David Corkery: Job done but Ireland are not the formidable force as we hoped

An early red card ruined the Six Nations clash at Twickenham for many supporters
David Corkery: Job done but Ireland are not the formidable force as we hoped

Ireland’s Tadhg Beirne celebrates after the game. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland

JUST 82 seconds into the game, out came the red card and what should have been one hell of a Six Nations encounter went up in smoke.

It isn’t that often that I get to go to a Six Nations game these days but on this occasion, I managed to swing myself a corporate invite that was too good to turn down.

So, after all the pleasantries that go hand in hand with mixing it with the upper crust, there I was sitting in my seat anticipating a good auld physical battle between a very much in-form Ireland and a somewhat out-of-sorts England. 

However, as soon as French referee Mathieu Raynal brandished the red card towards England’s Charlie Ewels for a head-to-head clash with James Ryan, it was as if everyone in the stadium just had their lunch money taken from them. The atmosphere completely collapsed.

Honestly, you could almost feel the sense of disappointment reverberate around what was two minutes earlier an overflowing cauldron of passion.

For as long as I have been watching Ireland and England lock horns, especially in London, I cannot recall ever seeing the bookies unanimously proclaim Ireland as outright favourites. This is how it was here and you could see from the off that the establishment that is English rugby did not like it one bit.

Apart from New Zealand and South Africa on occasions, no other team runs out onto the consecrated turf of Twickenham with the favourites tag dangling from their necks and especially not little old Ireland.

All games of this importance normally start with a beating of the chests by both sides in an attempt to gain the upper hand however, when England found themselves steering down the barrel of 78 minutes of playing with 14, they very quickly gathered the troops and launched an all-out physical assault on their guests.

Ireland's Johnny Sexton kicks a conversion. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Ireland's Johnny Sexton kicks a conversion. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Maybe Sexton and co thought they were in for a bit of an arm-chair ride when they saw Ewels depart for his very early shower. Whatever happened they completely lost their way and after numerous silly and unforced errors, Andy Farrell must have been scratching his head in disbelief as England started to gain the upper hand in the unfolding arm wrestle.

One of the most important characteristics of the modern game that needs to be controlled and policed is the number of penalties that you concede. By the end of this game, Ireland had coughed up 15 to England’s eight, with six of them emanating from scrum-time.

Considering it was England’s seven men to Ireland's eight and that England had the worst scrum in the tournament, I could not believe my eyes as Ireland got completely dismantled by an English pack that emptied their tank in an attempt to make up for their missing man.

Maybe Tadhg Furlong, Dan Sheehan and Cian Healy were having an off day. However, I can assure you that the absence of Andrew Porter had a massive part to play in how the Irish scrum completely capitulated.

At half-time, Ireland were leading 15-9 thanks to two well-created tries. You could see that England’s confidence was growing though and with every dominant tackle they made and every scrum they governed, you just knew that they were not going to accept going down to 14 as an excuse for losing.

The second half continued in the same vein as the first half ended and by the 65th minute, Ireland found themselves gazing at a scoreboard that read 15-15. There was no way that England could maintain their level of performance, especially as Ireland started to unload the fresh legs from their bench.

Man of the Match Jamison Gibson-Park played a massive part in helping Ireland win this game by maintaining a very quick tempo and continually kept the English backrow honest as he mixed his tactical approach with breaking himself and hitting his first receivers with incredible accuracy.

Hugo Keenan also had a magnificent outing and no matter what aerial bombs Marcus Smith challenged him with he gobbled it up with such confidence and bravery.

Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton, Peter O’Mahony and Andrew Conway during the anthems. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton, Peter O’Mahony and Andrew Conway during the anthems. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

James Lowe took another step on his road to becoming a top-class international winger however, I was disappointed with the contributions offered by Garry Ringrose and Bundee Aki. Neither of them could take advantage of the weak English channels that were there between, Smith and Henry Slade and Slade and Joe Marchant. 

When it matters most, it is imperative that Ireland's midfield find or formulate ways of making linebreaks in this area of the field.

Come the final whistle of this game Ireland had managed to cross the whitewash on two further occasions and in doing so gained a four-try bonus point, thus giving themselves a great opportunity to snatch a championship should England manage to beat France in Paris next week.

Perhaps it is unfair to be somewhat disappointed when you leave Twickenham after scoring four ties to England’s nil, but after watching how the game unfolded, it seems that Ireland are not as complete a side as we thought they were.

I simply cannot see France losing to England next week and whilst Ireland should be able to repel anything the Scots throw at them in Dublin, a Triple Crown and a second-place finishing birth on the table seems just about right for Andy Farrell and his players.

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