Sweet Success

Schmidt's Ireland wrap up Six Nations in Paris - My 2014 sporting moment

Murray Kinsella was at Stade de France as Brian O’Driscoll was given a fitting international finale.

THERE IS A necessary emotional detachment from rugby matches in this profession, a distance that is required if we are to report and analyse in as unbiased a manner as possible.

Paul O'Connell prepares to lift the trophy Ireland captain Paul O'Connell gets set to lift the Six Nations trophy. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Picking up on the emotional involvement of others can, of course, be important to informing the above at times. That all said, there is no doubt that working at Ireland games can be a little different.

The strongest example of that, in this writer’s experience, came on 15 March at Stade de France in Paris. Les Bleus v Joe Schmidt’s Ireland with the Six Nations title on the line.

We all know what transpired, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable to relive. There was delight in the stands for those who traveled to the French capital, and the Irish press corps allowed themselves a hasty high-five or two before regaining composure.

On a purely rugby level, it was as satisfying a victory as Schmidt has had in charge of Ireland, even ignoring the fact that the result secured Ireland’s first Six Nations crown since 2009.

The power play that saw Andrew Trimble cross the whitewash, the limited offloads but high number of linebreaks, the supreme breakdown work, a solid set-piece; this was a textbook Schmidt performance. That France offered up what was arguably their best display in two years made Ireland’s win all the more laudable.

Mathieu Bastareaud did damage to Ireland’s defensive line and Johnny Sexton’s body but Les Kiss’s charges held firm, while Dave Kearney’s excellent decision to rush up on Pascal Papé, forcing the lock’s late pass to slip forward, saved Schmidt’s men.

The bench was important for Ireland too, with Ian Madigan showing calm under pressure after Sexton’s head injury, Iain Henderson swimming in on the game-clinching choke tackle and Jack McGrath chopping down French ball carriers.

Indeed, the fixture neatly encapsulated the highly-accurate, detailed, and squad-dependent approach Ireland have taken under Schmidt.

The brass bands at either end of Stade de France seemed to intuitively reflect the flow of the game in their music, at times loose and lively, although often staccato and tense. As with their team, the French supporters were at their deafening best.

Jonathan Sexton and Brian O'Driscoll celebrate with the Six Nations Trophy Johnny Sexton and Brian O'Driscoll celebrate at Stade de France. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

It all added up to a sense of occasion that ideally provided Brian O’Driscoll with a memorable final Ireland appearance. The reception he received before and after the main event, from French and Irish alike, was befitting of his legendary status.

The post-match celebrations in Paris were also in line with the achievements of the day, the locals apparently sharing in Irish delight. It would have been difficult to begrudge Schmidt’s squad their night of glory.

Now to do it again in 2015. No pressure.

Analysis: How did Ireland win the Six Nations? (Part 1)

Analysis: How did Ireland win the Six Nations? (Part 2)

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