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Ireland just not good enough as they miss out on Triple Crown

Ireland 20 Scotland 23

More often than not in life, be it that of an individual, a corporation or a team, failure to attain a goal owes more to a number of small things having gone wrong rather than one huge mistake.

That certainly was the case on Saturday at Croke Park where, by slumping to their second defeat of the 2010 RBS 6 Nations Championship, Ireland lost out on a Triple Crown and the chance to finish the campaign with a hat-trick of wins following the disappointment of losing to France last month.

Ireland’s response to that Paris defeat had been to bounce back with a hard-earned Twickenham triumph followed by a Dublin win over Wales. Another Triple Crown beckoned.

In contrast, the Scots travelled having drawn with England at Murrayfield, after losing three on the spin to France, Wales and Italy. Thus they arrived in Dublin occupying bottom spot in the table, just in time for the party to mark the end of Ireland’s three-year Croke Park tenancy.

Perhaps, at some subconscious level and in some undetected manner, all of that pervaded Irish thinking. We will never know.

What we do know, of course, is that the players will reject any such suggestion.

But something — or some number of things — went badly wrong at the weekend and it is far too glib to dismiss it as “a bad day at the office”.

Such ‘days’ do not just occur. Always there is a reason or reasons for them. They occur when someone — maybe ourselves — who was to have done something fails to do it. Somebody slipped up.

Ireland most certainly did on this occasion. Too many individuals were guilty of too many errors in too many facets at too many key moments and the cumulative effect ultimately was their undoing.

Seventh heaven it was not. They knocked the ball on seven times in the first half, at the end of which they turned round trailing 14-7. They lost seven line-outs on their own throw. They conceded seven penalties.

They made 64 tackles, missed 10 and had a completion rate of 86 per cent. Scotland made 73, missed four and had a completion rate of 94 per cent.

The Scots’ off-the-peg kicking was significantly better, too, with five of Dan Parks’s six penalties on target. Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton missed two of his four penalty attempts.

You can, if you wish, call that ‘a bad day at the office’ but human error is a more honest assessment.

Jonathan Beattie’s try for the Scots four minutes after Brian O’Driscoll had touched down at the end of a delightful passage by Ireland initially stemmed from an error by the Irish skipper, augmented by another by Geordan Murphy in failing to nail his man.

Nor can the repeated handling howlers be sourced to some conspiracy from without.

It is a fact, too, that when the normally good Irish line-out began to go off the rails, they were unable to halt the slide. It wasn’t all attributable to Rory Best’s throwing; Paul O’Connell was honest enough to admit that some of his calls had been off, too.

The scrum has been a problem throughout, but line-out ball, by and large, has not.

On Saturday that setpiece failed, too, depriving Ireland of a vital attacking platform.

And even when, courtesy of Tommy Bowe’s latest try, they got back to 17-17, on Saturday they did not have what it took to go on and dig out a result. Ditto when they levelled at 20-20.

Each time the Scots rallied, and all credit to them for that.

So missed tackles, handling errors and a malfunctioning line-out, to which can be added Scotland’s greater hunger and superior will to win.

If thieves rob your business premises as a result of you having left them lying open, you can always try entering ‘bad day at the office’ on the claims form.

But you’ll probably find the insurance company more likely to say: “Sorry mate, but that’s your responsibility.”

Belfast Telegraph

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