Hats off and all that jazz, Wales were superb. The most fair outcome of Saturday’s fixture was that the scoreline for Wales’ yellow card was 6 – 3 Ireland. Not that the yellow wasn’t deserved but it would have been an injustice to nab a lead against a Welsh side who were deserving winners from the first second in such unceremonious circumstances. There is also the issue that Ireland were extremely below par which all led to this absolutely enthralling spectacle in Cardiff.
Let’s look at Ireland first and, unfortunately, dwell on where it all went wrong. The game began with Ireland knocking on at the kick off and it all just kept falling apart from there. Jonathan Sexton was the most notable of the fifteen to fall flat, having an inexplicably bad day with the boot and two early missed tackles were extremely against form for him. Others shocked in their inability though; Conor Murray and Rory Best in particular had days to forget across the pitch, but ultimately there was nothing the Irish could do.
Wales did to Ireland exactly what Ireland did to England two weeks previous. Regardless of the fact that the men in green started off a little shaky, the intensity they were greeted by threw the game out of their reach and there it stayed. Not that it needs clarification but the match was lost at the fiftieth minute. Ireland began what would become a 32 phase siege and though their effort was gargantuan the Welsh defence held firm in a way no other has before. It didn’t look for one second as though Ireland would break the line.
It is here though that we get to the crux of the argument. I have been careful not to fall into the Schmidt tactics debate but the lack of creativity from Ireland on Saturday was alarming. At least three times, one glaringly obvious example included, Ireland just needed to go wide and they could have sailed in for a try. The plan is too safe, but whether that is coming from on high or coming about from a lack of risk taking about the squad remains to be seen. The title is now there for England, Wales or Ireland and the closing weekend is going to be electric. Wales need 20+ points on Italy, Ireland need a win by as high a margin as possible. Oh and, if France could just find form and win that’d be great. It’s still doable, and a loss isn’t the end of the world if it means some truth will hit the squad, but if the title is to be lost it should be in admirable fashion. As Eddie O’Sullivan so brilliantly put it, never die wondering.
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