Monday 22 July 2019

Roy Curtis: This was the R&R show - Ryan and Ringrose stand out on day of redemption for Ireland

Ireland's lock James Ryan catches the ball during the Six Nations international rugby union match between Ireland and France at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, on March 10, 2019. (Photo by DAMIEN MEYER / AFP)DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images
Ireland's lock James Ryan catches the ball during the Six Nations international rugby union match between Ireland and France at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, on March 10, 2019. (Photo by DAMIEN MEYER / AFP)DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images

Roy Curtis

IF Ireland urgently required a booster shot of self-assurance then the freakish, otherworldly talents of James Ryan and Garry Ringrose delivered a restorative, high-octane infusion.

Ryan might have been daubed in Comanche war-paint, so much carnivorous fury did he bring to this hugely redemptive Sunday service. He scrambled French senses, fried their confidence, brought down the guillotine.

A dominant, belligerent, insatiable pack delivered a masterclass of bone-shuddering authority.

If Ireland had bounced like a broken dart off England on their last Aviva outing, here Ryan, CJ Stander, Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong formed a piercing, green arrowhead.

The lock’s miraculous vitality delivered an infinite yield of penetrative carries and pugnacious clear-outs, reminding the Aviva why, at just 22, he is close to a wonder of the rugby world.

Scarcely two minutes had passed when Rory Best, with the inestimable Ryan at his shoulder to add fearsome ballast, morphed into a Banbridge wrecking ball. The captain demolished Antoine Dupont, the French scrum-half razed like a condemned building. Ireland had an early try.

And early spring’s suffocating fog of doubt gave way to a liberating afternoon of sunlit redemption.

Best’s try was the tripwire that set off a subsequent series of shuddering detonations; in terms of physicality, accuracy, ambition and intent, this belonged in a different universe to the earlier anaemic Six Nations sleepwalking.

For France, the Aviva’s wide open acreage assumed the claustrophobic dimensions of a phone box: Ireland’s in-your-face antagonism meant the only openings for a disintegrating Gallic force – at least until those two late consolation tries - were down avenues of desolation.

While the home side were pugnacious and caustic and bristling with intent, a watershed afternoon was by no means constructed solely on foundations of Irish beef.

Joe Schmidt was visibly emotional in the aftermath of his last competitive home game. The rekindling of Johnny Sexton’s flame will have elated the Kiwi driver of Irish standards.

Here was the reawakening of Sexton, the authoritative, domineering, Celtic commander-in-chief; the quarterback of bottomless ambition and pinpoint accuracy who moved beyond all established bandwidths of achievement in 2018.

He scored a try, delivered precision kicking and a grandmaster’s tactical vision. The gale force of his personality propelled Ireland onwards. His Roman scowl gave way to a cloudless Lansdowne Road smile.

The World Player of the Year was hardly alone in fast-tracking Ireland’s return, after a deeply concerning exile, to those boisterous November days of milk and honey.

Indeed, he had to defer to a miraculous talent on his outside shoulder.

Garry Ringrose was able to showcase the full palette of his superior gifts: The soaring rugby IQ, a capacity to burst through the tiniest wormhole of space and what Best had identified before kick off as his X-factor interventions.

One of those magical moments yielded a sumptuous assist for Sexton, the out-half railing against any notion his signature wraparound try had reached its sell-by date. Moments later, Ringrose seemed to soar on a cushion of air to pluck the number ten’s beautifully weighted kick from the sky. It came within centimetres of yielding a wonder try.

Jordan Larmour, like his Leinster team-mate, boasts a vast array of playground feints; he unveiled a thrilling glimpse of his sashaying brilliance in one slaloming second-half incision. His defensive solidity will have pleased Schmidt.

With an eye on the World Cup, the Kiwi will have been elated to see Conor Murray to impressively break free from the trough in form which has held him back since his return from injuries.

But this was the R and R show.

Ireland woke up yesterday hovering between two rooms; Ryan and Ringrose led them away from the lightless dungeon of listless February torpor.

Until Saturday’s trip behind enemy lines to confront a Grand Slam-seeking Wales, it cannot be confidently declared that they have renewed the lease on 2018’s penthouse of high achievement.

But, at least, the elevator’s moorings are no longer loose and Ireland are climbing again.

Ringrose and Ryan are providing so much of that upward momentum.

The pair who inherited the shirts of Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell look increasingly like they boast all the requirements to become Generation Z’s BOD and Paulie.

It was one more intoxicating thought on a day when a powerful, trajectory-altering booster shot of self-esteem coursed through delirious Irish veins.

Online Editors

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