The bonus point victory over Italy was always expected by Ireland as they continued to keep themselves within reach of Guinness Six Nations Championship leaders France should they slip up.
Scoring nine tries as they registered a 57-6 win over the Italians, who have now lost 100 Six Nations games, this defeat being their 35th on the bounce, has boosted their points difference as the competition goes into its final two rounds.
However, ending up playing against 13 players for an hour and 12 for five minutes, the outcome was never in doubt.
The big talking point from the game was the red card for replacement hooker, Hame Faiva, which led to the Italians being reduced to 13 players, having to take another player off as they had no specialist hooker thus making the scrums uncontested.
Ireland had to be given an advantage as a result of the foul play, but Andy Farrell would have gladly ‘loaned’ Kieran Crowley a player if he could, because he learned even less from the Dublin game than he would have had it been a proper contest.
I was aware of the law around the situation only because it happened in a game between Ulster and Zebre not so long ago – and Ulster were shambolic in their performance against 13.
Ireland were not so shabby, but their performance was disappointing as they struggled to find accuracy, failed to maintain their discipline and were basically sloppy in their approach.
It was like watching an under-eights game at times, you know where everyone wants to score the try – white line fever was evident.
Not the case for the other big talking point of the day, Ulsterman Mike Lowry making his debut at fullback in the green jersey.
His selfless act in passing to James Lowe when he could have easily gone over for his hat-trick of tries was an example to some of those experienced players who took the wrong option too often when close to the line.
The 23-year-old had what was the dream debut, playing exceptionally well, scoring two tries and setting up the other for Lowe – indeed had he got the hat-trick he may even have been named Guinness man of the match – backrow forward Josh van der Flier picking up that accolade, in spite of being guilty of giving away three too many breakdown penalties.
Lowry smiled the entire way through the game, and was probably still smiling all the way home after a fine debut.
Enough to merit a start against England in Twickenham on Saturday, March 12?
Farrell was impressed with the lively fullback, but is almost certain to revert to Hugo Keenan for the Cabbage Patch fixture.
While the spotlight was on Lowry, it was good to note Ireland finished the game with four Ulstermen on the pitch – when did that last happen – Rob Herring, Kieran Treadwell and James Hume all coming off bench – lock Treadwell powering over for a try to mark a decent cameo.
Three points behind France in the standings, Ireland need the impressive French – victors over Scotland on the weekend – to slip up either away to Wales or at home to England.
Based on what we have seen to date, both are unlikely to happen and this Les Bleus side which has a lovely balance of brute and artistry are expected to secure the Grand Slam.
The Irish assignment away to England will prove a tough one, no matter how poorly the English have been performing. Remember away wins are hard to come by, and there have only been two after three rounds. Farrell’s charges will need to be at their best once again.