Job Done

Two new regimes got up and running this weekend.  The Schmidt regime and the ROG-as-pundit regime.

The rollercoaster of November was something of a bedding in period for Joe; this felt like the first performance with his imprint on it.  All in all, it was a low tension affair, a satisfactory ‘job done’.  Once Ireland got the first try at the end of the first half it never looked like they’d lose the game.  They pulled away comfortably.  Sure, Scotland were rubbish, but the trick is not getting dragged down to their level.  Previous Ireland teams have let Scotland make them look even more rubbish.

Positives were plenty, but chief among them has to be the backrow.  Ireland fans have gotten used to lopsided backrows where someone has to forego their natural game.  If one or two of the ‘loosies’ play well, one of them has a quiet game by comparison.  Here all three played terrifically.  The carve-up in roles looked a bit different with O’Brien out.  Heaslip did most of the carrying, leaving O’Mahony to busy himself in the ruck.  The Munster flanker has been accused of a lack of appetite for the dirty stuff in the past, but that couldn’t be levelled at him on Sunday, when he came up from the ground with turnover after turnover.

Heaslip won man of the match and showed exactly why he’s so valued by coaches.  Eleven carries for 66 metres tells its own story; every time he got the ball Ireland were at least a couple of metres further up the pitch when he was presenting it.  So far so Robin Copeland, but what makes Heaslip exceptional is that he is such an all-rounder.  While most flankers have one specialised talent, Heaslip is good at everything.  As well as leading the carrying, he also had the highest number of tackles in the pack, scored a try, almost scored another off the wing, played scrum half when Murray was getting sucked into rucks (as you read this Schmidt will be talking about protecting the ball better next week), caught a lineout and made his usual share of clear-outs.

Then there’s Chris Henry who is an absolute nuisance to play against.  He gave away his customary penalty early on, but remained well disciplined thereafter.  He doesn’t look like a #genuineopenside, but he has proven once given the chance that he is up to this level.  With Tuohy and Henderson belatedly promoted to the team and bench respectively, this felt like the day Ulster were finally recognised for three years of belligerent match-winning.

Watching the aftermath of the game on telly, we couldn’t help but notice the contrast between the enlightening discussion between Shane Horgan and Ronan O’Gara pitchside and the old lags (O’Shea excepted) in the studio.  O’Gara took to punditry as we expected he would; easily.  As always, it was all too tempting to try and read between the lines of what he was saying.  He’d heard from the Munster lads that Schmidt had driven standards sky-high.  Was that a dig at the man who ended his Ireland career in such ignominious circumstances?  He was also less than complimentary about his new club, describing Racing’s play as ‘more organised than usual’ in the recent win over Toulouse.  He was fascinating in his analysis of French rugby culture.  He has test rugby in his DNA and, like Shaggy, has plenty to say about it.  What a pity there wasn’t more of them and less of the studio on Sunday.  Watching McGurk and Hook exchange their usual cantankerous bleatings, a familiar thought came into our heads: ‘Get RADGE on!’.

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49 Comments

  1. On ROG, I think thescore summed it up with this: http://www.thescore.ie/ronan-ogara-rte-rugby-panel-1294567-Feb2014/

    On Ireland, I think a solid-while-unspectacular performance is a good way to start, but we’re going to need to channel our inner-Wales to start to kick on against, er, Wales. While we’ve definitely had the better start, it’ll be interesting to see how we get on against Warrenball (although BOD’s near-demonic defense suggests we should be alright as long as we don’t slip off tackles).

    I thought more than anything it was a great team performance, peppered by brilliance from Johnny, Jamie and Bob.

    Second row will probably be the biggest selection headache (Tuohy vs Toner), as you’d imagine a super-fresh D’Arcy will probably get the nod in midfield.

    Also, how good was the Kildare Lewis Moody at 13? The plot thickens for the Quest for the Successor!

  2. Exile

     /  February 3, 2014

    Lots of media experts saying BOD had a quiet game. Undoubtedly, he was quiet in attack. However, I have him down as making 12 tackles – the highest number amongst players in Green, 1 ahead of Heaslip. Am I wrong?

    • curates_egg

       /  February 3, 2014

      Both IRFU and ESPN have him down as our top tackler. He was everywhere in the first half. Savage performance given how defensively timid he’s been for Leinster over the past couple of months. Shaggy made an interesting point on second captains though: is he making so many tackles because he doesn’t trust the players on either side of him? If so, that is not a good sign, with the Welsh bruisers up next.

      • @Completebore

         /  February 3, 2014

        Two things on Horgan on Second Captains.

        1. He had BOD down as having 24 tackles, which is roughly double what ESPN have (12 of 14 attempts) while Bam-Bam had 9 tackles and no misses.
        2. Taking Wales in last years 6N as an opening game BOD had 15 of 18 attempts and Dorce had 5 of 6 (but he went off pretty early that week). Against England the following week both played 80 minutes and had 9 tackles between them (5 for BOD).

        So, I don’t know how meaningful that observation is without both the correct stats, a longer sample size and some comparison to what was happening with Darcy.

  3. Got to go watch the game and enjoyed it more and more as it went on. The first thought that springs to mind is that although Heaslip thoroughly deserved the MoM, there were plenty of other players who you could make an argument for, and the most important personage of all was probably the coach. This looked like a real Schmidt performance: solid defence, everyone knowing their role (Trimble was evidently given leave to throw himself into rucks, to good effect – it was one of his best games in a green jersey), cutting the opposition apart when chances present/as they tire. In that regard, it reminded me a lot of Leinster’s win against Ulster in the Heineken Cup final. Gives me a lot of hope for the rest of the series and the Schmidt regime. Demented Mole has already covered all this really well: http://dementedmole.com/2014/02/03/the-gospel-of-saint-joe/

    As for ROG, he and Horgan would be great replacements once the broom sweeps out the commentary box (leaving O’Shea for preference). Did anyone else notice Paddy Jackson sauntering by in the background and sticking out his tongue as they were rendering their opinions at the end? Young fella has a bit of growing up to do yet… 🙂

    • On Trimble, I thought that him hitting rucks left a bit too much space on the wing which Scotland kicked into a few times to good effect. Hopefully just needs a few tweaks of the defensive system to have the full back cover a bit closer or something.

      • curates_egg

         /  February 3, 2014

        Agree totally. Thought it strange of Mole to overlook that. Better kicking when Trimble got sucked in could have really hurt us. Can’t happen next week.

  4. Rava

     /  February 3, 2014

    New coaching team are on the right tracks. A relatively inexperienced (together) team looked reasonably cohesive and everyone looked like they knew what had to be done and to a great degree succeeded in doing it.
    Joe talked about growing the squad and thats just what he achieved with this game. Only his fourth in charge as well.

    As for RTE, pity they didn’t pack McGurk, Hook and Pope off with the Deccie regime.

  5. connachtexile

     /  February 3, 2014

    Have to say POM impressed the hell out of me. Never really rated him before but he was super yesterday in a green shirt. I wonder was it down to Schmidt or consistently playing in one position that helped him?

    • curates_egg

       /  February 3, 2014

      He was superb. Seemed to finally be given a clearly-defined role and relished it.

      • His best game in green possibly. Defensive turnovers like those are worth their weight in gold because they sap the morale of the opposition. He ruled the breakdown and Heaslip and Henry ruled the gainline.

      • Leinsterlion

         /  February 3, 2014

        Superb? I’d love to see your description if he has a really good game. He was above his usual poor/anonymous level, he still has loads of flaws in his game, tackling lacks bite/technically not great and his ball carrying as usual was non existent/ineffective. His tackling is purely down to positioning and body position, he doesnt know where to place himself so he can make reams of tackles/crunch people(either/or). His carrying or lack of it could be down to his lack of power/bulk, or just technique. Thats two fairly big holes in your armoury to have as a test veteran/nailed on 6. Its an illustration of how shit he has been that people are now going off the rails about the guy after what should be a standard performance.

        • Scrumdog

           /  February 3, 2014

          Spot on Leinsterlion. Ruddock is on the radar and Ferris will hopefully return or maybe even Copeland will be an option on the blindside..all stronger carriers. All three have the bulk needed at blindside and look to execute aggressive knock ’em back tackles. Still nothing is in stone and its going to be a rotating squad with ‘horses for courses’.

        • Ha, four separate breakdown turnovers is a “standard performance” now. The world according to LeinsterLion, formerly known as Keithearlsisnota13. If Michael Hooper had done that, you’d have been ranting hysterically about how Ireland needs a “traditional 7”. And that’s without mentioning the lineout steals! The man was a turnover machine, and put in a respectable shift in all other facets of play. He was for almost everyone but Tony Ward the best back-row on the park, which seems to suggest that if that was a standard performance, everyone else was sub-standard, so consider that.

          When Schmidt was appointed, I was delighted for all the obvious reasons, but I was also immensely looking forward to this, his immediately making O’Mahony and Murray key players in his set-up. It must be terribly galling for the Leinster fans who spent so much of their time bashing Kidney for selecting those two players and Earls, supposedly on the basis of provincial bias, to see the former two walk right into the national side. The coach whom they (righty) consider one of the very best in the world actually rates these useless players! He thinks Peter O’Mahony is better than Kevin McLaughlin, Rhys Ruddock AND Dominic Ryan?! Madness, O’Mahony is a faux hard man who spends all his time on the wing! I cannot wait for Earls to get a chance under Schmidt, and I might die from the sheer hilarity of it all if he plays him at 13. Vive la Schmidt revolucion!

          • Leinsterlion

             /  February 3, 2014

            Last time I checked POM was not playing at openside, there is more to being a blindside than competing on the deck (though he did it well), so your Hopper comparison is fatuous. I readily admitted he is a “solid” flanker, he is an ok bench player, can cover all three spots just about adequately, he is a provincial player, just doesnt have that “it” factor to be a long term answer at six.
            For illustration purposes, seeing as you are confused about POMS level these are really good blindsides.




            these are really good opensides.


            And for posterity, this is SOB a freak who is both

            POM is neither. He is busy player, as of late, putting himself about, but he doesnt really excell, he doesnt have the physical tools or mentality to be a genuine long term option at six or seven.

            As for Earls, LOL, maybe when he learns when/how to pass, puts on about 10 kilos, learns to run lines from 13, improves his tackling, learns to read attack in open play and how to defend against it, oh and actually starts playing there for his province. Danny Barnes has a better shot at playing thirteen, he actually plays there for Newcastle.

        • Jojo

           /  February 3, 2014

          Agreed. Still getting completely over hyped. He had a very good game but so did Henry and Heaslip

          • Yossarian

             /  February 4, 2014

            He was good and made telling contributions. if we are to be critical he still only matched mike ross for tackle count(missing 2) and carried 9 times for 3m gain so a lot to work on but definitely improving. To say he deserved MOM ahead of Heaslip though is pretty far fetched.

          • This is gas; first he’s a seagulling flanker who spends too much time on the wing, and now that he’s putting his head down and doing donkey work, carrying crap ball and hitting rucks, he’s criticised for not carrying enough! He’d make plenty of metres if he was playing in the wide channels, as Heaslip often was, and as he did last season. As for the tackles, he made 9 attempts in 65 minutes, while his back row colleagues made 11 (Henry) and 12 (Heaslip) in 80 minutes. Hardly indicative of a low work rate, even if his execution isn’t as accurate as Henry and Heaslip, both outstanding tacklers. (By the way, it’s nonsense to compare tackle numbers of props with those of flankers as if they’re directly comparable; Ross will be a pillar defender a huge amount of the time, so if the opposing team use pick and drives, he obviously racks up big tackle numbers in less technically demanding situations. Similarly, if O’Mahony’s brief is to poach ball, which it obviously was, he is of course going to have fewer tackles than someone whose brief it is to hit everything that moves, if only because he’s waiting to see if there’s an opportunity as second man in to jackal over the ball.)

            Oh, and I don’t think I’ve seen a single person online who didn’t give O’Mahony MotM aside from you, so hardly “far fetched”.

          • Yossarian

             /  February 4, 2014

            Not going to get into an argument explaining why Heaslip was MOM over O’Mahony. Read the article above to understand his merits. No one is saying O’Mahony didn’t play well. the lady doth protest to much.

  6. @Completebore

     /  February 3, 2014

    Match was a grand professional job. I don’t think anybody who got promoted made themselves undroppable so a lot of the marginal calls Joe made last week will carry over to this week.

    As for RTE, I’ve stopped watching Ireland rugby games with them, partly because my TV provider has a better quality picture on BBC, but mainly because I might accidently hear a syllable of George Hook. I was delighted when I saw the headline that he was retiring and then fuming that it wasn’t for years. Only somebody convinced of their position as the main attraction would do something so self-regarding.

    • connachtexile

       /  February 3, 2014

      Totally agree he’s painful. Thank God for the mute button.

      • The BBC smugfest comes with its own issues.

        I ws slightly behind realtime yesterday (had to make a pot of coffee when a mate turned up with a tray of cakes!) but briefly forgot and found myself accidentally listening to Hook when I could have been fast-forwarding through it. Very poor tv remote management.

        • @Completebore

           /  February 3, 2014

          Absolutely, there are drawbacks with the BBC as well. Its a choice between cloying smarm and an adult man spouting nonsense to get a reaction like an overgrown toddler. Neither brillant. If ROG and Shaggy become a fixture I might have to reconsider.

          • Jimbob

             /  February 3, 2014

            I’d say RTE, despite the presence of Hook and McGurk, are better than the BBC at the moment purely down to ROG and Shaggy. Nicol, Davies, Wood, Guscott and whichever token franco-italians are there usually offer little to no detailed analysis of the game and quite often get the rules wrong (e.g. forward pass, hands backwards rule). And don’t get me started on John Inverdale!!

          • Leinsterlion

             /  February 3, 2014

            Why do people hate McGurk? He’s only the presenter, hes better then Inverdale, and way better than the chick that was on “against the head”. If you simply cut out the Hook and Popey sideshow things would improve immesurable. I’d also second Jimbob about the BBC, its just as bad if not worse. Although they dont have Ryle and Ward or any of the stable of morons and gobshites RTE seem to be able to call on for the Rabo and away 6 nations games.

          • There’s nothing wrong with McGurk per se I find, but his interaction with Hook is much of the problem. He’s a Hook-enabler.

          • My problem with McGurk is that he never lets anyone finish a bloody sentence.

          • Yossarian

             /  February 4, 2014

            McGurk is dreadful!he needs to be more like Bill O’Herlihy and facilitate the “experts” he fancies himself as another pundit and is always trying to get his opinion across. Never lets the panel finish their points either.

  7. Leinsterlion

     /  February 3, 2014

    Heaslip started slowly went from strength to strength, Henry had a solid game, ran some good lines, but only Drico had the foresight to attempt an offload, our complete absence of an offloading game negated his attacking influence. POM, best game or rather most effective game he has had for Ireland, a solid 7 out of ten, great on the deck and come ruck time, he made good tackles (though not aggressive).
    However our lack of ball carrying from the pack with POC and SOB out, was noticeable. Talented flanker though POM is he’ll need to vastly step up on that front, as our tight/blindside carrying game(where your six should be) was pretty poor. and as such Scotland could drift for large portions of the game stifling our attack.
    Tuohy and Toner were ok, nothing to write home about. back three, solid, Kearney above average, his brother slightly below, Trimble, try aside was muted on attack, uninvolved. Drico put himself about, solid on D and a few moments of inspiration(drawing two men+offloading to Henry). Marshalls boshing gave us a bit of go forward, but he needs to add some lines and step to his game. Murray was poor, constantly getting scragged due to his slow delivery, protection was an issue, but he has always been a slow passer, and Scotland recognised that.

    Poor opening weekend, elements of Fra/Eng aside, I think we have enough to beat Wales and definitely Scotland, Eng/Fra are both enigmas, capable of excellent or awful play in every facet of the game. It wont be a vintage 6 nations imo, but it will be a close one, no team looks substantially better than any other.

    I wholeheartedly second everyone and WOC about the RTE panel, you could visible see GH ruminating on what could he possibly say to get a reaction out of people, the rest of the panels giggles as he spoke said it all. The panel are past their sell by date,(though still superior to Quinny and Sheahan) time for a revamp. Although Hook was right, Scotland are an awful, awful side.

    • Yossarian

       /  February 3, 2014

      little harsh on Murray, he was slow in the first half but corrected it. Was much quicker in the second half and the team play improved dramatically as a result.

      • Scrumdog

         /  February 3, 2014

        Scotland were laying all over the rucks, not retreating onside and slowing the ball, on top of that Murray was not getting protected. The Scots were offside all over the place.

    • Leinsterlion

       /  February 3, 2014

      *that should read definitely Italy rather than Scotland.

      Harsh? yeah he imrpoved but he is was still excruciatingly slow for 40+ mins and still slow up until Scotland began to tire and not contest as hard. Luckily for him, on the evidence of the weekend no other team fights at the breakdown as much or as hard as the Scots, so it shouldnt be as much of an issue. Still all other facets of his game were solid, he made mostly the right choices, its just the pace he plays the game at isnt great and for a Schmidt coached team that will be a issue.

      • Yossarian

         /  February 3, 2014

        the pace he plays with drove me mad up until the Lions series, i think that tour was the making of him.He still has a way to go but he has made strides under Schmidt to improve it. Would have been interesting to see if he would have got the chance to turn it around in the second half had Reddan been available.

      • Jojo

         /  February 3, 2014

        Defensively he was very good in first half, try saving tackle on gray when Kearney went too high

  8. Yossarian

     /  February 3, 2014

    Hard to be critical after such a good performance. i think everyone would have been a 6 or 7 out of 10. If i was to be highly critical i think Luke Marshal needs to be a little quicker in his decision making,the odd time i felt he took a little too much out of the ball before passing, i don’t think he did enough to stop D’Arcy coming back in. Likewise its a tough call on the wings, i think Luke will come back in but hard to know who should make way. i was hoping for a physical performance from Tuohy. I think we need him performing like he did for the Wolfhounds for the main team if we are to take on the big packs of England and France. not sure he did enough to get ahead of Toner who had a solid outing again.
    Expecting all three changed for next week.
    p.s i have been a critical of POM in the past, delighted to see him deliver a good performance.

  9. Ciano

     /  February 3, 2014

    This is why I watch it on BBC

  10. Len

     /  February 3, 2014

    Good solid performance against a side that have a tendency to drag us through the dirt. POM, who I didn’t rate when he started, seems to be growing into his role with each game, very impressive at the ground work yesterday. Didn’t like the committe approach to ref interaction at the start and I don’t think you’d get that wit POC there. Was very impressed with the way the subs worked. In days gone by a raft of changes almost guaranteed that we’d loose our shape and form for at least ten minutes but yesterday the subs slotted in almost seamlessly (especially McGrath who seems determined to stamp his authority on every game, long may this last). Lots to be done for next week and weather doesn’t look like it’ll play ball this time.

  11. Re match: Grand job, Norah. Re George Hook: I don’t what yis are all givin out about. I find him most entertaining. At the end of such matches, me poor nerves are usually shot, so I’m glad of the light relief. Sure, he’s a blow-hard, but man does he have a pashun for the game. Also his military historical allusions tickle an old-schooler mar mé féin. Lighten up people!!!

  12. Buzz

     /  February 3, 2014

    Ireland were OK IMHO but not world beaters..

    Where was the follow on from the amazing performance against the ABs?

    They were playing a sub standard side who wouldn’t have scored a try even if Ireland had all 15 players sent to the sin bin. Furthermore, I thought that it was customary for international teams to practice their lineouts before matches but apparently Scotland eschew such frivolities.

    • curates_egg

       /  February 3, 2014

      Most impressive was how professional and coherent the team (and most of the units) looked given we were missing our captain, our best player and a couple of other frontline players (all Lions, for those who think that is relevant). The backrow was clearly the most impressive unit but I thought the second row really, really did well (all the more given neither would start if not for injuries).

      Will have to be a few tweaks to play Wales though (both tactically and in terms of selection). Despite both centres playing well, the midfield looked a little ragged at times: looking at Wales on Saturday, this has to be a major focus this week. Our overuse of the kick-chase – and inaccuracy at times – would also be a disaster against that Welsh back three. The return of Paulie won’t sort out either of those two things. Over to you Joe.

  13. Munstermicko

     /  February 3, 2014

    Great to see the leadership group working as they should. Burgerboy was consulting with POM & Johnnycash before each decision but he still had the final say each time as a captain should.

    Huge difference from the headless chickens last year with players at times ignoring Jamie and looking to BOD for direction.

    Mind you the scots gave us no reason to panic so I’ll reserve judgement until we face a sterner test.

  14. Glad to see you give proper credit to Henry, (unlike daft Irish Times player-ratings today) thought he was excellent, as were all the back-row 3. They all did a super job, well, notably in 2nd half.
    The first half was a puzzler. Not sure anyone is giving Scotland due credit for the first period, when, although they did bugger all With the ball, you have to admit they were excellent, and incredibly physical in maintaining, protecting and (in defense) trying to win it or at least seriously slow us down, which they did with ease. (How many times did they put our 9 on his back?) Their first half rucking and ball retention 1st half was first class i thought, almost BNZ- standard. Just a shame they didn’t know what to do with it behind the ruck. Well, a shame for them that is. Quite possibly a let-off for us.
    Can never quite make up my mind about Trimble. He’s a game lad, great work rate, goes looking for work in fact, highly commendable, and it galls me to read people criticizing him (above/below?) for getting sucked into rucking and counter rucking and (they say) leaving space exposed outside him.
    That may be true, is true, as far as it goes, but have a think about it. The occasions I remember him rucking he was fighting incredibly hard to either win ball, or more important protect it, when he was 1st or 2nd man to ruck & the consequences of not doing so were even more dangerous. He had no choice and generally made the right, indeed the only, decision.
    Whatever his limitations of say, his vision in attack, you can’t criticise his defense i think. In fact he always strikes me a s a particularly selfless, real team-type player, prepared to do the down and dirty unglamorous stuff.
    Final word in Trimble’s defense, (also prompted by same stupid, mealy mouthed and irratatingly mean spirited Irish Times reports today) You can’t fault him either for not catching the impossible BO’D off load in first half (as BO’D went to ground in tackle) How many players would’ve made that catch? BO’D himself, possibly, that’s about it!
    Worse, I seem to recall an occasion 2-3 seasons back when Trimble unloaded as he went to ground, with an equally unsympathetic pass, And in pundit- box-land above, Hook went off on a big “Trimble flatters to decieve, what an awful pass”-rant. Did anyone say that on Sunday about BO’D’s equally unsympathtic pass? No they did not. Instead you had Tony Ward, purring (quite rightly) about how the great one always sees things and tries things. Let’s have some basic fairness lads!
    Couldn’t agree more about the harsh, unforgiving contrast between the young blood and old lags Pope and Hook (further exacerbated by old leather-face anchor Tom McGirk) On Saturday, you could see even the old lags themselves were wriggling with excitement to have a recent top class test player beside them. On Sunday Horgan and ROG together were even better, with really specific, detailed, meaningful insights. Total treat to hear them. The heart sank, as the camera rose, to the superannuated pundit box upstairs.

    • To be clear, I wasn’t criticising Trimble for the space left when he was hitting the rucks. My point was that the rest of the backline needs to be alert to cover the gap and not allow those kicks into the corner.

    • While we’re being fair to young Andrew, I’m pretty sure it was Henry, not Trimble, that failed to catch BOD’s offload.

  15. Oh, more positives. Best’s throwing. First rate. Do you remember the days when it used to be a liability? Seems a distant memory now. That Ulster Bank link, before & after the adverts, with him practicing into the basketball hoop nailed outside his barn. Now looks like slice of real life.
    The contrast with Scotland’s line out was incredible. They have great jumpers too, but the lack of guile (and practice it seems) with the throw, hurt them badly, a point well made above.
    Anyway, we all know, bigger tests to come, but I’m feeling optimistic.
    Then again, when does an Irish rugby fan Not feel optimistic?
    (*A: after most championships and WCs)
    Still, roll on Saturday, bring on Wales.

    • “Do you remember the days when it used to be a liability? Seems a distant memory now.”

      Last summer? And spring? Not quite distant yet for me I’m afraid, the scars are still etched… He was excellent in the set piece though. We’ll need him to up his all-round game next week, a key player.

  16. Solid performance but Scotland only lasted the first half. I think we will get burned for pace in the backs next Saturday so it’s gonna be imperative that we dominate in the forwards and starve Wales of possesion limiting their opportunities in the backs, Fitzgerald is needed also imo.

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