THE level of frustration that emanated from some of the Welsh players after Ireland’s final try at the death amply demonstrated the psychological damage that the home side had inflicted on their opponents throughout the course of the previous 79 minutes.
Ireland were eventually rewarded for their patience and tactical brilliance, which shone throughout. Paddy Jackson’s late try summed up another extremely efficient and exacting performance from Joe Schmidt’s men.
It will be a little worrisome that Ireland struggled to create early momentum considering the possession they had enjoyed, but it only served to lure the Welsh into a false sense of security.
The Welsh defence stood resolute in the early stages, one wondered how Ireland were going to create opportunities. Without making much inroads, Ireland did stubbornly manage to hold onto the ball without much reward, which frustrated Wales, whose indiscipline in terms of penalties conceded along with the inaccuracies with their own set piece, continually limited their ability to get any sort of foothold in the match.
Again, the work-rate and accuracy at the breakdown was instrumental to Ireland’s performance, the inclement weather certainly enabled them to implement a rigid yet highly successful strategy. The quality of their kicking game from the likes of Conor Murray and Jonny Sexton, especially in the second half, kept Wales pegged back and ultimately demoralised Warren Gatland’s men.
As a former forward, the last thing
you ever want to do is to be forced to retreat backwards time after time towards your own line upon getting up off the ground.
I thought referee Wayne Barnes had an excellent match. He has never been my cup of tea, but his manner towards the players seems to have softened of late.
It was testament to Ireland’s unity of purpose and discipline that, on a number of occasions, we heard him complementing Ireland’s positive play in the contact area.
The Welsh strived to play a more open game, but the likes of Jamie Roberts and George North were well marshalled on the back of the effort of the forwards, who subdued their opposite numbers.
Ireland’s set piece provided the platform and subsequent pressure that kept the scoreboard ticking over for the home side.
Ireland’s ability to stick with their gameplan was admirable. They could have so easily let their egos get the better of them by endeavouring to play more rugby than was required. It would have been tempting for them to have a go, but they gave nothing away as they stuck manfully to their task of dominating their counterparts in all the key areas.
Schmidt has to take credit for the clarity of the script he is giving his men. It’s not pretty at the moment, but their efficiency in the various tenets of the game shows that his players are believing and enjoying what they are doing.
Yesterday’s effort was just as ruthless as it was professional, Ireland clearly have a great template from which to build.
They will analyse England who no doubt will present different challenges but if Ireland continue to do the fundamentals well, then coupled with the coaches’ ability to locate weaknesses in the opposition’s armoury, then we will present a formidable challenge for anyone.
All the signs point to a classic in Twickenham in a few weeks’ time.I don’t see Schmidt making any changes, but I believe that there should be a little more thought given towards who plays in the No 7 shirt.
I do not feel Chris Henry has the physical prowess, particularly against a powerful English pack. Apart from that expect Ireland to stick with their winning formula.
It’s so pleasing to finally witness a clarity and purpose to Ireland’s performances, but all are aware that bigger tests are yet to come.