Russia fail to score but Ireland fail to fire, again

Russia fail to score but Ireland fail to fire, again
Garry Ringrose of Ireland scores the fifth try. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

The rain came and it was good.

Gone was the suffocating humidity that had tortured every pore inside the enclosed Kobe Misaki Stadium for the first two World Cup games here.

It was still hot and sticky and the ball slippy but not in the sort of way that clouded the mind and made you pray for an ice bath. And this for a game against a side that lost to Jersey Reds and Connacht before the tournament.

Happy days for the Paddies, then, and they made the most of the relatively benign conditions and the limited, amateur opposition, to score Ireland's fastest ever World Cup try and the quickest in this year's tournament yet to date.

It was just what the doctor ordered after the sickening loss to Japan.

Here was the first hint of momentum regained but it felt like a mirage less than ten minutes later after a calamity of errors burned all that positive energy away.

Yet again we had botched lineouts, abetted by loose passes and a high ball allowed to bounce in their own 22. Basics, done badly. Even Peter O'Mahony's second try couldn't fully disguise the fault lines in an Irish team that huffed and puffed to make inroads against a side that was game but all too limited.

New Zealand showed against South Africa that they can kill a tie inside three minutes and Ireland had already put in over a dozen turgid minutes between their first two tries.

That makes you think. And fret. By half-time they were three-quarters of the way to the bonus point and yet it was a period that ended with Bundee Aki knocking on off the back of a lineout.

Every mistake let another puff of air out of the balloon.

As it ended, so it began again, with Jack Carty spilling a simple high ball and Aki doing likewise minutes later. Neither were under any pressure.

Then there was Rob Kearney kicking long with Earls in space beside him and a simple move in the Russian 22 ruined by a dropped ball delivered from no more than a yard away.

Bad, bad stuff.

The final quarter approached before we knew it and there Ireland were, still soaking in a bath of their own ineptitude and needing a fourth try to see to the evening's basic math.

Against Russia. It all seemed perplexingly academic at that point anyway because their all too frequent carelessness and culpability seem to remain problems that no amount of theorems can solve.

Not even the yellow card for Andrey Ostrikov could prise the Russians open.

We knew Ireland were in trouble before this tournament but there was enough credit restored to the bank after the Dublin win against Wales and the World Cup opener against Scotland to believe that they could possibly come good again.

What we saw for the last hour against Japan, and again here despite a five-try 35-0 win, has resurrected all those doubts and more besides.

And all this before we consider fitness concerns over various key players.

We could use the conditions as mitigation here. Or the eleven changes Joe Schmidt made to the team after the Shizuoka shock. But the fact is that Ireland are struggling for form and consistency for far too long, regardless of personnel or conditions.

They have nine days now before their next fixture, against Samoa in Fukuoka, and yet they have been so inconsistent, and so sloppy in such long patches through 2019 to date, that there should be only hope and little expectation backing them come any quarter-final against New Zealand or South Africa.

That's the reality.


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