Monday 23 October 2017

Five talking points from Ireland's heart-stopping win over England

Sexton, left, and Simon Zebo of Ireland celebrate
Sexton, left, and Simon Zebo of Ireland celebrate
David Kelly

David Kelly

What a performance from Joe Schmidt's men. Here are five talking points from the win over England.

WORLD BEATERS AGAIN

Twice in six months, Ireland have stemmed the remarkable runs of two sides seeking to extend the world record for successive wins.

After New Zealand were downed in Chicago in thrilling style, this was a victory of a different hue but no less lacking in substance for all that.

Now the key for Joe Schmidt’s side is to develop a swagger that can ensure that they become a team who are targeted by the world’s best.

All the top three nations in the world have been beaten by Ireland within the last 12 months - defeats to Scotland and Wales during that spell undermine those achievements.

Nobody is demanding Ireland win 18 games in a row - they just need to be more consistent.

Depth, despite the coach’s doubts, should not be an issue; as against Australia, Ireland were depleted here and England had riches on the bench but the home side still prevailed.

This should set a standard - instead of rebounding from adversity, Ireland should be regularly inflicting adversity on their opponents

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LION KING SEXTON

If there was a possibility that Warren Gatland, high in the stands, may have been tempted to deploy Owen Farrell as his out-half in the New Zealand winter, this evening’s argument ended the debate.

Sexton, even without his regular half-back partner, Conor Murray, was utterly dominant aside from a couple of carelessly long, unpunished kicks from the hand.

Benefiting from a second play-maker in Jared Payne, Sexton combined his usual torrent of astonishing bravery - he was responsible for two mammoth choke tackle turnovers in his own half - with the effortless control which makes him a nailed on ten for Gatland’s men.

Lineout maul pays off

Ireland had been much criticised for refusing penalties during this championship and, although their early three-pointer was obviously kickable, that the side spurned their next opportunity may have seemed a foolhardy call.

Instead, it was a brave one. With O’Mahony now an auxiliary lineout option, he was hit at the tail, where England’s defence was its weakest and Ireland drove on through, ultimately earning the reward through Iain Henderson’s try.

It was a high-risk gamble; one which had stung them on their travels this championship but this time it paid off. A later maul that was twisted and held up confirmed the gamble is not always a profitable one.

Something Different

Ireland needed to adapt their game as it had become too predictable in recent games and, by subtly changing the point of attack on several occasions, they kept the English defence guessing.

Even when the lineout maul had worked brilliantly for a try, they bluffed England the next time they refused the three-pointer, playing the ball off the top. Sowing the seeds of doubt.

Some predictable, or more correctly, unpredictable, power plays from the famed Schmidt text-book didn’t always come off but at least it eliminated the one-paced nature of the attack.

The contrast was evident when Ireland were static in attack; it was a mixed bag but the good stuff was very good.

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High shots

For all the talk from World Rugby about the danger of head shots, the officials yesterday missed a surfeit of high tackles which were not only unpunished, but seemingly not even deemed necessary of a repeat showing.

Owen Farrell and the recidivist English back-rower, Maro Itoje, were guilty of repeated high tackles but play was allowed to continue; aside from this, there were also a series of neck rolls, on both sides, which went blissfully unwhistled.

Even aside from all this, Monsieur Reynal’s adjudication of the rucks baffled both sides - and the paying public.

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