AFTER CUTTING A furious figure on-field while running the pre-match warm-up in Sydney, there was rare elation in Joe Schmidt as the dust began to settle on a series win over Australia.
The 2-1 triumph, Ireland’s first Down Under since 1979, marks the end of an almost perfect season in which Schmidt’s men thrashed the Springboks and comfortably beat Argentina before storming to Grand Slam victory.
Despite all that effort in the bodies of players – the majority of whom also played into or beyond the semi-final stage in Europe – Ireland went to the well and delivered a tremendous defensive display in a match that seemed to crank up the physical stakes with each passing minute towards a dramatic 20-16 win.
“It goes back to the provinces,” said Schmidt on Sky Sports, crediting the player management programmes employed across the island.
They manage them well enough to keep some juice in the tank. I’m not sure we could play again next week, I think all that juice is used up after that half.
“I think they do a good job building the base and we try to top that off with a little bit of detail, organisation and just plain effort these boys put in.”
“A heck of a lot of it tonight was character. To get up off the ground, (Australia) laid siege to our 22 over that second 40 minutes.
“Maybe we should have gotten more out of our first half,” the Kiwi added of a try-less period Ireland edged 12-9.
“A couple of times we got close and didn’t quite convert. ‘Mur’ got very close to the posts, we got a penalty out of that but not the try we needed.
“Great line-out drive to finally get that try, to get the points differential we needed and the Wallabies came back in waves.”
After mentioning the defensive effort and the maul which paved the way for CJ Stander’s decisive score, Schmidt deflected the coaching praise towards this backroom team.
“Simon Easterby, that’s his try. The forwards put it on for him, but he did all the work for that try,” Schmidt said before issuing credits for Greg Feek (scrum coach) Richie Murphy (skills), Andy Farrell (defence), Jason Cowman (S&C), Mervyn Murphy, Vinnie Hammond (analysts) and Ruth Wood-Martin (nutritionist) as the team who help bring the team together.
As he ended the honour roll though, Schmidt touched on the reason for his pre-match anxiety. Thoughts inevitably turned to Murrayfield 2017 as Ireland found their arrival at Allianz Stadium delayed by over 30 minutes.
Pre-match, Schmidt feared the delay had “put guys out of kilter,” but there was no slow start this time around and Ireland only trailed for eight minutes of the contest while Jacob Stockdale took a seat in the sin-bin.
“Logistics were great, apart from the bus.
“It took 13 minutes to get here yesterday, took over 30 minutes to get here tonight. We were a little bit behind the eight ball, but we didn’t look ruffled when we started.
“It was the first of the three games we took a 3 -0 lead, first time we scored first.”
A satisfying finish to a fretful day, and an incredible season, for the head coach.