Ireland v New Zealand November 2013 – View from a Couch

If you are expecting a detailed analysis of the match you will not find it here. I may know what a forward pass means but most of the rest of the technical rules of rugby still evade me, why they choose a line out instead of a scrum or where and what a player can do when they are trying to turn an opposing member over etc. is a mystery. Nevertheless it has not stopped me attending Irish Rugby Internationals and watching many, many more on television. 

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I tuned in last Sunday with much apprehension.  It is always a joy to watch the historically formidable All Blacks in action, though usually easier to watch them playing against other nations. As always the pundits were cagily in favour of the New Zealand warriors without sounding to negative.

Almost from the starting whistle there was something different in the air. The Irish team were tight, the ball flowed from Greenshirt to Greenshirt, and less than 5 mins in we were 7 nil up on the All Blacks, unbelievable, 10  minutes in we were 14-0 over the All Blacks. The backlash was expected.

My eyes had never seen an Irish team looking better. The mistakes were gone, they were not giving the New Zealand players any room to manoeuvre. Though they managed to get one try in before half time, we also managed another. Still no backlash.

While the crowd were behind the team, Ryle Nugent was beginning to sound like a castrati, and collectively we were beginning to dare to believe but there was one man who, for a brief moment, showed us that he was seeing more clearly than the rest of us.

At 19-7 ahead and with a few seconds gone over the first 40 minutes the ball was kicked into the Irish half. All they need to do was kick it to touch and the Greenshirts were to get a well earned breather. Instead it lands into the arms of Brian O’Driscoll. Did he try to kick it to touch? No, he had his sights set on the distant New Zealand line. He remembered something that the rest of us in our excitement had all but forgotten. They were the All Blacks and we needed to get as far from their score as we possibly could. But within seconds he was tackled and the whistle blew.

Half time 19-7. Giddyness.

On another day we might even have been somewhat pleased to have kept the score  7-19 to the All Blacks.

The second half was as good, it was the New Zealand team who began to make mistakes and for the first time in my life they looked almost ordinary. We extended our score to 22 and then the All Blacks began to creep up and the backlash arrived, not with the usual force but the effect was almost worse than a 60-0 defeat. I cannot bring myself to describe the heart breaking fall from one of the loftiest heights the Irish team have probably ever suffered in their history.

But all I can say about this Irish team is that they were beautiful to watch, playing with more passion, coherence and fluidity and less faults than ever before.

They should be prouder of this loss than many of their other wins put together.

If they can keep this momentum going they shouldn’t lose another game for a very long time.

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