Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Ireland win was from the heart - let’s have more

No more than we were World Cup no-hopers last week, are we Webb Ellis Trophy winners-in-waiting seven days on.

No doubt the worst coach in the world in New Plymouth — that's Declan Kidney, not Eddie O'Sullivan — will be heralded the best since Bill Shankly or Vince Lombardi.

What we witnessed in Auckland on Saturday, as Brian O'Driscoll suggested in the pitchside interview immediately after the game, was a more-than-competent team going to the well to draw deeper than they have done for some considerable time.

It was England at the Aviva back in March revisited, except this time it was on southern hemisphere soil against the Tri-Nations champions in the defining game of Pool C.

The team playing the more constructively committed and more aggressive rugby, tailored to the conditions and playing at a tempo, for 80 minutes, unrecognisable from anything comparable in recent times, won every bit as convincingly as the scoreline suggests.

It was by some distance the greatest Irish victory in World Cup history.

What we did on Saturday wasn't rocket science. It was rugby from the heart aimed at taking the opposition to places they didn't want to go.

The last thing the Wallabies wanted was a dogfight, a slugfest Six Nations style, but that's what they got because we dictated the tempo almost from the off.

We dominated the scrum and shared the line-out, but had in Stephen Ferris, Sean O'Brien, Rory Best, Cian Healy and Paul O'Connell the individuals who bossed the breakdown.

By contrast Australia, minus Stephen Moore and David Pocock, were bereft of physical presence in the key ball-winning areas.

And, just as Irish confidence rose by way of green jerseys pouring into every ruck, maul or skirmish, so did Wallabies' confidence recede.

We dare not lose the run of ourselves but this, for the World Cup clear second favourites, was a veritable thumping.

They might have narrowed it in the last quarter but factor in Tommy Bowe almost crossing the line, and Conor Murray having a try disallowed in the final minutes, and the eventual winning margin could have been even greater.

To borrow from the TV ad this was ‘truly Irish' rugby. It may not have been to the purists' liking but for anyone who appreciates honest-to-God endeavour in the search for success this was everything a great sporting contest should be.

Today, it's a return to business and with Russia in Rotorua this Sunday followed by the Italians in Dunedin.

The games could hardly be better timed for mixing and matching selection in the march to the quarter-final and a probable tilt at the Welsh.

But back to Saturday. A good day for the team, a good day for the coach but, more than anything, a good day for Irish rugby as New Zealand 2011 is up and running and a meaningful World Cup assault finally under way.

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