Tense, nervous, anxious, and that was just me before the kick off so goodness knows how the players were feeling.
This was a game were the result was always going to be more important than the performance and France’s victory against Wales the previous night had raised the pre-match tension a notch higher. How international players deal with these types of matches marks them out for greatness and for Ireland the difference in ability to handle the pressure between O’Gara and the rest of the squad couldn’t have been more pronounced. Fortunately for Ireland, O’Driscoll managed to steady the ship sufficiently to eek out a one point win through the sheer force of his will. If only we had someone capable of doing the same at Ulster we could be sitting twelve points further up the Magners League.
It was always going to be a war of attrition and with O’Gara miss firing with the boot and refusing to pass the ball along the line Ireland had no option but to front up to the juggernaut English pack and, while we were denied a feast of flowing rugby, the ferocious clashes on the front line still made this an intriguingly absorbing game. This was a great forward battle and one which was edged by the Irish pack with Ferris and David Wallace in particular dominating their English counterparts.
Ferris got through a huge amount of work and it wasn’t just his tackling and his ball carrying but also the number of times he latched on to Irish ball carriers and drove them over the gain line and secured possession. If he keeps up this level of performance he should be nailed on for the Lions tour. He also has improved his off load and for the second game running gave Ireland one of their few clean breaks in the tight forward battle.
Paddy Wallace had a quiet game in attack but the amount of work he put in in defence was very pleasing to see. Toping the Irish tackling statistics he appeared to be everwhere and if he continues to get his chances at international level his natural attacking flare should come to the fore soon enough (provided the problems with quick ball at halfback are delt with)!
So, the Kidney bandwagon continues to roll, even if one of the wheels may have become a little bit wobbly. How he gets O’Gara’s head right for the next two games is going to be interesting to see but he aleady seems to have started this work with his bigging up of the fragile one in post match interviews. However one of these days he’s going to be beyond repair and what Ireland do then is going to be very interesting indeed.