SHIT/GOOD™ Ratings: Ireland 36 - Italy 6
by Mark McKew
With the 6 Nations game between these two being so close, a lot of people were expecting an upset. The Italians have this week been boasting about their sheer manliness and that testosterone was far superior to Irish shovel-handed farmers. The ITV commentators subsequently went searching for more details about Testosterone, assuming he was the Italian replacement prop.
The teams picked themselves. Despite much being made of ROG’s selection it wasn’t a difficult decision to make – Declan Kidney plumping for someone who should in theory be a calming influence and land his kicks despite everything else.
In all a good match. A balanced first half and a crunching second with the Italians unable to string phases together until the last quarter.
Italian discipline. There is such a thing as being too fired up. Every breakdown saw the Italians more concerned with their opposite number than winning possession. The ball was squandered in the first half and near impossible to get hold of in the first 20 of the second. The only way they could’ve won would was through their forwards, but Bergamasco stupidly and petulantly had a penalty reversed before half-time. That penalty would have seen Italy go in level.
Ghiraldini. He knew what he was doing and it was the act of a cunt and a coward. A ban looms.
ITV Commentators. ‘I’ve never seen so many camper vans in one place. You can bet your bottom dollar that they’re full of Irish’…why not go the whole hog and say they’ll tarmac your drive and sell you some lucky heather while you’re at it? Awful.
Kappa rugby shirts. Time has moved on and gone are the days of heavyweight cotton shirts that would absorb sweat to the extent that the salt contained in their very material could possibly erode your nipples. Fine, every manufacturer puts ‘grip pads’ on their shirt nowadays, but when you start looking like your wearing something so rubbery that Michael Jackson turned it down for his ‘Thriller’ video, you know you look like a dick. With a johnny on it. A ribbed one.
Ireland. Easy that one.
Oh. Alright. From 1 – 15, Ireland were solid, patient and resilient. It was a genuine team effort but the distinguishing factors were:
Irish Discipline. For the most part they refused to be drawn into any off-the-ball confrontation. Cian Healy did well to stick just the one on Ghiraldini despite provocation. They remained focussed and in the end, that was the major factor in their win.
The Irish Pack.
Initially the scrums were shared, each side losing some against the head, but once Castrogiavanni and then Bergamasco left the pitch, they were buggered.
Their line-out was criminally unchallenged for large parts of the game. Clean, crisp ball allowed O’ Gara the ability to look half decent. There, I said it. I feel dirty though. His decision making was at times slow and ponderous and his left-hand pass seemed to take an age to arrive. You still get the feeling that what Tommy Bowe gives, ROG can still screw up. Time will prove him to be someone who consistently nailed England, but also screwed his country and the Lions on a semi-regular basis.
Tommy Bowe. Robbed of a try and a penalty try, he sent BOD in for their first. Does the basics exceptionally well – direct running, drawing his tackler. But it’s his turn of pace that is most notable. He takes the ball so flat that at times he impossible to play. While O’Driscoll knows his clock is ticking down, the loss Ireland face will be considerably lessened knowing Bowe is around.
Cian Healy. He can kick too! There will be hard decisions to be made about who gets the Lions loosehead shirt in 2 years time, providing Jenkins and Stevens keep their legs going. Without a doubt, Ireland are slowly forming a pack which will see them through the next 10 years, before the RWC finishes. Take note England. Or don’t. Probably the latter.
Heaslip. The best 8 in the Northern hemisphere? Undoubtedly. Top three in the world? Probably. Future Ireland Captain? Yup. He has it all – the physical presence to break the line constantly, a scavenging mentality, great hands and an ability to read the game better than anything the English pack can offer. The fact he plays in one of the best back-rows in the world doesn’t hurt.
O’Brien. Where Heaslip takes the piss-poor prattling pundit plaudits, O’Brien gets on quietly with his work. His carrying made Ireland’s job simple, his defence made Italy’s all the more difficult. He’s the European player of the year for a reason, but you’d hardly know he was on the pitch thanks to ITV’s match commentators.
Ferris. Not bad either. As an England supporter, I’m incredibly jealous of the back-row situation. We have James Nice-But-Dim, Nick Easterislandhead and Lewis Moody, who is only in the team because he has similar hair to Neil Back.
While I’m on the subject, Irish hair. A bit like their game 10 years ago, it’s lustrous, shiny and initially well controlled, but ultimately wild and prone to areas of mentalness (apart from O’Connell and he’s ginger). Alternatively for the Italians, Castrogiovanni aside they had nothing to offer. After his substitution they looked lacklustre and greasy, with only the occasional sideburn on display. Even Lo Cicero’s highlights couldn’t lift a dull and lifeless display.
The posts. Hit by more balls than Jordan this morning, which is saying something.
Of all the Northern Hemisphere teams, Ireland can go furthest and would present a real challenge for the All Blacks. It used to be said that if the game was 60 minutes long, Ireland would be World Champions. Now they’ve shown they can play 80 and beyond. If they can do that consistently, the next few weeks could be interesting.
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