A quick post match debriefing in the Ireland huddle on the Murrayfield pitch after the 27-24 victory over Scotland didn’t eschew the shortcomings in performance but there’s no doubting that the positive outcome softened the glare. Winning overrides the initial inkling to dissect the result forensically in examining blemishes.
Scotland’s were the more visible anyway, a 25 per cent success rate at the lineout, 11 penalties conceded and 15 turnovers and yet they came within three points on the scoreboard. That’s both head scratching and to some degree worrying from an Irish perspective.
Andy Farrell’s side initially addressed early glitches sufficiently to eke out a 14-point advantage in the second half but then promptly sat back handing the initiative, gift wrapped in mistakes, to their grateful hosts. The Scots didn’t have to work too hard in creative terms to claw back the deficit. It was only when confronted by the prospect of not winning that Ireland summoned the necessary hustle and desire.
Individuals rescued the victory; replacement Ryan Baird with the chase and tackle from a kickoff, the outstanding Iain Henderson forcing the penalty turnover and captain, Johnny Sexton thumping it between the posts.
Watching from his vantage point in the stands having produced another high calibre display, Tadhg Beirne’s primary emotion was one of relief. The Kildare native obviously likes to double up when he can; it was his second man-of-the-match award following on from Rome and also a try scorer once again. The accolade is pleasing on a personal level but a subsidiary concern to the result.
The fact that Ireland were in the box seat and so nearly let it slip was addressed by the playing group. Beirne explained: “Yeah we said it when we were out there (on the pitch). We conceded two tries through our own mistakes, not being calm enough on turnover ball and stuff. That is something that we will definitely look at.
“It is a bit frustrating because we felt we were in control of the game, we had the upper hand especially in the lineout where we got some good turnovers. There were some great elements of the game but others elements where we will look (at improving). We managed to stick in there and credit to the lads in the last five minutes they managed to pull it out of the bag.”
Victory does inform the post immediate post match appraisal but the Kildare native believes that the Irish performances are progressing. He said: “Yeah, I think so. We spoke about improving. We put massive pressure on ourselves to improve against Italy; I think we did that.
“We came to Murrayfield and at the end of the day you are away from home, it’s never easy to come here, crowd or no crowd so for us to come out (with a win) you have to look at that as a positive. Obviously there are elements there where we need to improve but overall we would be pretty happy.”
One of those areas that require further tinkering from an attacking perspective is the breakdown. The Munster forward admitted: “I don’t think we were at our best in terms of the breakdown in attack. That is something we are going to have to get better at; Scotland managed to get some turnovers and that is definitely something we will focus on.”
He paid tribute to the work of assistant coach Paul O’Connell, James Ryan and Henderson for the manner in which Ireland managed to pillage the Scottish lineout before paying tribute to the moxy displayed by his captain in securing the win. “He (Sexton) is a great professional and a great leader and I was not surprised he went for the posts, and wasn’t surprised he put it over. That is just the character he is, a serious player.”
On a personal level, Beirne’s continued presence in the team outweighs any metal recognition that comes in the form of a medal or two. “I am just happy to get a run of games. If my performances are getting me selected, I am obviously doing something right.”
Motivation won’t be an issue next Saturday at the Aviva stadium when England hit town but it will require more tangible qualities. If their hosts are to reverse a recent trend in terms of the results they will have to clamber up several levels in performance terms.
Italy and Scotland both fatally compromised their chances with self inflicted wounds in the Ireland matches; it is unlikely that England will be similarly accommodating.