Perhaps I spread the “tough love” a bit too thick in my writeup of Emerging Ireland’s second match in this tournament against Uruguay; I have had a few pangs of guilt since I posted it.
Basically what I wanted to convey was that even though we won by a whopper of a scoreline, all was not well with our performance, particularly in the area of ball retention. However, even though this display against the host nation wasn’t exactly a marked improvement on that score, since we not only won but the victory led to a trophy I’d be a real hardass to lay into the boys for a second time.
So instead what I’ll do is list what I have learned from this “IRB Nations Cup” Tournament.
- THE COMEPTITION’S NAME DOESN’T REALLY GIVE YOU AND IDEA ABOUT WHAT IT IS - “Nations Cup” for me implies a competition for equals. Now don’t get me wrong…I totally get why the IRB run this and the Tblisi Cup equivalent, so that the Russias, Georgias and Romanias of this world can get some competitive action. It’s just that the gap in standard between this, let’s face it, third string Irish squad and the other three nations was SOOO wide that it was never really a contest. I don’t wish to belittle those nations and I’m all for them seeing improvement but to have them face hammerings is hardly going to help them, I would have thought.
- THE IRISH DEFENSIVE SYSTEM IS ALIVE AND WELL THROUGHOUT THE LEVELS - Between them it took Russia, Uruguay and Romania a total of 203 minutes to get a try against this Emerging Ireland squad, and to be honest I doubt the Russians would have come close even if they had the 34 that were denied them by lightning. I reckon the players who make those national squads are used to a lot of broken play when they play week in week out but they were totally stumped when faced with proper organization and of course the choke tackle. Romania eventually got themselves a penalty try on 77 minutes in the finale but I’d hardly hold this against the Emerg-Ires at the very end of a long season.
- IAN DAVIES SEEMS TO BE A DECENT REF - He got good writeups for the way he handled the lightning scenario and I guess you could say he was “rewarded” with the deciding match in this series, and he did ok faced with a few tricky calls and to his credit did his best to let things go towards the end as the home crowd longed for their boys to at least reach double digits on the scoreboard. Could break through to bigger occasions next season.
- ROMANIAN FOR “PICK AND GO” IS “PICK AND GO” - Who knew? Seriously though…having gotten well used to TG4, S4C and BBC Alba commentaries over the years I sure wasn’t going to let a bit of Romanian stop me from watching the action. Their TV director could do with telling that after placekicks it’s always better to be done with the replays in time for the ensuing restart, though.
The tries the Emerg-Ires did score on the day were nothing much to write home about…it took us 26 minutes to cross and when we did it was thanks to a mistake in the Romanian halfback line which was pounced on by James Tracy and eventually finished by skipper Dominic Ryan thanks to some, shall we say, “creative” support by Tommy O’Donnell (pushing one Romanian defender out of the way and grabbing another).
Then it looked like the floodgates would open as a decent combination involving Ian Keatley and Eoin Griffin out left was finished by Craig Gilroy. Perhaps this try WAS something to write home about but throughout the match there were so many opportunities out wide that weren’t finished that to convert just the one doesn’t get me too excited. But I’m veering towards the negative again…on to the next try.
The second half had barely kicked off when a clearance from his own 22 by the Romanian outhalf Florin Vlaicu was charged down by Gilroy and fell nicely into the the hands of Robin Copeland who just simply powered through and over the line.
Finally we had a penalty try ourselves right at the death when Andrew Conway was denied in the corner by a “tackle” which strongly resembled that by Liam Williams against the Springboks on Saturday and got similar treatment from the officials.
Look…of course as an Irish fan I want to see silverware being brought home and if we’re good enough to win this tournament then that’s good enough for me. Maybe things didn’t gel too well offensively but with all four provinces represented I doubt many of the combinations will find themselves together too many times down the line.
The defence thing was a good sign, and as I already said it’s in this area where the Tier 2 nations need to improve, be it implementing the system themselves or at least finding a way through it.
Now, the Irish rugby season is absolutely, definitely, positively at an end. And well done also to Mike Ruddock and his “Wolfpuppies” for their brave display against New Zealand on Friday - another case where the scoreline told little of the performance only this time in a good way for Ireland!
What now for HarpinOnRugby? Well obviously we will be taking things down a notch or two over the coming weeks but we won’t be going away completely, stay tuned to the social media channels (see tabs at the top of the page) and be sure to keep up the commenting, “Like”ing, RTing and “+1”ing that you can.
Next on our list will be to follow the remainder of the Super Rugby campaign paying particular attention to Michael Cheika’s Waratahs and Leinster’s new signing Kane Douglas. Then there’s the Rugby Championship to bring us towards the end of August and Leinster’s pre-season friendlies against Northampton and Ulster.
Plenty to look forward to, hope you’ll stay with us along the way. JLP