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'I've to look at myself': Andy Farrell leads assessment of Ireland defeat as Sexton bemoans defensive errors

 

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Ireland coach Andy Farrell (left) and captain Johnny Sexton were the first to try and explain their side's defeat to England

Ireland coach Andy Farrell (left) and captain Johnny Sexton were the first to try and explain their side's defeat to England

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Charging on: Manu Tuilagi goes past Conor Murray

Charging on: Manu Tuilagi goes past Conor Murray

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John Cooney has been left out of the Ireland squad.

John Cooney has been left out of the Ireland squad.

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Ireland coach Andy Farrell (left) and captain Johnny Sexton were the first to try and explain their side's defeat to England

It was with something of a mischievous grin that England coach Eddie Jones said that if this had been a cricket match, his side could have declared at half-time.

His side - who were, by a distance, the best they've been since the day they dismantled the All Blacks at the World Cup back in October - somewhat butchered the analogy by their failure to get the bonus point their performance deserved, but the England head coach could be forgiven for being satisfied after watching Ireland's Triple Crown hopes go up in smoke long before the final blast of referee Jaco Peyper's whistle.

The visitors simply couldn't live with the beaten World Cup finalists over the course of those first 40 brutal minutes; their power, their physicality and their clever kicking were all too much for Andy Farrell's men, the beaten head coach bemoaning in the immediate aftermath that his side hadn't fired a shot in those opening exchanges

By the time they did, the game already felt gone.

England were more than good measure for a 17-0 interval lead that felt like it should be more.

It was certainly curious that, for all their enterprise, their two first-half scores were the product of Ireland misjudging bouncing balls beyond their own try-line.

Stranger still that by the time Ireland's measured revival had brought two scores of their own, the final margin of victory stood at just 12 points when the gulf felt considerably larger.

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Farrell shouldered much of the blame for his side's sluggish start.

"I think they started pretty well but there's no excuses because they've started well against us before," he said. "The opposition have something to do with it.

"When you're rolling forward in those first 10 minutes, then things start to go your way.

"The first half, we were coming here to try and win a Triple Crown and they were fighting to stay in the Championship. We can assess all the technicalities, all the accumulation of errors or refereeing decisions but the reality is that they came out of the blocks hard, got on the front foot and we took a few sucker punches.

"I need to look at myself for that. Were they up for it more than we were with us going for a Triple Crown? That's my responsibility to make sure that doesn't happen.

"I've to look at myself first and foremost."

His captain Johnny Sexton -who was beaten by the bounce for the first try and missed two kicks - countered that Farrell would always shoulder such a load but that the team felt prepared for the contest despite their failure to deliver.

"As players, I think we were in the right frame of mind. At 7-0 down, I didn't deal with the chip through. We missed a shot at goal. Another chip through and we're 14-0 down," he said.

"A couple of chances, a couple of decisions against us and then we're chasing. I was proud of the lads in the second half, proud of the way we stuck in and fought back and we could have got another score or two maybe. Obviously, we were trying to chase to get that bonus point or deny them.

"It's very disappointing but players-wise, I thought we had a brilliant week's prep and the difference between a victory and a defeat like that is very small.

"You'll always hear us talk about that, you might throw your eyes up to the heavens when you hear that at times, but, for me, when you give a quality team - and they are a quality team, and they had big pressure points on us at times - when you give them 14 points from chip throughs, it's obviously very disappointing."

Sexton gave over kicking duties to Ulster's John Cooney for his side's final conversion, the skipper deciding instead to gather his remaining troops and begin looking to the remainder of the Championship. A fallow week follows before Ireland welcome Italy to Dublin and finish up against France in Paris.

"I thought it was more important to get the boys in a huddle and say a few things I wanted to say," said Sexton.

"I said that we need to be disappointed but we're still in the competition. If we can do the job against Italy, we're going to be in with a shout.

"It won't be in our control which is disappointing but it'll be all to play for in the last game."

Should Ireland go to France and produce the away-day performance they couldn't here, then England, with Italy to play on the final day, will fancy their own chances of taking the title.

Jones said: "We played with a lot of control, we read the conditions well, read the referee well, and at half-time if it was a cricket game, we could have declared.

"As I said previously, we've been building up. I got the preparation wrong for the France game and apologised for that.

"We were good against Scotland, really good against Scotland in difficult conditions, and we took another step up today and will take another step up when we play Wales.

"We are going to go for six locks next week (against Wales), give you something to write about.

"There's a lot (more to come).We played tough the first 40, probably took our foot off a little bit in the second half but they (Ireland) were always going to get some ball, they were always going to get some referee's calls and we had to defend pretty well, which we did.

"We were disappointed to give that try away at the end but we will need to be better against Wales. We are not worried about France, we don't have to worry about France. The only thing England have got to worry about is playing well against Wales."

Belfast Telegraph


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