It’s a big evening on the channel that used to be TV3 — Virgin Media One, in case you weren’t sure (and for the record I wasn’t, not fully). Yes indeed, the new series of Ireland’s Got Talent starts at 7.30pm.
Before that we’re off to the Aviva to see how much talent Ireland will demonstrate against England.
Will they entertain? Will they, on the other hand and as per exhaustive debate in the media last week, bore the arse off spectators and opponents alike? Which side, Ronan O’Gara wonders, “will blink first in this game of kick-rugby, kick-chess”?
Best not to hope for too much, according to the tacit studio consensus. We know what Ireland do and that they do it very well, but nobody will ever mistake them for the Barbarians of 1973 or the Holland of 1974, and that’s OK too. Shane Horgan is hoping that one item will appear on the menu, though. “There must be a bit of sophistication,” he says hopefully.
The first item on the menu, it transpires, is England’s ferocity. After 92 seconds they’re in for the opening try. Great pass by Owen Farrell, Jonny May over in the corner. Keith Earls looks a little slow in the middle of it all. Alan Quinlan, alongside Dave McIntyre in the commentary box, is eavesdropping on the referee’s microphone and can hear the visitors geeing up each other in the background.
The downside of England’s approach is their indiscipline. They’re giving away penalties all over the place and Ireland nudge their way back into proceedings.
Instead of attempting a gimme of a penalty conversion Johnny Sexton goes for the corner and Cian Healy burrows over from the lineout.
Alan is delighted. “It’s the measure of this team, the confidence they have, the belief in themselves.” Ireland 14 England 10. All is right with the world again. Ireland’s got talent alright.
It is a first half of three distinct phases. The visitors for the first 15 minutes, the hosts for the next 15 and the visitors again for the period approaching half-time.
Dave, such a fine commentator on such a variety of sports, deems the men in white to be “a little sharper, harder, more aggressive”.
Sure enough, a minute before the interval Ireland muff a lineout in a position where lineouts ought not to be muffed, their opponents keep the pressure on and eventually Jacob Stockdale is hounded into losing
possession behind his own line. Oh dear.
Earls is duly blamed by the panel for his error for the first try but Matt Williams points out that all the members of the back three were at fault for this systems failure (“very bad play”). Ireland, Ronan observes, “are now the hunted”. England, Shane notes, “have been smarter”.
"He (Joe Schmidt) is hopping mad"— Virgin Media Sport (@VMSportIE) February 2, 2019
"He's hurt. He's shocked at his players" 😳@RonanOGara10 gives an insight into how Joe Schmidt is feeling right now.#VMTVRugby #GuinnessSixNations #IREvENG pic.twitter.com/1W9H2QLXWs
It looks like those accusations of Irish over-programming have something in them after all. Shane: “They need to play what they see on the field rather than what they analysed during the week.”
Ronan lauds the force with which the men in white are hitting the collisions. Matt declares that the men in green are “not winning that corridor of power”.
Dave reaches into his statistical grab bag and produces a peach.
The last time Ireland came from behind at the interval to beat England was in… 1983. Gulp.
It quickly becomes apparent that they won’t be doing so tonight. The second half is less a half of rugby than an episode of Ireland Get Horsed Out of It. The red rose is supreme in that corridor of power, and
indeed every other corridor in the Dublin 4 area also. By the time Henry Slade nips in for his second try the champions have long since been, ahem, slayed.
And that’s it. The title (Noddy) Holders have crashed at the first fence.
There will be no Grand Slam or Triple Crown; there will almost certainly be no championship; and the outlook for the World Cup doesn’t look half as bright as it did a couple of months ago. Ireland Just Got Creamed.
We could bring you the contents of Mako Vunipola’s post-match interview with Sinead Kissane, or Rory Best’s ditto, but why bother?
You don’t care. We don’t care. Nobody cares. It’s been that sort of evening.
What time does Ireland’s Got Talent start again?