The phrase ‘Impressionable kids’ is one you often hear in use. Then there’s the fact that it’s said first impressions are lasting ones. Now read on…
Andy Farrell’s grandkids obviously copped on fairly quick that his team was better than that of their dad – England fly half Owen. Hence their appearance at Ireland training during the week!
Seriously though, whatever about how good Ireland are at the moment, even from this viewpoint, it’s obvious all is not well in the England camp. By no means would I be an Eddie Jones fan, but the now Australia coach was unquestionably shabbily treated by the RFU.
That said, his replacement Steve Borthwick comes across as a very likeable individual and one who lads should have no trouble going to war for. Yet for whatever reason, the chariots have become rather rickety over the last while. However, just as used to be the case when Meath faced off against Dublin, the two sides seem to bring the best out of each other.
Thus, it was no surprise to see the visitors take the fight to the locals straight from the off and wasn’t also inevitable that it would be two scores by Farrell Jnr from dead balls that essayed them into an early 6-3 lead.
However, somewhere in the evolution of a team they arrive at a juncture whereby it becomes a question not if they will resolve a situation but how they will go about it. Often it will come down to somebody ‘unusual’ stepping up to the plate. Think David O’Leary’s penalty in Genoa, Kevin Foley’s goal for Meath in 1991 or Peter Stringer going over for the try which handed Munster their first European Cup win.
Yesterday, that meant hooker Dan Sheehan going over for two tries. The first of which gave Ireland a 10-6 lead at the break although Ireland’s cause was aided greatly by the dismissal of England’s Freddie Steward just before half time for a high tackle on Ireland’s Hugo Keenan.
Now, there would be no qualms from this seat regarding its definition as a high tackle. Mind you, what does grind my gears is rugby’s pompousity when it comes to the application of its own rules.
You see, when it comes to high tackles or what’s perceived as dangerous play, the party line is “Intent doesn’t come into it”. In other words, ‘If we say it is, it is’. Ignorance. Even listening to referee Jaco Paiper in dispensing the Steward red say, “In the current climate it has to be a red”. No room for discretion. Referees have become yesmen to the suits.
Anyway, ironically it was England who notched the first score of the second half, narrowing the deficit to a point immediately after half time. Though the last thing the best team in the world needed was even more room in which to do their thing.
Which the duly did as the often luckless Robbie Henshaw marked his triumphant return to the side touched down for the team’s third five-pointer. Which as good put one hand on the trophies Ireland’s brilliance deserved.
To England’s credit, they kept plugging away and a Jamie George try – converted by Farrell – made the score 24-16 with seven minutes remaining. Thereafter, though, Ireland did as all good teams do, sensed danger and set about eradicating it.
Again, the layers that all the best sides have shone through when Sheehan – who had already gone over for a brace of tries – was replaced by Rob Herring who himself crossed the whitewash for the game’s final score.
Yes the biggest test of all awaits later in the year, but for now, that’ll do lads, that’ll do.