Oh Joe, you cunning tactician you. Making us miss your presence less come the end of the World Cup with a subpar performance that flew in the face of all expectations. Ok, there’s a chance I’m still in denial. Who wouldn’t be though right? That was one of the worst Irish performances of the Schmidt era, capitalised on brilliantly by one of the best I’ve seen from England in a long long time. So what happened and what happens next?
I gave up. I won’t bullshit anyone, I flat out gave up. Why wouldn’t I though – we simply don’t come back from moments like that. How many times have Ireland mounted a last minute comeback that simply falls short? How many times have they given up the lead moments from the end? This was New Zealand 2013, the difference being that, for once, we were New Zealand.
I was a little negative last week, I accept that. I don’t think it was unjustified but I am certainly happy to be proven wrong. For the second time in 6 years Ireland have spoiled the English Grand Slam party and by doing so on Paddy’s weekend have left a certain sheen on their 2017 Six Nations campaign. A sheen can be dangerous though, and Ireland’s shortcomings this season cannot be forgotten.
I’ve deleted the first two drafts of this guys, bear with me. Last Friday’s loss in Cardiff was not only deeply upsetting in relation to Ireland’s title hopes – it was easily the most infuriating performance from the green army since Schmidt took charge of the team. Yes, I even include the Argentina loss in the World Cup and the 2013 loss to the All Blacks in there. This was awful.
In any other year we would probably meter expectation after a demolishing of Italy, especially with such an embarrassing showing from the Azzurri as we got on Saturday. In a Six Nations where Ireland need to make amends for a poor start and tries/points are more relevant than ever though, this was promising stuff.
Every game in the Six Nations is a must-win. Lose one, the Slam is gone, the Triple Crown too potentially, and with no round robin structure or pool stages the competition is already much further out of your control than it already was. That being said, we have recent precedent for a team losing their opener and still winning the tournament – Wales in 2013. Back then there were no bonus points and the Welsh had been well and truly battered by Ireland in the opening game. You’d swear that opening game never happened as they nonchalantly proceeded to run home with the trophy come the final game against England. There’s hope, that’s all I’m saying!
Finally into the business end of the league now that all Pro 12 teams are out of European contention, the table is looking awfully crowded. Funny that it is given that form would suggest the top 4 teams are as good as qualified but with three weeks remaining it could fall either way. There’s a lot of notions and permutations to rattle through so we’ll do our best to get our heads around them now. Continue reading Pro 12 – Tough At The Top