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Rugby World Cup: Ireland 36 Scotland 14

by Frank Schnittger Sun Oct 8th, 2023 at 05:00:36 PM EST

The first hour of this match was the best I have ever seen Ireland play. Not only were they absolutely clinical in taking nearly all their chances, but they defended as if their lives depended on it. 36-0 and 6 tries to nil after an hour against a very good side like Scotland is the stuff that dreams are made of.

Ireland had a dream start scoring an excellent try off their first real attack thanks to Garry Ringrose doing what he is so good at - wrong footing defenders and making space for those outside him. The 13 channel is also extremely difficult to defend, and it was instructive that Ireland conceded a late try when he was no longer there to police it.

Bundee Aki is arguably Ireland's player of the tournament so far, but the 13 space is not his natural habitat. Losing both wingers to injury would have tested any side, and Ireland lost their shape in defence just a little bit when they went off. A yard is all it takes at this level to concede a line break, and Scotland took both their chances extremely well.

Hat's off to an excellent Scottish side who never gave up even after what must have been a very demoralising start. 36-0 is a humiliation they did not deserve. Going down so early forced them to chase the score and meant they couldn't just kick for goal when the opportunities came. But Ireland put their line-out woes against South Africa behind them and won their lineouts 12-0 while O'Mahony snaffled three of Scotland's throws.

But it was Ireland's defence, after going 5-0 up that ultimately decided this contest. Scotland put together some great attacking play and continuity but couldn't find a way past the Irish defence. They dominated both territory and possession at this stage and Finn Russell was unveiling his full box of tricks. Scotland's dangerous backs were well contained.

When Ireland scored again through Keenan in what was almost a replica of the first try, it was like a dagger to the heart of Scottish ambition. To be 12-0 down having played so well must have been utterly demoralising, and yet they never gave up.

Ireland were now firing on all cylinders and Henderson, who had an excellent game, showed they could also score up front. There was simply nowhere for this Scotland side to hide, not helped by Captain Richie's early departure with a shoulder injury. Keenan scored Ireland's fourth and bonus point try in what is now the traditional slot just before half-time - how often have we seen Leinster and Ireland do this?

With the bonus point secured and leading 26-0 at half time, the match was all but over. Scotland's frustrations come to the surface when Ollie Smith performed a dirty little off the ball trip on Sexton and George Turner ran over and pushed Sexton all over the place, clearly trying to unsettle the Irish Captain. Pierre Schoeman pushed Sheehan over an advertising hoarding quite dangerously and Scotland are lucky to escape with just one yellow card.

Sheehan responded appropriately by scoring a great try - again out wide down the left. New Zealand will have noted that nearly all of Ireland's best attacking moments are from right to left and are scored on the wing. Time to work on our left to right passing movements!

Ireland had lost both their wings by this stage, with Hansen off for a HIA  (Head Injury Assessment) and then a calf injury and Lowe with an eye injury. McCloskey slotted in seamlessly at 12 with Aki moving to 13 and Ringrose onto the wing. Murray came on for Hansen with Gibson Park moving to the other wing. Ireland were having to adapt on the hoof just as in their last match against Scotland in the 6 Nations, when Healy ended up playing hooker and Van Der Flier became line-out thrower.

The Irish "bomb squad" of Bealham, Kelleher, Kilcoyne, Ryan and Conan come on together and added new energy to the forward effort. It was vital that our front liners were given some rest prior to the New Zealand match and our bench players needed more game time. This was Conan's first appearance in the World cup after his unfortunate foot injury.

Crowley also come on for Sexton and dropped a sweet cross-field kick under pressure precisely into Ringrose's arms for the sixth try. This was threatening to become an utter humiliation for Scotland, but Tuipuloti managed to get a pass away outside Henderson and Ashman scored a good try in the corner. Murray might have done better to stay with Ashman on the wing.

Perhaps Ireland dropped their intensity just a little, and Jones got outside and past Aki to set up a fine try for Price. We always knew Scotland were capable of moments like this. Their problem was that it took them until the 64th. and 65th. minutes to make the breakthrough, long after the match had been decided.

Ireland were denied a seventh try by Bealham by to a slight knock-on in the dying moments, and the match was over. For over an hour, it was an almost perfect performance by Ireland, but they will need to play at the top of their game for the full 80 minutes against the All Blacks.

Let us hope that Ireland's fate isn't decided, once again, by injuries to key players. Hansen apparently passed his HIA but went off immediately afterwards due to a calf issue. Lowe got a serious bang to the eye but his vision was recovering afterwards. Let's hope it's not a detached retina or similar. Ryan suffered what looks like a re-occurrence of a hand or wrist injury which has troubled him lately, and Furlong seemed to have some shoulder issue. He is our one star player who has yet to be at his best in this competition. Let us hope it is not a shoulder injury which is undermining his effectiveness.

That said, all the subs did well. Conan got some valuable game time, and Player of the Match, Gibson Park, showed his versatility on the wing. McCloskey made light of the absence of Henshaw and Crowley once again impressed. Kelleher overcame his lineout woes (against South Africa) and Sheehan was back to his effervescent best. Quite a few players were outstanding and contenders for the Player of the Match award, but for me Van Der Flier with 22 tackles and Ringrose at outside centre are vital components of the team.

Once again, a match involving Ireland had very few disciplinary issues and required little reference to the TMO. Nic Berry is to be congratulated on his refereeing of the match. Ireland won the penalty count 7-11, lineouts 15-9, and turnovers 7-3, but were behind on every other metric except where it mattered - on the scoreboard. Just as it was against South Africa, it is the clinical nature of this team in taking their scoring chances that distinguishes them from the rest.

A well-rested New Zealand now await to ambush us in the quarter final. It is some turn-around in our fortunes that we are now regarded as favourites. We may yet have to beat them while digging deeper into our squad. O'Brien has yet to play a minute in the World Cup but may be required to cover for Lowe, with Earls covering for Hansen. Baird and McCarthy are fine prospects, but not yet in the same class as Ryan. Let's hope Furlong's shoulder holds up.

For me, the match against the All-Blacks is still a 50-50 match to be decided on very small margins. We are certainly battle hardened at this stage, but will we be battle weary in the final ten minutes of what looks like a match-up fit for the final? I would put nothing past this team and the positive mentality Farrell has inculcated. They know they have won nothing yet and have still to break their quarterfinal glass ceiling.

But they could hardly be performing any better at this stage in the tournament. Bring it on!

That was one of those, "Am I really seeing this?" games.  So long as they don't choke on the "All Blacks Mystique", I like their chances.  Yes, some guys got dinged up, but no one was laid out, no one was hauled off, and no one is on a table at St. James Infirmary.
by rifek on Tue Oct 10th, 2023 at 03:05:23 AM EST
My enjoyment of the match was impaired by my empathy with the Scots. But at the end of the day, Scotland are at their most glorious in the defense of lost causes. Culloden and all that.

Looking forward to all of the quarter finals!

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Fri Oct 13th, 2023 at 03:46:21 PM EST
Wales are on a roll. Having been written off, they have come back from purgatory and will probably roll Argentina, who have been improving but have not had a really stand-out performance.

Both teams have suffered terribly from the collapse of the professional game at home in the past few years.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Fri Oct 13th, 2023 at 03:50:03 PM EST
This is not a vintage All Blacks team. I was rather surprised to see them fold against France in the opening match, and they lost a series at home against Ireland last year. So I think it likely Ireland will win, because it's their turn...

My preference, obviously, is for the Blacks to shade it, and for the final to be a replay of the opening match. Because France-NZ is my favourite match, I can't get enough of it.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Fri Oct 13th, 2023 at 04:01:04 PM EST
This one is stress-free for me. It may turn out to be a comedy match (I get laughs out of seeing an English team fall apart), but most likely they will give the upstart Fijians a thrashing, steamroller style.

Sadly, the coach dropped Ford instead of Farrel. Happily, he's given Marcus Smith a (first?) start, albeit at fullback. So maybe they will give us an open, running game? That could be exhilirating. And pigs might fly.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Fri Oct 13th, 2023 at 04:08:29 PM EST
I'm full of trepidation for this match, but I expect an exhilirating contest, with luck the highest quality match of the tournament so far. South Africa have been the revelation of the Cup for me, I've never seen them play such thrilling rugby.

But they are still the quintessential bone-crunchers. An interesting sub-plot will be to see if they get in Antoine Dupont's face : the French half-back and captain will be playing, after a couple of weeks off with a broken jaw...

I think that France are the better team overall, and will probably prevail. But what do I know.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Fri Oct 13th, 2023 at 04:15:16 PM EST
Even though there s a huge disparity in quality between Wales, Argentina, England and Fiji on the one hand, and Ireland, New Zealand,South Africa and France on the other, the actual parings are quite evenly matched. World rankings in brackets:

Wales (7) vs. Argentina (8)
Ireland (1) vs. New Zealand (4)
England (6) vs Fiji (10)
France (2) vs. South Africa(3)

It is a travesty that Scotland, the World's 5th. ranked side was eliminated by by (1) and (3) While 6,7,8,and 10 get through without ever having to play a top 5 team.

That said, I would expect the rankings to hold, with Wales, Ireland, England and France getting through after some tight matches.

We could even have an upset in the Semi finals with Ireland and France or whoever wins those match-ups being truly knackered after their quarter final exertions while much inferior teams have it relatively easy.

But ultimately,my money is on an Ireland France final although I would much prefer to face SA as that would effectively be a home match for Ireland.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Oct 13th, 2023 at 04:37:51 PM EST
Both Frank and I predicted four victories of the North against the South.
That was... a bit ethnocentric?

So :
Wales-Argentina :
Wales have climbed a mountain since Warren Gatland came back to coach them again in their darkest hour. They tackled like buggery, and Biggar was the biggest bugger. But Argentina also had some things to prove.

New Zealand - Ireland :
What can I say? Likely the best match I had ever seen. How did the Blacks win? In the final analysis : Ireland was playing its eighth World Cup quarter final, having lost all seven previous games... NZ have won eight out of nine. I'm not saying Ireland choked -- they can beat, and have beaten, any team -- but none of the team have the experience of the very highest level of a World Cup. Well-practised variations are no match for the improvisation and instinct of a match like that at the death.

England - Fiji :
To be honest, I'm on call this weekend, and I was called just before the match started, and missed most of it (the TV was on but I was not able to pay attention to it). Still, there is a parallel with NZ-Ireland : England were beaten, outplayed, put to death... but refused to die. That old bastard Farrel lives to play... one more day.

France - South Africa :
Still hurting, with the whole nation. But still dazzled. It was the best match I've ever seen... eclipsing Saturday's game. I feel love for this South African side. Cheslin Kolbe, hero of the 2019 cup, still the fastest on the field... charged down a conversion in a game won by a single point!

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Mon Oct 16th, 2023 at 12:30:43 PM EST
Yes to all this.  I didn't see the choke from Ireland I was might happen but instead was something I've seen a lot with rising teams in a lot of sports.  It's the old "No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy/Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth" thing.  To make the step to championship level, you have to be able to rise above your game plan and ride the waves of chaos.

And condolences to Frank.

by rifek on Mon Oct 16th, 2023 at 05:55:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Very perceptive comments. I may borrow if I end up doing a review!

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Oct 16th, 2023 at 06:39:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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