Saturday 25 November 2017

Ronan O'Gara accuses Irish players of being 'mentally brittle' in narrow French defeat

Ronan O'Gara was critical of Ireland's offensive gameplan
Ronan O'Gara was critical of Ireland's offensive gameplan Newsdesk Newsdesk

Ireland have seen their chances of securing a third consecutive Six Nations crown dealt a serious blow as France edged them 10-9 in a dour encounter at the Stade de France.

France notched their first victory over Ireland since 2011 thanks to a late, converted Maxime Medard try producing an unlikely victory to make it two from two in this year's Six Nations.

Such was the disparity between the two sides over the opening hour, it would not be harsh to say France, 23-21 winners over Italy in their opening match last weekend, snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

Two-time defending champions Ireland, who opened their campaign with a bruising 16-16 draw against Wales, were completely dominant against a toothless French side in the first 60 minutes, but were unable to convert that pressure into points.

Jonathan Sexton kicked three penalties to one from Jules Plisson in the first-half, before Medard crossed for the decisive try, converted by Plisson, the result of some outstanding forward pressure.

Reacting to the game on RTE, former Ireland winger Shane Horgan said: "They lost because they didn't take their chances in the first half. They had France under the cosh. They'll be sick it was a game they should have won.

"I don't think France are a better team that I thought they were before the game. It's a missed opportunity.

"It also highlights if you don't have a scrum that can compete, you don't stand a chance."

Ronan O'Gara lamented Ireland's inability to pose a serious offensive threat in the loss.

"Everyone will be disappointed, we lacked creativity and the contrast when Machenaud came on I think highlighted... he probed, looked for space and I think he was the difference in the end," he said.

"We had five or six chances to nail that game but we didn't take them and as Shane said it's back to 'no scrum, no win' but as backs we can help the pack out as well.

"It reminds me of going back 10-15 years ago, starting out with  Munster, it was always 3,6,9,12, but that's an awful slog for a team.

"You cannot win Test games by just the boot. That is the difference between the hemispheres at the moment, the ability to score from anywhere.

"We didn't do it (get over the whitewash) for Munster for years and it bit us on the backside."

O'Gara later accused Ireland's players of being 'mentally brittle' in the lead-up to the concession of the Medard try and singled out Robbie Henshaw for criticism at how Ireland had attempted to defend the score.

Brent Pope added: "It doesn't say much for Irish rugby when you say a poor team beat you. The guys are right... there was an inability to score right through the second half and an inability to get into the scoring zone."

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