Irish Puzzle No Closer To Being Solved

In their last four matches against Italy, the Irish had managed to put at least 54 points on their opponents in utterly dominant fashion. Yet last Sunday in Rome, the reigning Six Nations Champions laboured their way to less than half of that total, although they did head home with five points in the bag. Was this good? Was it incredibly worrying? Why did Jan’s dad feel it necessary to give the kidnapper a hand-job in Abducted in Plain Sight?

Let’s try and break down some of those key questions and more, as Ireland escaped from Rome with a 16-26 win…

The Six Nations dream is still alive, what the f*ck is your problem?

Despite the defeat to England on home soil, Ireland’s bonus point win in Italy paired with Wales’ demolition of the English chariot means that the Irish are certainly not without a chance of still winning this Six Nations. While they’ll need a favour from the notoriously travel sick Scots who travel to Twickenham in the final round, it could all come down to a mouth-watering tie against Wales in Cardiff on March 16th. The four tries in Rome keep Ireland in contention, so what’s everyone moaning about?

Struth, that’s three very questionable performances on the spin…

It certainly wasn’t great, more special brew lager than champagne rugby. This was the closest score-line between these two teams for six years, and while Italy were handy in places, Ireland helped that cause with some buttery old mitts.

Despite it being warm and sunny in Rome, there were 15 Irish handling errors and five lost lineouts in what was a mystifying performance. Sean Cronin’s overthrows at the lineout were potentially criminal while Rob Kearny had a rough day at the office, missing a key tackle in the Italian’s first try and then watching the ball bounce off his legs in the build up to the second one.

Sean O’Brien was a thundering colossus in the win in Scotland, but here he coughed up possession and was penalised three times at the breakdown in the first half alone. For the third Six Nations game in a row it just wasn’t clicking.

Ireland at least broke a 5-year streak…

At the risk of going full Brendan Rodgers, Ireland showed plenty of character after going into the break 16-12 behind. It was the first time the Irish had recovered from a half-time deficit to win since the second test in Argentina five years ago. Since that day, Ireland had lost all 10 games in which they’d been behind at the break. Despite the wobbly showing, Joe Schmidt will must be delighted to see the team not only add two tries to their tally in the second half to secure the win and buck the trend, but also bag the bonus point.

The less we say about Sean Cronin’s performance the better.

Yeah there were timing issues at the lineout, but this 47-minute performance was nightmare stuff. Moving swiftly on…

Peter O’Mahony led by example.

Skip for the day put in a solid performance and was a nuisance to the Italians all afternoon. Only Ultan Dillane (20) put in more tackles than O’Mahony’s 14, while he won some crucial turnovers to stop Italian momentum. The Munster man was pivotal in helping secure Ireland’s bonus point try in the 67th minute and was the stand-out performer in a green jersey.

Conor Murray’s struggles continue.

The scrum-half got over the line to score late on and kicked two conversions, but Bieber’s performance was still rusty for large parts of the game. An early handling error set the tone for the afternoon and just before half-time opposing scrum-half Tito Tebaldi nicked the ball from Murray to set up a counter-attack that led to an Italian try. Things got better for Murray, who is still working his way back from that neck injury that cost him the first few months of the season, but it will have been another frustrating afternoon for him.

Yeah, don’t really have an explanation for Jan’s dad to be honest…

A truly mystifying way to reward the bloke who’d go on to kidnap your 12-year-old daughter, convince her there was an alien invasion, and marry her in Mexico. Struggling to work this one out really. It’s a maverick move to say the least. Makes about as much sense as this Ireland performance…

Josh Powell
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All images - PA.


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