This Incredible Irish Period Of Play Finished England Off On Saturday
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You make your own luck.
There a so many moments to look back on from Ireland’s win over England. Key moments that show there was always only going to be one winner on Saturday afternoon.
Call it ruthlessness, call it confidence, call it preparation. Whatever is was, it was clear Ireland came into the game with the mindset that they were going to win, no matter what England team showed up on the day.
Probably the most important moment of the entire game was Stockdale’s try. Time and time again during this year’s Championship, Ireland kept the ball alive and scored with the clock in red just before half-time.
These scores are so important and potential game-changers. You head into half-time full of confidence and on a high, while your opposition are usually deflated as a result.
Now I’ve already looked at the 10 or so phases in the build-up to the try itself. But what I want to do is go back just before that and look at what got them into that attacking position to begin with.
It starts with an England line-out in the 37th minute, not far from Ireland’s 22. Now a key thing to remember during this phase of play, is that Ireland are down to 14 men with Peter O’Mahony in the bin.
Despite this, Ireland’s pack swarms on top of England as soon at Itoje gets his hands on the ball (note they wait until he’s safely on the ground, unlike the Englishman on a number of occasions). Henderson is straight in on his man and Stander comes in to assist. Then in comes James Ryan to add more power.
The result? Itoje is held up in the choke tackle and Ireland win possession and a free kick. Now this is where things get really interesting. Obviously Peter O’Mahony is still in the bin at this stage, so Bundee Aki slots in at six.
Despite having a centre at six in their scrum, England’s discipline lets them down again with Mako Vunipola engaging too early. Ireland win yet another another free kick.
Now we’re heading into the final minute of the half. Peter O’Mahony still hasn’t come back from the bin. Joey Carbery is read to launch the ball down the field and get Ireland in a safe position before half-time. I mean come on, they’re leading 14-5 in Twickenham. Surely they are content with that heading into half-time?
But in steps captain Rory Best. Scrum option. Ireland only have seven forwards on the pitch. There’s 39 minutes on the clock and they’re in their own half. Bundee Aki has to once again slot in at six. Yet they go for a scrum option? What are they playing at?
England’s discipline lets them down again. Penalty Ireland. Rory Best and his Ireland team could feel the momentum swinging their way. That’s why they wanted the scrum. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
The resulting penalty gives Ireland field position and a could of minutes later, Stockdale grabs his try. The game is put to bed. Ireland are Grand Slam champions with 40 minutes to spare.
After the game Rory Best spoke about what was going through the Irish player’s heads in the build-up to that try. He said Ireland feel they are fit enough to keep going, and that their mentality is to attack.
“It’s our mentality to go and attack. We want the ball and we want to retain the ball. We don’t just want to get it off [the pitch]. We feel that we are fit and we obviously train to play in those moments.
“Those are the moments. Look, if we had’ve lost momentum, we would have said ‘Right’, and got the ball out.
“But when you have momentum, and at that time of the game… sometimes, either side of half-time, teams can switch off a bit and you can capitalise. For us, it’s all about how we feel in the game and while you have the ball, you have to attack the game. We knew we had to do that against England because if you sit back and expect them to hand you something, well, that’s just not going to happen.
“That was our mentality and that’s what we committed to all week.”
Fine margins. That’s all it breaks down to at the end of the day. Regardless of the final scoreline. Win those mini-battles by having confidence in your ability and the rest of the decisions will go your way.
You make your own luck in this game.