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This whole “analysing rugby online” craic is great, I love it. But you probably know that, seeing as how I have a blog and all.
And it’s clear I’m not the only one who does it, judging by the other blogs, not to mention all the detailed comments that come pouring into all of them, and long may they continue. It has to be good for the sport overall to have so many dedicated fans scrutinising the action picking up things that may have been missed (intentionally or not) by the pundits.
But sometimes we are reminded of the limits that must exist in our scope of examination. And one of those reminders came during the week, when the IRFU received some complaints about the photos of the players enjoying themselves in Niagara Falls. I had also seen a few “harrumphs” about the place concerning Paddy Jackson and Simon Zebo’s lip-sync rapping.
This is when we need to make it clear to those not so up to speed on the online world that not all of us are saddos with nothing better to do than give out about anything and everything. Once in a while we can show that we are capable of appreciating the whole of what’s going on rather than the sum of its parts.
If you really wanted to, you could find much at fault with this Ireland performance. Some of the selections didn’t seem to make sense, substitutions happened a lot later than they should, and most of all the Canadians had the lead as the final quarter got closer.
But then I remind myself of just how the past 12 months have gone for the Irish team. It has been an unmitigated disaster. You COULD go as far back as the defeat to Wales in the World Cup, but I’d rather focus on more recent times and my starting point of choice is the 60-0 drubbing in Hamilton.
That plus the 2013 Six Nations campaign should serve as a major dose of perspective for anyone planning to pour cold water over two victories in North America, especially when the second was far more convincing than the first and ironed out many of its faults.
So with a Lions test series to look forward to, as in there will no doubt be much critique and analysis to come over the next few weeks, I am going to give an account of this test match which simply focuses on the seven tries.
- TRIMBLE – In Houston one of Ireland’s biggest problems was our lineouts, in that we were making them far more complicated than they need have been. I’m delighted to say that was sorted, and as a reward all of the first four tries came from them. This first one was beautifully simplistic…lineout win, pass to Madigan, chop over the top of the onrushing defence, catch by McFadden deep in the 22, set up phases, ship it quickly out wide, finish by Trimble who still had much to do. Perhaps a Lions call-up would have been a more just reward for the Ulster winger after a fine season, but it was reward nonetheless.
- McFADDEN (1) – Not to be outdone by his opposite winger, the next time Fergus McFadden caught a kick from Madigan off a lineout it was his turn to beat a few defenders and dot down. Sure, the positioning of the Canadian back three was awful but the finish still had to be applied.
- ARDRON – We took our foot off the pedal a bit then and needed a wakeup call, thankfully the Candians supplied it. Isaac Boss rolled the dice and lost with ref Leighton Hodges’ call of “use it” and before long we were defending on our own line where blindside Tyler Ardron (who must get a lot of “collider” jokes) crashed over to make Irish fans start to regret slagging their Welsh counterparts earlier that day over their defeat to Japan.
- CAVE – Another routine lineout, only this time Madigan kept the ball on the ground and it was Kevin McLaughlin who made the clean break as Darren Cave was rewarded for his good support by getting his first international try.
- McFADDEN (2) – The “bonus point” was secured after yes, another lineout win, followed by a few phases and then this time it was Dan Tuohy who did the “crashing through” (while clearly not appreciating the meaning of the term “hand-off” when faced by Canadian centre Ciaran Hearn) before offloading to Toner who in turn put in McFadden for his second.
- O’DONNELL – Again we were a bit fortunate in that Paul Marshall’s ill-advised reverse scoop pass looked a tad forward but we’re here to focus on the positive and after a fine season despite Munster’s woes it was good to see Tommy O’Donnell get his own maiden test 5-pointer with a powerful finish.
- McFADDEN (3) – I doubt there was an official “player of the tour” award but if there was, Fergus sealed it with this one. After all the lineout success it was good to round things off with a try from a 5m scrum. After O’Mahony was held up the first time, Marshall simply scooped it to his winger who completed his hat-trick by motoring for the corner at an angle past the weary home defence. And to round off the tour perfectly, Paddy Jackson nailed the conversion from the touchline as coach Neil Doak looked on. There must be something about having someone named Neil behind you for those kicks it seems!
So there we have it. There was a bit of niggle in this match – O’Mahony may want to cool his jets as skipper but he will no doubt assume the role at Munster so he can work on that. The Canadians gave it their best shot and congrats to James Pritchard for becoming their all-time leading scorer.
The off-the-field highlight of the match was the lads in the crowd with the t-shirts which had “the craic is mighty, just ask the mayor”. THIS was the right way to approach this match, and I’m happy to say those lads were rewarded over 80 minutes by those out on the pitch.
The IRFU are taking steps to eradicate the disasters of the past 12 months, and given we got two victories on this tour we should see it as a positive and give the new coaching ticket some space for what promises to be a baptism of fire in November with the ever-improving Samoans up first before we face the two Bledisloe Cup rivals.
If Joe can bring a fraction of the success with him from Leinster to the Irish set-up, we keyboard warriors are going to have precious little to moan about. JLP