Game Review - England VS Ireland
Plan A: The Irish side is a tough nut to crack and I am sure they will concentrate on taking the ball up with the forwards. This combined with the fact that their coach often brings the fullback into the attack and uses one of the wings to cover suggests to me that we make use of long raking kicks into touch.
Let's force them back into their half and make them play from there. We can get more penalties if we can force more errors within reach of the poles to take full advantage of this. The Irish side is aggressive and tend to become more daring when put under pressure, often losing site of defensive patterns whilst executing there attack. There is the opportunity to make use of foul play to draw out the frustrations of the opponent and force them to take uncharacteristic chances.
Plan B: Should the Irish become wise to the kicking tactic then we need to make a dramatic shift. I am weary of taking the ball up with the forwards based on our record of handling errors. The safest option here is to run the forwards at his scrummy and keep him occupied with the ground for as long as possible. If we ruck well we can make some good, risk-free ground, BUT we need the scrummy down and out.
If he positions his scrummy deeper and protects him with other defenders then I want to see the ball given to the backs ASAP. The fewer rolls we make the better our chances.
You know this England team are going to be a tough encounter, but I think we always perform better under pressure and there is nothing I would like more than to see a shocked look on their faces after the match.
We also know the only way to officially win this Six Nations is to beat England by 61 points any other win will only level us on points. I know that beating them will make us the real winners in the world's eyes, so let's go out there and show them what we can do!
This is how we are going to do it: You've done the training so you are all physically prepared - you to remain calm. Don't lose your heads, England will not be afraid to intimidate you - so don't give away penalties.
As usual, if the ball is in your 22 it's up to the backs to clear the ball in the best manner, but rather kick it and don't create pressure for yourselves. Let's try and keep England away from our 22. Our defence will only be able to hold out for so long... I want you to get the ball to the backline when you are in their 22. We have a lot of dangerous players who we can use to draw their defence and break their line!
In between the two 22s give the forwards preference. Let them make sure of our possession and then moving it safely up to a point where we can attack from.
Try to build up any points lead at the end of each half - this should give us the edge and shake their confidence.
The sharp shriek of the whistle is drowned by the crowd as England opt to put the ball deep into the Irish half from the kick-off.
The Irish fall back and the forwards recover the ball before it passes into the hands of the winger - Dennis Hickie. He runs the ball infield, keeping inside his 22m.
England spread their defensive pattern and wait for the Irish to make their move but Hickie keeps the ball in hand and accelerates up to the centre of the filed where he finds some space. His moment of glory is short-lived as he is hit from behind by the big flanker Neil Back! Richard Hill supports, defending the ruck from the Irish backline!
The Irish Captain moves in quick, gathers then drives into Matt Dawson. Stringer is close on Keith's tail and he grabs the ball and surges forward through the gap. Knowing he doesn't have the pace to outrun the defence he passes to Brian O'Driscoll. The Irish break the advantage line and again have the English defence in disarray!
A big hit from Healy slows there advance but the Irish are steamrolling their way to the try line!
Unfortunately, the Irish forwards are slow to recover the ball for the Backline attack to continue. The pressure from the English defence finally pays off with them being awarded a penalty. They kick for touch and find it just outside of the Irish 22m line.
Dorian West steps to take the throw. He opts for the high ball to the back of the line out but it's stolen by some fantastic work from the tall Irish jumpers!
The Irish pack lumbers forward in maul formation. The English forwards show their muscle and pack into the maul to stop its progress!
The English pack manages to stop the Irish maul and it goes to ground, but Stringer picks up and again runs straight through the gap, with the rest of the forwards in close support, he passes to them and they again form a maul.
Vickery, Hill and Dallaglio close in on the maul but the Irish keep it storming forward! Their efforts are not in vain as the English defence regroups for the next wave of attacks!
The Irish keep on their feet but are losing their momentum.
With the Irish attack making steady but slow progress the English defence spans out expecting a faster attack!!
Eventually the Irish release the ball from the maul. Keith Wood releases the ball beautifully into the hands of John Hayes. The Prop catches the ball at pace and crashes through the tackle of both Dawson and Martin Johnson! The perfectly executed move leaves the English stunned.
Richard Hill nails the unsuspecting prop with a dangerous tackle that goes unseen in the mass of fallen bodies a ferocious ruck forms and the Irish scrumhalf gets pulled into the ensuing ruck! Grewcock snatches the ball for the English and gets ready to set up the counter-attack!!
Cursing the English and their bad play the Irish punish them with a mean physical tackle on Grewcock. They then proceed to lay into the ruck!
Balshaw recycles the ball and offloads to the awaiting boot of Dawson who punts the ball into touch and pushes the Irish pack back to their 10m line.
The Line-out is good. As Galwey lands the forwards drive with him, the English react swiftly and drag their opponents down. The ball comes out and is passed down to Anthony Foley who also meets the resistance of the fierce English forwards. Stringer darts around and sends the ball back down the blindside. Hayes tries the outside defence, but he too is brought down, but he lays the ball back cleanly for Quinlan who manages to make a little ground before the English hooker tackles him. From the confusing mass, Wood picks up and starts a run down the wing, the Irish pack close behind! The English forwards having momentarily lost sight of the ball being caught by surprise by Wood charging down the wing and are slow to respond. (Break Down)
With the English pack in disarray once again the backs fall back to defend! This Irish team are sure making their intensions felt, but how long can they keep going at England's defence!
Richard Hill is called on to make the tackle on the notorious Keith Wood. He makes an excellent smother tackle, and Stringer is unable to scrounge the ball out!
Dawson reacts quickly and moves in to gather but is unable to find the ball beneath the heap of bodies! The rest of the English team fail to react and the Irish are back on the attack!
Stringer eventually finds the ball, again he finds space and breaks away through the gap, it appears the English have underestimated the small scrum-half. With only Austin Healey to get past, Stringer tries to draw him in before off-loading to Dennis Hickie, but the experienced English winger doesn't take the bait and follows the ball. Unfortunately for him, Hickie gets the ball at full pace and easily hands-off (Hand-Off) the tackle and then puts on some real pace to try to outdistance the English who are in hot pursuit(Break Away)!
Hickie's pace is blistering and just too much for the English defence. With the only 5m to go, he dives to the ground and slides over the line for an awesome try.
The Irish crowd erupt as the conversion is slotted and the Irish go up 7-0
The restart and this time England try to attack the right side of the field kicking the ball onto the Irish backline.
Henderson falls back to recover, with the English fast closing him down, he doesn't have much time to make sure he gets the ball, perhaps he waits too long as he checks where they are before gathering. Its close, but Henderson gets the ball under pressure. He then hands the ball to O'Gara. O'Gara considers the kick for touch but notices the English have spread themselves thinly in the chase and that the Irish forwards are still on the outside wing. He passes to the full-back who charges across the field towards the forwards. He then passes Quinlan the ball. Quinlan is brought down and shortly afterwards O'Kelly, but the ball is easily recycled just inside their 10m. Now there is little in their path, but the backs are still far off, so the pack try and put as much pace into their heels as possible as they run down the wing. The crowd rise off their seats as they urge on the Irish.
Grewcock is once again called in to make the tackle and lays into Clohessy at pace!
Quinlan gathers and then runs into Vickery, but the scrumhalf clears the ball to Keith Wood, who once again breaks down the wing with another tremendous burst of pace. Healey has no option but to tackle the Irish Captain. Close on his heels again is Hickie, Wood pops the ball up in the tackle and without a dip, in pace, the winger grabs hold of the ball and hurtles down the wing, past the 10m and straight towards the open tryline! Balshaw is the only man in cover, can he get there in time?
Balshaw steps on the gas but finds himself eating the winger's dust as Hickie fly's past and over the line! Dempsey converts and the Irish go-ahead 14 to nil. 14-0
With the time running out Wilkinson puts the ball deep into the Irish half. Dempsey is in position and takes the ball with confidence (Cool Catch) but is hit by a massive tackle from Austin Healey who came thundering up in support from the kick-off! This is the kind of pressure England need to put on their opponents!
O'Gara gets the ball, but with the English following up quickly he doesn't have time to pass the ball out. He is hit by Wilkonson as the English advance!
The Irish are under big pressure, but still have the ball on their tryline.
Healy makes a big tackle on the Irish lock and puts them under even more pressure (Pressure Play) but eventually the Irish manage to scramble the ball and put it into touch!
Half Time Score Ireland 14 England 0
The Irish come out looking in very good spirits and rightly so, it has quite surprisingly been all Ireland so far. England has kicked away too much possession and they have been soft on defence. Ireland is looking like the side who want to win this one more and England are suffering from their casual approach to this game. Will things turn around though as the Irish become more fatigued later into the game? Time will tell..
The whistle blasts - O'Gara hoists the ball over the 10m line and the forwards follow it up well.
The English forward takes his eye off the ball and misses the catch. The ball bounces on the ground awkwardly and both teams scramble to get possession, eventually English forward dives onto the ball, in the ensuing ruck the Irish forwards are blown for going over the top (Penalty card). The English kick their penalty into touch just outside the Irish 22m. Ireland can not afford these basic errors to creep into their game.
The English spirit starts to rise as they find their jumpers in the lineout and make progress toward the Irish line. Now, 10m from the try line they set up their attack
The Irish react swiftly and force the English to sweat blood and tears for every meter, (Pressure Play) but will they be able to hold their defence?
The Irish forwards produce the goods forcing the English to attempt to hold on to the ball. The ref gives a sharp blast on the whistle and slowly the bodies clamber to their feet. He signals to Dallaglio and digs into his pocket to reveal a red card! Dallaglio bows his head and walks off the field amongst the deafening booing from the crowd. The big screen reveals the true picture - a boot to the head of Malcolm O'Kelly! Girvan Dempsey steps up to take the penalty and pushes their opponents to attack back to the halfway line.
The English contest heavily in the line out stealing the ball from the Irish jumpers. Hill secures and breaks down the centre of the field pounding into Peter Stringer. Hill, supported by Grewcock, Johnson, and Back forces his way over the Irish 10m line and sets the ball up for his support players.
The defence confidently falls back. They have done well to keep the English from scoring, but will they be able to hold on to their lead? They haven't had too much ball in the English half so far, and if the English manage to score soon it could make this game very tight!
Grewcock cleans out at the ruck and breaks down the blindside into David Wallace, he gains 10m and sets up a ruck just outside the Irish 22m. Good, fast support from West and Vickery sees the ball pop out for Dawson who wastes no time dispatching Ben Cohen through the gap in the defence. The Irish full-back finds himself out of reach and Cohen puts on the gas (Break Away), blasting past him and diving over the line to a roar from the English crowd. Balshaw converts and the stadium erupts into song! 7-14
As the players line up for the restart, the Irish supporters take their opportunity to try and bolster their team's morale after the shocking breakaway try. The forwards' thunder after the ball, determined to get possession!
Dawson snatches the ball out of the sky and flips it to the well-positioned Dorian West who finds some space around the Irish defence. He carries the ball into the tackle from John Hayes and goes to ground on the 10m line. Johnson picks up and makes a great break to the halfway line where he pounds into the Irish scrummy! They crumple to the ground and Johnson sets the ball back for his support players.
Dawson and Grewcock are sucked into the ruck as O'Kelly and Quinlan throw their bulk into the pile of bodies. The rest of the Irish team keep their eye on the cunning English line, trying to predict what they will try next. The English seem to have got their spark back after that try and the Irish would love nothing better than to snuff it out quick!
The English pack are content to slowly drive the ball up, attacking the fringes of the rucks and stretching the Irish defence to the limit (Break Down).
Mick Galwey tries to hold up the attack, but he doesn't have enough support as the defence isn't falling back quick enough. Just over the halfway line though and the English still have a lot of ground to cover before they can score and it's not going to be won easily as they still have a lot of work to do to ruffle the resolute defence.
The English patience pays off as Dawson gathers and feeds it out to his fly-half who breaks laterally toward the right side of the field. He shows the ball to his defenders but eventually feeds (Smooth Pass) it out to Cohen who puts on the gas (2x Break Away's) and outstrips the Irish cover defence, diving over in the corner! Balshaw does the deed and the scores are level! 14-14
The speed of the English comeback has left the Irish supporters shaken. They roar themselves hoarse as they attempt will their team to victory! O'Gara kicks the ball a little deeper this time, but the pack quickly bare down on the ball.
Balshaw moves up from the back of the field and secures the ball just outside the English 22m line. The English are pumped and need to put some pressure on the Irish team as they approach the final quarter.
The Irish prop. Peter Clohessy, makes a thunderous tackle on the fullback, a collective moan from the crowd as they see Balshaw wince in pain as he falls badly (Injury), undistracted by the state of the full-back, the Irish forwards pile on top of him as they attempt to win the ball in the ruck!
Dawsons gathers (Safe Hands) and again he feeds his flyhalf who spreads it wide to the waiting winger. Cohen breaks down the right-wing (Break Away) and puts a nice distance between himself and the defenders!
Howe and Henderson use their speed to catch Cohen, and are brought to the ground (Crash Tackle) by the bulky winger just over the Irish 10m! Cohen is wrapped up in the tackle by his opponents and falls awkwardly, unable to supply his support players with the ball! The English have lost their momentum and possibly the ball but the Irish will need to dig deep to release some of this pressure!
Dempsey is quick to grab the opportunity as he wrestles the ball from the grounded player. Hearing O'Gara's call behind him he passes the ball back. O'Gara is waiting just on the 22m line and as soon as he receives the ball he kicks it hard (massive kick) back into English territory. The English are under no pressure to collect the ball, but fortunately the Irish get a great bounce and the ball rolls over the touchline just inside the English 22m. The crowd applaud the excellent kick.
The English forwards bow their heads in disappointment as they are forced back into their half of the field. West fails to find his jumpers and the Irish steal the ball!
The Irish training pays off (hard training) as O'Kelly latches on to the ball and then drives straight back into the English pack. Quinlan safely gathers the ball (safe hands) from the ruck and lunges forward through a gap. He has plenty of support but doesn't need it as he sells a beautiful dummy to the backs, this gives him just enough space to dive over the try-line (breakaway). O'Gara makes sure of the easy conversion. 14-21
The English have paid dearly for their handling errors and are running out of time to pull back the deficit. Wilkinson restarts and puts the ball deep into the Irish half.
Dempsey again gathers, runs forward and then kicks the ball into touch forcing their opponent back onto their 10m line.
West takes the throw at the lineout and finds the hands of Grewcock. The big man charges forward into the tackle of Peter Stringer who buckles awkwardly to the ground. Leonard and Vickery pile into the ruck as the Irish scrummy writhes around on the ground in pain (Injury). The English fire burns in their bellies as they move up to attack!
The defence falls back...
The crowd hold their breath as they lose sight of the ball in the vicious ruck, its a tough tussle but eventually Matt Dawson emerges with the ball. He flicks it out wide to Catt who breaks over the half-line to the left of the field with Jonny Wilkinson in close support!
The English are pumped and the crowd rose in their seats to applaud this assault from the backline (Hard Training). O'Gara attempts to tackle Catt but finds himself biting the dust as Catt pushes him to the floor (Hand-Off). The Irish are forced to spread their defence to cover Catt as he makes massive ground, reaching the Irish 22m line! With time ticking away the English team will look to put on the pressure here (Counter Attack & Pressure Play)
The Irish team are in disarray! Knowing that the English will score if they don't do something incredible, the Irish put up an aggressive defence (Counter Attack).
Mike Catt flips the ball up in the tackle (Flip Pass) and finds Austin Healey on the wing. Healey takes on his defender and slams him to the ground (Hand Off) leaving an open trot to the try line! 21-21
The conversion is good and the scores are level - again!
The Irish are beginning to tire under the spirited English second-half revival, but there is still a glimmer of hope that they could win this match. This time O'Gara places the kick close to the touchline.
Jason Leonard, who has had a quiet game, secures the ball for his team and passes it back to Matt Dawson (Smooth Pass) who is perfectly position on his 22m line. Dawson opts to push the Irish team into there half and sends the ball into touch just outside the Irish 22m line. The crowd erupts as they realise the pressure is mounting for the Irish!
The Line out forms just outside the English 22m and as the ball sails over Grewcock at the back of the line, he interferes with his opposition jumper… and manages to steal the ball. The crowd go banana's as the referee signals the teams to play on!
This match seems like it is going to go down to the wire as the Irish prepare to try and keep out the English again. Grewcock is hit hard but the English ruck is there to protect the ball. Mick Galwey and Malcolm O'Kelly try to turn it over and almost manage it, but Stringer is unable to get a firm grip on the ball at the crucial moment and the ball disappears back into the ruck.
It emerges in Dawson's hands, the crowd cheers, but it is short-lived as the ball slips out his hands and falls over the ruck. Stringer wastes no time snatching the ball up and makes a characteristic quick pass to Anthony Foley who runs up the centre of the field, just as the siren for full-time rings.
The crowd erupt urging the Irish to go for their final move when suddenly Foley is hit by a thunderous tackle from Danny Grewcock. It looks dirty but the ref decides to let it go. The two bodies fall to the ground and almost instantly, Catt snaps the ball from the ground and bursts through the relaxed Irish defence. With an open path to the try line he wastes no time (2x Break Away's) getting there. Catt is swamped by his teammates as he slams the ball to the ground in excitement. Balshaw slots the easy conversions and puts the victory in the hands of England.
Full-Time Score Ireland 21 England 28
England Game Statistics
Ireland Game Statistics
A tough team talk and change of tactic saw the English team almost reverse those odds and got them back into the game with 2 early tries. Playing catch up is never easy but the English just seemed to have the edge on the Irish even with one less player on the field.
The Irish team seemed content with their tactics at half time and with a fantastic 14-0 lead why wouldn't they, they dominated their opponents with awesome ball retention. But one can only think that it was this confidence that may have lead to a predictable style of play.
All said, however, it was a game of titanic battles and fierce gameplay and although it went down to the final seconds, one can only say it was a well-deserved win to the men in white.
Congratulations Martin (Johnson). A tough game?
Absolutely. One of the toughest. The Irish are always a physical side, probably one of the world most physical.
Was it what you expected it to be?
A lot tougher than we had hoped, but we put ourselves under huge pressure in the first half.
Too much-wasted possession?
Absolutely. Our tactics were clear for the first half, but the Irish were just too good with the ball. Their line outs were world-class.
How was the change room at half time?
Pretty tense but we knew where we had gone wrong and it was just a matter of finding the Irish weak point. The coach had done his homework there.
Those two tries early in the second half must have been motivating?
They where critical. Another try from the Irish there and I think it would have been a different game.
A couple of lucky referee decisions toward the end, did those count?
I don't know about that - the ref was right there and it was his call. We just play the game, and that's rugby.
Those final seconds must have been intense how was it out there?
Awesome. We thought the Irish defended brilliantly and at the siren, I thought it was game over, but Catt just came out of nowhere with the ball. He was brilliant.