Sunday, 25 February 2007

Ireland 43 England 13

Ah, shit.

I didn't think England played too badly, actually - Wilkinson kicked reasonably well, the scrum was unfairly penalised a couple of times, and there were a couple of basic handling errors, but there was some really neat passing work going on in the backs, and the rush defence seems to be getting ingrained. But thirty points, though...

I watched the second half across the road, with an Irish family, whose niece was playing with my son and a couple of kids from down our road in the back garden. They were passionate enough about it. I could see how much it meant to them, playing the English at Croke Park. We talked about the 1921 massacre at the stadium, the role of the Irish in the Second World War, everything, and we were still welcomed into their home. Even if it did mean I had to watch my team get thrashed.

Ireland well deserved it. I could see they were up for it right from the anthems, the tears streaming down John Hayes' face. From the kick-off their forwards just swarmed all over the pitch, led of course by Paul O'Connell, who seemed to be everywhere at once. I haven't seen forward play that strong apart from watching the All Blacks, Richie McCaw, Chris Jack and their teammates. And Shane Horgan looks like a proper winger now, not just a great lump. He can run, and the way he went through David Strettle at one point was just monstrous. It was unfortunate that we had a lot of young guys out there - Strettle, Morgan, Tait, these are lads that are finding their feet in the international game, and you can't expect them to go to Croke Park, of all places, and win. No chance.

But next year at Twickenham? Maybe. Ireland will take some beating, though. World Cup runners-up.

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