Sins of Commission

We could (and maybe should) be sitting here today talking about how Ireland had just become the 3rd team to win a series in South Africa, joining a pantheon that include the 1974 Lions and the 1996 BNZ-ers, but we fell agonisingly short up in Jo’burg. Going into the game, we thought we had a fantastic chance to seal the series, but that managing the altitude would be the biggest challenge.

And so it proved. We were 16 points ahead with 20 minutes to go but lost by 6, utterly decimated in the last quarter by the rampaging Springboks. It had began to feel ropey when Ruan Combrinck scored – it was the beginning of tired tackling (and non-tackling) and would not have surprised someone aware a sea level team were playing at 1800m. We scored again of course, but the frustration was we were unable to stem the tide. Could we have done anything about it? Well yes, but there are sins of omission and sins of commission.

When we saw the Ireland 23, we said that the starters would give us a great opportunity to win this game, but we had concerns about the low octane bench. This was the sin of omission. Whatever the altitude, you are going to use your 5 replacement forwards – if our gameplan was to get ahead of SA and hang on, you want to see some forwards on your bench who can come in and go mad for 20 minutes, hit everything and maybe crash into some Springboks too. In recent times, two of our most effective impact replacements have been Nugget and Ultan Dillane – but we picked neither. Instead we had Strauss, who on all known form offered less than Cronin, and Donnacha Ryan, who is a super player, but no Dillane off the bench. Maybe a better option as a starter than Dillane, but wearing 19 is a different task. In the event, every one of our forward replacements had little, if not negative, impact (except maybe Flashheart).

That’s the piano shifters. In the ranks of the piano players the selection was fine (albeit with very little alternatives in the case of 21 and 22) but our non-use of the bench was perplexing – five collective minutes for the 3 of them, with O’Halloran riding the pine for the whole game. In Ellis Park, with the Boks rampant from minute 60, that’s unforgivable. What was required from 60 onwards was simply to tackle – our starting backs had gone from making, to soaking, to missing and they were spent. No-one expected Madigan and O’Halloran to come in and run length of the field tries, but merely to make a couple of tackles and offer some respite. Both are actually good defenders as well – no Jonny Wilkinsons but no iHumphs either.

You’ll have to forgive the negative tone because we’re still so frustrated at the missed opportunity, but it needs to be pointed out how excellent Ireland were in the first half. The major impact of the lack of oxygen seemed to be dozy decision-making from the South Africans, who gave Ireland cheap penalties by the sackful (which should have been punished by a yellow by half time) and Ireland made them pay. Paddy Jackson had a great first half, and Furlong’s destruction of the Beast was incredible. This felt like the day Furlong truly arrived as a test rugby player.  We almost – almost! – put them away, and each of the two missed penalties to get to 22-3 may have sealed the deal. It was a truly excellent display, until the environmental constraints got us.

Problem is now, Coetzee has maybe stumbled upon his best team – expect Warren Whitely and Ruan Combrinck to start in PE, and Damian de Allende and maybe even le Roux have been successfully played into form. We’ll have Stander back, but we’re down Henshaw and another backline rejig is in prospect. Although a centre partnership of Olding and Marshall looks light, we’d prefer that to moving Payne from the 15 shirt. If Schmidt is true to his word of giving everyone gametime, we’ll see Healy and O’Halloran as well. It would have been a nice luxury to be able to start them in a dead rubber Test, but it ain’t the case. Which is frustrating.

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  1. D6W

     /  June 20, 2016

    Totally agree. It should have been an absolute given that we would use the entire bench due to altitude, and brought them all on after 60 minutes. They did not even have to make an impact, all they had to do was defend a 10 point lead. Cannot understand the decision making here.

    As for next week, assuming Payne has to go back to 13, and have O’Halloran start at 15. Marshall-Olding simply looks to callow in midfield.

    • Thing with Marshall is – the management have continually pointed out his role as 24th man throughout the 6N. Schmidt might not see him as callow / a risk in that position

      • D6W

         /  June 20, 2016

        I was thinking more Olding as the risk. I thought Marshall proved himself at 12 in first test, but inside an experienced Henshaw. I was thinking Marshall 12, Payne 13 is best option available now.

    • curates_egg

       /  June 20, 2016

      16 point lead actually.

  2. Coetzee will still be restricted by quotas in making his starting selection.

  3. curates_egg

     /  June 20, 2016

    What a bloody travesty. I was excited by the team but worried by the bench. It was a bench planned for a game we were expecting to just get beaten off the park in. It was a bench that got us beaten off the park instead. Hindsight is 20:20 and nobody thought we would be 16 up against the Springboks in Ellis Park going into the final quarter but that bench killed us.

    I don’t think anyone expected the Boks would play as badly as they did in the first half but, if they did, surely even they don’t think the Boks will play as badly again this week. They finished like a team possessed. It seems like the chance at immortality is gone. Such a shame.

    • D6W

       /  June 20, 2016

      I felt he selected the bench based on resting some players for 3rd test, but agree it was underwhelming. But either way, he should have used it, as the altitude was the deciding factor in the end. SA had 7 Joberg players on pitch in 2nd half. A fresh O’Halloran must to be better than an exhausted Payne.

      Don’t know if our chance is gone, This SA are perfectly capable of following up a good performance by a mare. And we do have some good fresh forwards to come in, while SA may be limited in their selection by political factors, as rava_ian points out.

  4. Peter Daly

     /  June 20, 2016

    Two in a week. What have we done to deserve this lads. For me I can’t see Payne moving from 15. O’Halloran not getting a minute off the bench despite a couple of Irish backs being totally out on their feet points to Schmidt not trusting him yet. That’s not going to change in a week. The only pairing I can see is Olding/Marshall with the same back 3 and bench as the first test.

  5. Still spitting feathers. Agree with everything written here. We are theoretically still in with a chance, even if I personally can’t see us pulling off a second miracle in three weeks. If the SA continue or are allowed to continue, where they left off, were ****ed. My main question is, who’s going to stop Combrink? Keith Earls? If he were to pull it off, Andy Farrell is a genius. I have my doubts though. Combrink made roadkill of Payne. I nearly feel like calling up McCloskey and putting him on the left wing just to shore it up. Or maybe Joe could fly in Ferg and he can do a kamikazi job on the Boks’ new wunderkind!!!

    • D6W

       /  June 20, 2016

      GT has thrown out the old chestnut of putting Earls at 13! Actually Earls has been solid in defence at wing, but we really have to stop SA getting the ball wide to likes of Combrink, as we did in first test.

  6. I thought TOH didn’t come on, but lots of the reports (and IRFU website) have him coming on for Payne at the same time Madigan came on for Henshaw. Anyone able to confirm/deny?

  7. Pete

     /  June 20, 2016

    Trimble to swap wings to try to tackle that mad punisher fella?????

  8. Shelflife

     /  June 20, 2016

    Agree with everything here,except a minor point that Tiernan didnt come on. Im sure as was my son that TOH did make the pitch for a min or so.
    Very poor player management that resulted in players out on their feet while we had fresh meat on the bench.

    • True but understandable: With the clock ticking down and the team holding on for dear life, you’d kind of be inclined to stick with Test-proven internationals like Murray and Payne, rather than take a punt on Marmion and TO’H closing out the match. I mean, we didn’t surrender the lead until the 76th minute. In such a situation decision making must be extremely tough. Essentially you’re on a hiding to nothing. Either you get lucky or you don’t. We didn’t….

  9. Peter Brooke Tyrrell

     /  June 20, 2016

    Another question….

    Personally I’d put out the same starting pack again this week. Even with stander back.

    Now on the bench you need 3 front row subs. I’d be tempted to put 3 more forwards on the bench and survive with 2 backs.


    • Peter Daly

       /  June 20, 2016

      Stander on the bench? He has to start. Ireland’s pack had no one making yards in contact last weekend. He was sorely missed around the fringes.

  10. St

     /  June 20, 2016

    I’m just glad the last test is at sea-level.

  11. Logical from Schmidt regarding subs, agree though that Dillane and Cronin should have made bench first off though.

  12. Pete

     /  June 21, 2016

    I think we had a number of players making yards in contact. The footwork and leg drive of Rhys ruddock was exceptional last weekend. Henderson and Furlong were making some good yards too.

    • Peter Daly

       /  June 21, 2016

      Stats tell a different story. Ruddock made 10 metres off ten carries, Henderson made 6 in 6 and Furlong made 1 carry for 4 yards. Our best carrier was Rory Best who had 12 yards. It’s very difficult to win a test match with those carrying stats. Stander is Ireland best available dynamic ball carrier. We need him in the side.

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