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Claire Molloy and Cliodhna Moloney at full-time yesterday.
Claire Molloy and Cliodhna Moloney at full-time yesterday.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

'I don't think we turned up': One step forward, two steps back for sloppy Ireland

Adam Griggs says his side didn’t start playing until the final minutes against Scotland, by which stage it was too late to rescue the game.
Mar 12th 2018, 6:30 AM 3,601 0

Ryan Bailey reports from Donnybrook 

A MEMORABLE, FAMOUS victory for Scotland in Dublin, but this was an utterly discouraging performance from an Ireland side which had appeared to make strides in the right direction as recently as two weeks ago.

Adam Griggs’ side were not only slow out of the blocks at Donnybrook but then failed to ever really get going as a series of basic, unforced errors undermined any attempts to gain a foothold.

The end result — 15-13 to the visitors — may suggest a close contest, and certainly Ireland were right in it until the final whistle, but at no point did they deserve to win, nor look like producing the type of structured, disciplined rugby which would have yielded a positive outcome.

The scrum and set-piece were solid all afternoon, and laid the platform for the two Irish tries in the second half, but otherwise positives were few and far between as the fundamental skills — kicking, passing and handling — all fell well below the desired level.

And in the Test arena, regardless of the opposition, you cannot expect to drop as many balls or commit as many errors as Ireland did and not be punished — Scotland, to their credit, took full advantage to record their first victory of this Six Nations.

“I don’t think we turned up today,” head coach Griggs said afterwards. “I don’t think we started off well enough.

“Scotland started off a lot better than we did in the first half and we were lucky to be only 3-0 down at half time. We really didn’t fire a shot in that first half.”

After the progressive victories over Italy and Wales, there was justifiable grounds for optimism heading into a game against a team Ireland had not lost to in 11 previous championship games.

But Griggs said the preparation wasn’t right, resulting in a poor start from his team with the error count well into the teens by the end of the opening quarter and Ireland’s lack of discipline at the breakdown alarming and damaging in equal measure.

“Just a little bit of preparation and making sure we’re switched on and focused in all our small details,” he continued. “We saw a couple of weeks ago against Wales that we were switched on and we were really good.

“Today our preparation wasn’t quite as good, we weren’t starting off as well as we liked and I don’t think we played rugby until the 76th minute where we actually started to put some phases together. International rugby you can’t afford to let another team into a game that quickly.”

Katie Fitzhenry with Lisa Thomson and Lisa Martin Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Despite large periods of possession and territory, Scotland were restricted to one Hannah Nelson penalty before the break but the centre crashed over shortly after the restart to hand her side an 8-0 lead.

Ireland finally rose from their stupor and found a route back into the game via their powerful pack, which forced a penalty try after a big shove from a five-metre scrum, but the hosts were unable to really turn the screw from there.

Three scrum penalties on their own line saw Scotland go down to 14 players and on the fourth reset, Ciara Griffin’s attempt to move it through the hands and expose the visitors out wide proved costly. The idea was good, the execution poor.

The Ireland captain’s intended pass to Sene Naoupu hung in the air for an age, allowing Scottish fullback Chloe Rollie step up and intercept. She still had lots to do, but glided past Kim Flood as if she wasn’t there and then had enough in the tank to streak clear of Hannah Tyrrell and dive over the line.

It was a crucial moment in the game, and a sucker-punch Ireland failed to recover from.

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“It was frustrating,” said Griggs. “But I have to question, we get four scrum penalties on the line and we got a yellow card from it but no penalty try. Phases before that we got a penalty try and no yellow card so that was kind of confusing.

“I would have liked to see us work it over and force the referee to give us the penalty try and that’s again about our game management and when we’re down those areas of the field we’ve got to turn them into points one way or another.

“Overall, the pack’s set-piece was good, we can still do more around the park and be a little bit more direct to earn that right to go wide and our backs need to be able to execute it as well.”

Therein lies the problem.

Every time Ireland attempted to be more expansive in their approach it broke down because of a handling error or poor execution, with much of the hosts’ attacking play leaving a lot to be desired.

It may seem harsh to pick holes in the performance when this Ireland team is very much in transition under a coach who does not know if he’ll be in the position after next week, but when compared to the clinical display against Wales a fortnight ago, this was a disappointing slip in standards.

The Scotland team celebrate winning Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Paula Fitzpatrick, who crashed over from close-range with 11 minutes remaining to give Ireland hope, agrees. You simply cannot perform like that at this level and expect to get away with it.

“When you don’t start playing until the 76th minute against a team that are on the rise really, you don’t deserve to win,” she says.

“They just wanted it more at the start of the game. We weren’t there. We were trying, we were trying all through the game, but just execution wise, there was just so many dropped balls. So many handling errors, so many near missed passes or passes out to the touchline. You just can’t do that against a team like that.”

A case of one step forward, two steps back then?

“Yeah, absolutely.”

The challenge doesn’t get any easier next week with Ireland rounding off their campaign with a visit to the Ricoh Arena in Coventry to face last year’s World Cup finalists England.

“All we can do is try and get the preparation right and get the little details right and really put up a fight against them,” Griggs adds.

“It’s going to be very tough, we need to flick that switch and get stuck in for last week of championship.”

Error-strewn Ireland pay the penalty as Scotland end Triple Crown hopes

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Ryan Bailey

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