Well, after all the hype and the expectation, Ireland managed to achieve 1 of the poorest overall performances in recent memory. It harked back to the worst days under Kidney and O’Sullivan. Ireland conceded 4 soft tries and never really looked like threatening the Wallaby line. Australia won the match, 32-15. All Ireland’s points came from penalties.
Even when Australia had a man sent off, for a dangerous tackle on Peter O’Mahony, the Irish players didn’t react. By all rights the team should have been out for blood, but they seemed quite phlegmatic about the incident.
(The tackle on O’Mahony was very similar to the infamous ‘spear tackle’ that Brian O’Driscoll suffered while playing for the Lions against the All Blacks back in 2005. Thankfully, while nothing was done on that occasion, the laws have gotten much tougher in recent years and the perpetrator was deservedly sent off in today’s match. Those kinds of tackles are very dangerous and should not be tolerated.)
Ireland held their own in the scrums and the lineouts but there was little else positive about their performance. The defence was poor, allowing Australia to score 4 easy tries, while a possible 5th try was disallowed by the referee.
In contrast, Ireland rarely threatened the Wallaby line and could never gain a real advantage. Sean O’Brien, who did such damage to Australia during the Lions series, was completely nullified in today’s match. The Australians kept a few men on him and O’Brien hardly gained a yard all day.
Ironically (for me anyway), Ireland’s best player on the day was Fergus McFadden, who performed most of Ireland’s attacking runs and looked to be our biggest threat (and after I’d said he wasn’t a big-match player!). Overall, the team seemed to lack motivation and that elusive will-to-win.
It doesn’t bode well for Ireland’s match against New Zealand next week. Ireland have never beaten the All Blacks and New Zealand are on a real roll at the moment (New Zealand beat England earlier in the day, 30-22). While New Zealand currently have concerns about Dan Carter’s fitness, there also appears to be injury concerns about Jonny Sexton. Sexton would be a much greater loss to Ireland than Carter would be to New Zealand.
It was a very disappointing performance by Ireland. The only plus was that I got to see the game live. My brother was going with a friend of his and they had an extra ticket so they invited me, very kindly. It was a great atmosphere, though Irish fans were obviously a bit downhearted. I’m used to seeing the games on tv so it was great to see it all live!