Category: Archive

Wales dominate to take Crown as plan misfires

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

The margin was four points, and it could well have been 24 such was the nature of Wales’s dominance during the second half. True, the winners blew numerous scoring chances and never truly drove home their supremacy, but that was down to their relative inadequacies than to any heroic defense by the Irish.
So, Wales deservedly left Dublin with the Triple Crown (for winning a championship within a championship which also includes Ireland, England and Scotland) and on Saturday, a Grand Slam beckons when they take on France in Cardiff.
As for Ireland, the green shoots of a revival which had sprung up following the victory over Scotland appear already to have withered. This performance was more reminiscent of the one-paced, one-dimensional, conservative stodge which had been served up during last year’s dismal World Cup campaign.
For the best part of 30 minutes in the first half, the Irish game plan of going toe-to-toe with the opposition forwards, and of kicking for field position, had been reasonably effective, but once Wales saw what was happening, and worked out a way to counteract it, Ireland were bereft.
A more ruthless, clinical side than the Welsh would have piled on a few scores after that, but perhaps due to the pressure of the occasion, and to the depressing fact that Wales are really nothing special, the contest remained a contest – on the scoreboard at least – for the duration of the second half.
The limited Irish tactics meant that the combined talents of Brian O’Driscoll, Shane Horgan, Andrew Trimble and Tommy Bowe were never utilised. A lunge by Horgan, which fell agonizingly short of the line, was the nearest Ireland came to scoring a try, and the 12 points came from the reliable boot of Ronan O’Gara.
As the forwards eventually had to play second fiddle to the Welsh, rookie full back Rob Kearney was the only one of the Irish contingent to emerge with his reputation intact. With his willingness to counterattack and to take a risk or two, he stood out like a beacon on a gloomy day.
It was obvious that the game plan conceived by coach, Eddie O’Sullivan, misfired, but what frustrated a packed Croke Park most of all was the team’s failure to implement any Plan B. After all, this is not an inexperienced group of players. Paul O’Connell, David Wallace, Donncha O’Callaghan, John Hayes, O’Driscoll, O’Gara and Horgan are grizzled campaigners with hundreds of international appearances among them, and yet, Ireland lacked both direction and motivation.
Already under the microscope in the wake of the World Cup, how Ireland perform against England in London on Saturday could determine O’Sullivan’s future. Controversially awarded a four-year contract extension before the depths of the World Cup, his bosses may have to be prepared to fork out some compensation if the gloom doesn’t lift quickly.
What is certain is that team captain O’Driscoll, who tore a hamstring in the late stages of last weekend’s game, is sidelined, and in O’Connell will take over the leadership duties.
Where other coaches might be tempted to shuffle the deck, it’s unlikely that O’Sullivan will make sweeping personnel changes in the hope of freshening things up. “I’ve always been told, ‘Listen, go out and wins as many championship games as you can each year. Whatever it takes, get it done. That’s the job,'” he said. “No one has ever come to me and said, ‘See how things go and if you want to throw a few young fellas in at Twickenham, don’t be afraid of it.’ I don’t think you make strategic changes in the middle of the championship.”
His bosses would agree with the point about not making strategic changes on the run, but when the championship is over come Saturday evening, there might just be one big change at the top of Irish rugby.

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