Rob Kearney pulled no punches in the aftermath of Ireland’s Murrayfield defeat and he was expecting a similar approach when Joe Schmidt and his coaching team get stuck into the players at today’s match review session.
Full-back Kearney described his team as chasing Scottish shadows during an awful first-half performance on Saturday, as Ireland fell behind 21-5 after half an hour and reached the interval 21-8 in arrears to the dark blues.
There was further misery when after a spirited comeback to nudge Ireland in front at 22-21 with 18 minutes to go, the visitors once again pressed the button marked self-destruct, blowing try-scoring chances to secure victory and conceding sloppy penalties to allow Scotland to go back in front and win 27-22.
So while Kearney perused the game statistics that gave Ireland 59% possession, 63% territory, and dominance in terms of metres made, line breaks and defenders beaten, he acknowledged the most telling data, the final score, was what his side deserved.
“We knew we’d created the chances but we just weren’t clinical enough. We started poorly, didn’t get out of the blocks at all and credit to them, they’re a good side. We knew that from the offset. We got back into it, we showed character but we just didn’t take one or two of those opportunities at 22-21.
“Our line speed was so poor in the first half. There were times there when we just chasing shadows. The second half we did improve quite a bit but we had to. We let (Scotland fly-half) Finn Russell play the game all day long, there wasn’t a speck of dirt on him coming off.”
Which will give head coach Schmidt and defence coach Andy Farrell plenty of firepower back at Carton House today when the squad reassembles following their sorry weekend in Edinburgh.
“It will be tough,” Kearney said of the impending review. “It’s tough sometimes when you win games. I think it will be extra tough now. We had the chances and we didn’t capitalise. That will be the most disappointing part. We just didn’t front up physically in the first half, I’m sure Andy will have a lot of footage to show us. It won’t be nice but sometimes you have to eat humble pie and take it on the chin.
“The margins are so small and if you’re off just a fraction you just get shown up. You can never put it down to one thing. We trained really well this week and last week, it’s impossible to ever put your finger on it as to why you do start slowly.”
As to how Ireland remedy their malaise and prevent a repeat showing in Rome this Saturday for round two of their Six Nations campaign against Italy, Kearney was not certain but he knew it would the focus of their work on the training ground this week.
“All your energy between now and next week has to go into getting a good start. Your line speed is the best way to get into a game sometimes. You get good line speed, you win your collisions, you slow the ball down and you turn over some ball. We did the complete opposite. We were soft, we weren’t winning the collisions, they were getting quick rucks and they were just toying with us for the first 20 minutes.”
The poor endgame from Ireland was also a source of frustration as they let their hard-earned but slender lead slip to leave the 2014 and 2015 champions facing an uphill battle for the rest of the 2017 title race.
“We went 22-21 and I think we still had two line breaks after that, one we threw away and one went into touch. The opportunities were there, we just weren’t on the money. The first one is always the toughest game. And if you lose the first one, it always makes the rest of the championship tough and nerve-wracking. Because you can’t afford to lose another. We have had a massive wake-up call now. We have to go to Italy and put in a proper performance.”
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