell has had to deal with too often in his career, but yesterday's implosion was not what this Ireland team is known for.

"They defended very well in the line-out and we made a few mistakes which were compounded by some very good defence by them. We have an excellent line-out but some days we have bad days at the office and you can't compound it with penalties being given away," he added.

"We struggled with retaining the ball and giving away penalties. It was very disappointing for everyone and we didn't want to finish on a game like this."

Declan Kidney was disappointed with the display; he didn't want to end the run at Croke Park in such a disappointing way, but that's sport and it is unpredictable. Kidney felt a lot of factors contributed to the loss, notably the line-out and discipline.

"There were parts of our performances that weren't great," he said. "The drop-goal just before half-time, that was seven points to try and come back from and then they got a penalty straight after half-time. We managed to get into it but it wasn't enough. We did the damage to ourselves in the first half. Scotland had a lot of turnover ball; the penalty count in the second half was three each but two of them were in our 22. Conceding them is what happens if your not right on your game, it happened in the match in Paris too. It's not like we were not trying things but we didn't execute or perform in the way that we had hoped we would.

"I think people had this perception that Scotland were going to roll over, but we knew they wouldn't. Their lineout has been better than ours all season, they put pressure on us there and there were probably four or five turnovers there. One or two crucial decisions went their way there and that can be the difference in a game.

"We said all along that any team in this competition can beat another one and we are bitterly disappointed to lose our last game here in Croke Park. What can you do but learn from it?"

Asked about his bench, Kidney added: "I have huge faith in all the subs. I would have liked to get Leo and Shane on but you have to see how guys are going, what guys can bring to it.

It's a 22-man game and sometimes there is no exact science as regards to what is the right time to make [substitutes]. But we made them with the best information we had.

"Ronan didn't do anything that I was surprised with. We are trying to develop a squad and I think Jonathan [Sexton] has had a good campaign and Ronan has been excellent too; and I always said we are blessed to have the two of them."

Man of the match Dan Parks, who converted five penalties and a drop-goal, including the winning kick in the dying minutes, said he relished every minute of the game, including that pressure kick. "The pressure is part of it. It's for moments like those that I play the game. I was absolutely delighted and lucky because there are a lot of guys who couldn't play the game today."

Scotland boss Andy Robinson saluted his players. "The guys have worked hard all year," he said. "We got a bit of luck at the end of the game, got a penalty near their line and Dan made a great kick, but I think for the endeavour and the way we've tried to play this season, the guys should take some real credit.

"They're hurting, they're tired, and they deserve the plaudits for this win. I'm impressed with the way they have approached this game and approached every game. Like all things we kept the composure right to the end.

"Ireland played really, really well at the start and I thought at one stage it was going to be a 30-pointer. But we held on, we got to the pace of the game, and performed really well."

Sunday Independent

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