Tuesday, September 20, 2011

4/5 ain't bad for the Aussies... but what a win for the Irish!!

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”

A journalist once likened the performance of Irish Rugby Captain Brian O’Driscoll to the Vince Lombardi quote. Today I ask is this quote still applicable to the entire Irish squad?

I’m no George Hook (not that I want to be.... after all who would?) but having witnessed a deflated Irish squad in their pre world cup games, I wasn’t quite sure what they were chasing!!

Their first game against the US A was hardly worthy of headlines either, but a week later, in a week where Australia were confidently eyeing up their opponent, the Irish rugby squad reminded us why we love the sport so much.

I can’t offer a review of the intricacies of Saturday morning’s game, as I once asked a rugby enthusiast what happens in a scrum, to which the response was ‘It’s dark place down there.... I couldn’t possibly say'! So instead, today I shall offer a review on the momentum, pace and energy that instilled a sense of pride in the nation.

Australia emerged in New Zealand prepared for a win, having met Ireland on four occasions and secured a victory on each occasion, why wouldn’t they be? Back home, thousands of supporters emerged from their beds for a 9.30am start (an hour of the morning we don’t see all that often on Saturdays) not overly optimistic! At the off chance of sounding a little negative, I’ll kick start this on a positive note, David Pocock, aka the fearsome Aussie back row, was out and was instead replaced with Ben McCalman, who until today had never played at seven in an international.

It was a collapsed scrum which saw the Aussie’s put the first 3 points on the scoreboard, with a kick from O’Connor. Despite a missed first opportunity, Sexton evened the scoreboard, after the Irish squad forced another Aussie penalty. The Irish squad we all know and love appeared to have resurfaced, fourteen phases of quality play, results in Sexton landing a drop goal 19 minutes in. Offside against Sean O’Brien ensured the Aussies level the game.

After a couple more scrums, the referee having enough of the Aussies collapsing the scrum, a missed opportunity by Sexton to put Ireland in the lead, some fantastic performances from Ferris, Heaslip and Healy we are level at half time. Ireland 6 – 6 Australia.

As play resumed we saw the Aussie counter attack rip the Irish defence open, but O’Driscoll and O’Brien ensured this was short lived, at the breakdown Australia were offside, resultant of which was a kick from Sexton and we regained our lead once more.

O’Gara replaced D’arcy, and Murray, Reddan. Continued superb efforts on the field ensured another kick for Sexton which unfortunately hit the post, and Ireland scrambled to get the rebound. It is then the passion behind these players is evident , they have a purpose, they are here to right the wrongs of their four previous games against the Aussies.

O’Brien and Ferris force another Australian error on the ground, resultant of which is a scrum for Ireland. Three collapsed scrums and a penalty for Ireland is secured. It is O’Gara who stepped forward, and his experience and professional stand to him, Ireland 12, Australia 6. With ten minutes remaining, Ireland win another penalty, and O’Gara doesn’t disappoint, Ireland 15 – 6 Australia.

A pressurised environment, see an Australian scrum 10 metres from the Irish line, Genia is stopped a metre from the line, another Australian scrum is awarded five metres from the line. A quickly taken Aussie penalty is intercepted by the exceptional Tommy Bowe, who sprints for the line, but is stopped five metres short.
With one minute remaining, a try from Murray is disallowed. Ireland subsequently win a final penalty and the game is over. Final score Ireland 15 – 6 Australia.
Oh how the sweet smell of success engulfs the Irish crowd in Auckland and the Irish supporters glued to their tellies at home. This is what rugby is all about...
A fantastic win! The sheer class, drive and determination displayed by the Irish squad was exceptional. What an epic performance!!!!

Captain Brian O’Driscoll later thanks the crowds, and one can merely note his immense talent on that field tonight, but it should also be noted, that every member of that Irish squad were outstanding.

They may not have been chasing perfection in the warm up games nor in their Rugby World Cup opener against the USA.... but whatever they were chasing tonight, ensured they most definitely caught excellence! Well done lads!!

Saturday 17th September
The Forgotten Irish Graduate