Oh Lordy. Where do we start? Do we actually have to start? Can we somehow sneak out of it?
Seeing as we can't, let’s go to six minutes in. Richie Mo’unga opens the scoring with a penalty, a consequence of what Donal Lenihan, in the commentary box for RTE, terms “the pressure New Zealand have put on Ireland straight from the kickoff”. Good for Ronan O’Gara, who was Mo’unga’s kicking coach. Not so good for the men in green. Call it a premonition.
Or let’s go to a few minutes later. Jordan Larmour is on temporarily for Garry Ringrose, who’s being patched up. Robbie Henshaw is bandaged. “Blood has been drawn,” announces Hugh Cahill. There will be a lot more blood drawn before the evening is out.
Despite having been idle for the past fortnight the world champions are smashing into their opponents and making yards on every carry. You’d hate to see them if they were match-sharp. But Aaron Smith nips in for a try after 13 minutes, reward for their dominance, and shortly afterwards he’s over in the corner for a second.
Henshaw holds his head. A nation holds its head. Ireland are in big trouble. This is not a premonition.
A graphic shows the All Blacks with 62 percent of the possession. Surely it’s a typo. There’s no way Ireland have had 38 per cent of the ball. When they don’t have it Joe Schmidt’s team can’t get it off their opponents and when they do have it they can’t hang on to it.
Their first touch is all over the place and it’s killing them. We know from other sports, primarily hurling, that the first touch of the best teams never lets them down, even and especially under the most intense pressure – and against New Zealand is as intense as the pressure gets. In any sport.
Me, I blame JRR Tolkien. He told us that hobbits can beat orcs. It may be true in fantasy books but not in real life, not when the orcs come from New Zealand – as they did in the film adaptations – and are wearing black. The poor little hobbits are being eaten alive.
Enter Beauden Barrett, who as we discovered on RTE yesterday could as easily have grown up to be a Meath footballer. He demonstrates both dazzling speed and dazzling footwork to zoom in for the third try. On this evidence he’d get his place with Dublin, never mind with the Royals.
Come the interval (o blessed relief!) it’s 22-nil – and Ireland are lucky to get nil. It’s really good to watch, Michael Lynagh declares in studio, but not if you’re Ireland. Quite. “We’re not a team that makes mistakes,” laments Eddie O’Sullivan, “but we’re making enough for four or five matches.”
Thank You @RoryBest2— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) October 19, 2019
You've been a great player and captain and great person for Irish Rugby. It has been a pleasure to watch you play for @UlsterRugby & @IrishRugby
Thank you to your family for lending you to us.#TeamOfUS #ShoulderToShoulder #ThanksRory pic.twitter.com/Ib8LEt267K
One cannot point too harsh a finger. This is not like versus like, it’s apples versus oranges. New Zealand are playing their national game, one to which they’re cradle-born; we’re not.
is rugby country; , despite the ads and the witterings of the likes of Daire O’Brien and Neil Francis, is not. If nothing else, the victories against the All Blacks in the friendlies at Soldier Field and the Aviva are finally being placed in their proper context. Let’s please introduce a moratorium on any further mention of them for the next while. Shouldn’t be difficult.
The second half starts. Urgh. Does there have to be one? Do we have to watch? Does anyone have a sofa to hide behind?
Very soon we’re treated to an example of chaos theory. You know, a butterfly flaps its wings in Ballydehob and a few minutes later there’s an earthquake in Moscow. In this instance Johnny Sexton, not for the first time today, fails to find touch and moments later - well, even if you didn’t see it you could probably hazard a guess. (For the record: Matt Todd makes it 34-0 down the other end of the field.)
It seems like a lifetime ago that Hugh was talking about blood being drawn. So much blood has been drawn in the meantime that the match might as well have been directed by Quentin Tarantino, not Nigel Owens.
The losers do manage two late consolation tries.late consolation tries, rather, and whether they can even be classed as consolatory is debatable. Donal is too nice a guy to put the boot in but he does observe that Ireland “have stagnated over the past 18 months”.
Have the lambs stopped screaming yet, Clarice? They finally have, with the scoreboard reading 46-14. An end to the hope, an end to the hype. Poor Joe looks a broken man.
Back to Montrose, where Brent Pope “doesn’t like to say it” – ah go on, go on, go on - “but it was a hammering at the end of the day”. What, he muses, was Ireland’s gameplan? “We didn’t see what was up the sleeve.” Eddie: “Beaten up in every facet of the game. An absolute tonking.”
Rory Best says a nice few words and receives a terrific send-off. It is the one and only cheering moment of the night.
“Join us after the break for more from the lads on what went wrong,” Daire declares invitingly. Eh, no thanks. Where’s the zapper? Click!