Jerry Flannery and Danny Care might have a lot to talk about in years to come. In Paris the Munsterman handed the initiative to France with his ill-timed boot which led to the reversal of a penalty.
A strong sense of déjà vu must have been in the air as the errant English scrumhalf, in a tussle with his opposite number Tomas O'Leary, committed the same cardinal sin. As a result, Keith Earls’ try gave Ireland the platform from which they could break English hearts for the sixth time in seven years.
Since the historic breakthrough in 2004 this has been a fixture which has produced drama on an epic scale. This year’s game did not let us down.
Weather conditions dictated that this would not be a game for the faint-hearted, rather a good old-fashioned arm wrestle, where mistakes and the odd moment of magic would make all the difference. When playing conditions worsen, the need for control and composure increases. No-one knows this better than Martin Johnson and he will rue his scrum-half’s momentary lack of discipline.
All the more so, because the men in green were under the cosh for much of the game. Statistics invariably tell the tale. England had the bulk of possession and forced Ireland to make three times the number of tackles. How deliciously ironic, then, that despite less ball Ireland managed to score three times the number of tries that England managed.
This match proved definitively that it does not matter how much ball you have, far more important is what you do with it. Crucially, through intensity and technical proficiency Ireland forced their opponents to turn over the ball. We know how destructive and dangerous Jamie Heaslip can be in open play but it was his work on the ground that contributed to Ireland’s first try.
Johnny Sexton attacked the space and in a split second processed the dimensions of the pitch, cover tackle coming in, support around him and the options available. He took the right one and executed it exactly in terms of timing and precision. There is no better feeling as a winger than chasing down a ball and knowing that you have quicker legs than the last defender. Once upon a time I can remember a rugby pundit ridiculously questioning Tommy Bowe’s pace. I can assure you — the boy is seriously rapid.
If Irish eyes were smiling at that point, the mood darkened severely close to the end of the game courtesy of Jonny Wilkinson’s boot, which gave England the lead. However, Ireland’s effort in this last spell was marked by experience, professionalism and self-belief.
In last week’s column, I stated that one of Tommy’s biggest strengths was being able to hit great angles at speed and his second try to clinch victory was outstanding for various reasons. Firstly, the move itself came straight off the training ground. Someone in the Ireland camp spotted that England were vulnerable between the back of the lineout and the 10 position. And so the plan was hatched. Secondly, the individual roles were important as Ireland only got one chance, but everything that could go right did go right.
The spotlight will fall on Tomas O’Leary and Tommy Bowe, who hit a perfect line absolutely flat out. What has gone largely unnoticed, however, are two other individuals who also played their part, one more suspecting than the other.
The giant replacement prop Tony Buckley steps into and obstructs three England players and then referee, Mark Lawrence, finds himself in the worst possible position and obstructs Lewis Deacon and the cover defence.
Nevertheless, it was an inspired move to call, the execution was inch perfect and Tommy’s timing and finish were as good as it gets. Bowe is rapidly becoming a superstar of the sport and he put a smile on all our faces.