IRELAND FINISH YEAR IN STYLE
Well, the Irish rugby team came through when it really mattered. With all the pressure of having to achieve a win, they did so, and with some style, playing Argentina off the park and putting in their most complete performance of the year.
There was a lot riding on this game, and there was a worry that Ireland might buckle under the pressure, like they have previously, but the team instead fed off the challenge and were terrific, scoring 7 tries, and winning the match, 46-24.
It was a much better performance all around, than the South African game. The forwards were colossal. The Argentinian pack is one of the most feared in the world and yet the Ireland 8 pushed them around at will, especially in the scrum.
The line-out was much improved, with Richard Strauss and Donncha Ryan at their best. Strauss, especially, was much better than he had been against the Springboks, terrorising the opposition, and getting a try. He put up a real challenge for Rory Best.
Heaslip had a much better game as captain, and he’s showing his best form in quite some time. Flankers Henry and O’Mahony were good but didn’t cement their places. Declan Kidney will be happy that Sean O’Brien has returned from injury to Leinster.
The backs attacked with real flair, cutting the opposition to shreds. Jonny Sexton was at his best, scoring 2 tries, and marshalling the back-line like a veteran. His place-kicking was off (he missed 3) but otherwise it was a great performance.
Tommy Bowe also got a brace, after been quiet in recent games, and D’Arcy showed that he’s not out to pasture yet. Simon Zebo put in a more complete performance than 2 weeks ago, though not enough to challenge Rob Kearney.
Earls ran very well, though likewise he won’t present a challenge to O’Driscoll. Murray, though, sealed the number 9 slot, playing much better than Boss or Reddan have in ages.
The real star, though, was Craig Gilroy, who came through his first test brilliantly. He showed he wasn’t at all overawed by the occasion, and ran like he had against Fiji, cutting lines through Argentina, and getting a try.
The performance was much better all around, and Ireland now go into the 6 Nations with some confidence. The team’s confidence will also be boosted by the fact that we’re now ranked 6th in the world, ahead of 2012 Grand Slam champions Wales.
It was a great way to finish off the year, a much needed win, and confident team performance. There were some negatives, the foot went off the pedal in the second half and Argentina were able to score 2 tries, but all in all a great game.
Things haven’t been so good for the other Home Nations, though. England put in a lacklustre performance against a weak South African team. The game finished 16-15 to South Africa, with England unable to score the winning points.
This defeat marks the 11th in a row against the Springboks, and England seem to be unravelling all the good work of last seasons 6 Nations. They face a very tough test next week, against New Zealand.
The All Blacks come off a dominant performance against Wales. Though Wales played better than they have recently, it still wasn’t enough to challenge New Zealand, and the match finished, 33-10. Wales face Australia next week.
Wales are in a real crisis at the moment. They’ve suffered a serious drop in form since winning the Grand Slam, and have a lot of injury concerns. They’ve lost 6 games since the Grand Slam win, the worst of these was to Samoa.
Scotland are in serious trouble. They lost to Tonga over the weekend. This was the final straw for the Scottish Rugby Union, who’ve seen their team fall to 12th in the rankings. Coach Andy Robinson has fallen on his sword, resigning from the job.
Scotland will have a tough time finding a new coach before the next 6 Nations (they have 3 months), and serious restructuring needs to be done to the game in that country if they are to have any chance of contesting against the top nations.