IN CASE OF EMERGE-NCY, BREAK SWEAT
If ever a result needed to be put into context, it's this one.
The stream was pretty awful as the match was played but I was able to get hold of a decent recording and having watched the full 80 I think it's very important to explain just how poor the opposition was.
Now to be fair..I'd know a lot more about Uruguay’s soccer team than their rugby one even if Luis Suarez wasn't playing, but believe me when I tell you that although I am only offering a couple of reasons I believed them to be below standard, I could probably have found many more.
Putting the kickoff straight into touch then getting munched at the resulting scrum coughing up a penalty with barely 30 seconds on the clock wasn't exactly the best first impression Uruguay could have made on this particular blogger.
Also, teams cough up yellow cards in a game, there's nothing surprising about that. But when you do things like take a lock out of the air in mid jump or manhandle a scrum half at a ruck before he even crouches to pick up the ball, if you then look at the ref with bemusement as he flashes the card, I have to wonder if these guys were really up on the rules in the first place.
But the most telling sign that Uruguay were extremely awful comes from our side of the equation. We somehow managed to serve up a fifty burger despite one of the worst displays in the area of ball retention by an Irish team I have seen in the professional era.
Honestly...I'm not going for George Hook style doom and gloom hyperbole here...we were positively terrible with the ball. I didn't keep track but I'd comfortably say that the amount of possessions we threw away had to be in double digits.
Sometimes it was a pass thrown astray but more often than not it was a simple case of not enough numbers at the breakdown leading to holding after the tackle penalties and even the biggest crime of all - an opponent simply walking through and picking up the unguarded ball. This was even going on when the Uruguay number 7 was in the sin bin, by the way.
OK – maybe there are some mitigating circumstances...this is a squad of players not used to playing together, and they quite possibly will never play together again. And if the overall idea behind the tour is for fringe players to get a sense of what travelling is like, then mission accomplished. But knowing the type of game Joe Schmidt likes to play, I couldn't writeup this game simply by describing how Emerging Ireland's six tries were scored.
Now, to describe how Emerging Ireland's six tries were scored.
The first was an early great combination of kick through from JJ Hanrahan and pick up & touch down by Craig Gilroy. Then Michael Kearney got the put down after breaking through defenders who were looking at each other. Despite being three-nil down for about five seconds the result was never ever at all in doubt.
But from then until the end of the game, the only reasons we were getting into their 22 was because (a) Uruguay couldn't keep the ball either (b) they were coughing up penalty after penalty and (c) our set pieces were in good nick - dominance in these areas led to penalty try, a couple of lineout/maul push-overs and a quick lineout from captain-for-the-day Johne Murphy which Paul Marshall finished well. It’s just when we had your bog standard possession in midfield we were going nowhere and luckily for us we had plenty of penalties and kicks to the corner to get us out of jail.
Obviously you don't rack up that amount of points without doing something right but I honestly believe if this same performance were done against a better organised team we would have struggled. I know all the players involved in our squad and what they can do but based on this outing, there wasn't one who made me think “they should have been in Argentina with the senior squad”. Players did good things in the match it's true, but almost to a man they seemed to cancel them out with a costly error.
I suppose what I'm saying is that although it's great for the players involved to don the green jersey and be involved in a tour, I just wonder how much technical good it's doing them against such poor opposition. Maybe the Romanians on their home patch will offer something on Sunday? Personally I'd prefer if there was an extra match added to the tour like a final between the winner of this comp and the Tblisi Cup but that's a debate for another day.
Sorry for the negativity folks...I know a win is a win and all that and these lads will all go on to do great things but for this one post on this one match I'm just saying what I saw. JLP