So, 29 points against New Zealand and 53 against Argentina last autumn. And now another 29, against 6 Nations Champions Wales.
How good is this Ireland side? Well, don’t be fooled by the figures. It was Impossible to tell on yesterday’s evidence.
This was a strange Six Nations opener at Lansdowne Road. Wales were so bad they’d have made anyone look world class. Except that Ireland didn’t look world class at all against apathetic opponents.
For those who liked their international rugby with a nice dash of spice, this was a crushing disappointment. For long spells, it was as tame as a pussy cat. Wales conceded 12 penalties before they managed to get one themselves.
When you think back to those great fights between these two nations, blood and gore at every turn and men pummeled into submission, you wondered what had happened here.
Wales were tepid and timid. And they were humiliated. Yet they never even threw a punch. There was hardly a snarl from the men of the valleys. And that’s something you have never been able to say about Welsh rugby players wearing their national jersey.
It’s like the modern game has cleaned up rugby so much, all the pouring emotions and spirits have been washed away, too.
Wales were 10 points down after 20 minutes and should have been 20 down. By half time Ireland should have been out of sight. 10-0 at the interval was a shocking indictment of Ireland’s failure to be ruthless in their finishing. New Zealand would have had 30 by then against opponents this poor.
The Irish dominated possession and made only half the tackles Wales had to make. Yet Ireland looked ponderous too often, chose some poor options and even Jonny Sexton was off-par with two missed penalty kicks.
Sexton did make amends with some busy, scuttling attacking runs. And overall, Ireland out-scored Wales by four tries to one.
Yet somehow, it was far from convincing and far from the all-consuming game they’d shown in sweeping aside the All Blacks back in November.
Yet that is the standard they must now be judged against. And the harsh fact was, yesterday they were well short of such excellence. If their performance against New Zealand was a feast, this was little more than a snack. And a largely unsatisfying, forgettable one at that.
Without six first choice players, Wales looked like a team that had never played together before. Which they hadn’t.
So it was up to Ireland to make the running, to cut them apart. They didn’t have a problem finding space in a Welsh defence which often leaked more than Downing Street. But the finishing lacked the crisp nature of the autumn.
Too often, the ball was moved too slowly from the forward base by Jamison Gibson-Park. Ireland did run some clever dummy lines in attack. But for too long, it all came to nothing. A single try in the first half, finished off by Bundee Aki from debutant Mack Hansen’s lobbed, overhead pass was a poor return for so much pressure.
I liked the look of Hansen. He made a long early run down the left and also made the try, albeit not with the best pass. But one try for all that domination over 40 minutes? Not good enough.
Hansen was forever looking for work and willing to come off his wing to find it. But his selection as man of the match was bizarre. Josh van der Flier and Tadhg Beirne both offered stronger cases for the award with their immense industry and commitment.
Perhaps Beirne’s sloppy pass straight to Welshman Taine Basham which gave the flanker a simple run in for an undeserved late try, counted against him. Andy Farrell and his coaching team will have been furious at that gift.
However, they’d have been ecstatic about Andy Conway’s two tries and especially Garry Ringrose’s 59th minute try. The explosion of celebration lit up Lansdowne Road. Ringrose had so much to do when he took the pass. But his arcing run took him beyond the reach of one defender and his pace defeated another in the race to the line.
It was a single moment of pure class. And it reminded Ringrose’s teammates of the quality required in every game if Ireland are to become genuine contenders for the Rugby World Cup next year.
We’ll know more about their chances after next Saturday’s match in Paris against France. For sure, Farrell’s men need to do better than this.