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Ugly As Sin
Ireland v Italy Wasn't A Great Way To Start A Tournament
Posted Feb 09, 2011 by Shaun Edwards
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If there was a more unattractive game of rugby played in the whole of last year, I must have missed it. Italy’s showdown with Ireland at the charming Stadio Flaminio in Rome was covered in beautiful weather. No doubt the irony wasn’t lost on anyone watching the match, which was as far away from beauty as it’s possible to be. The fact that Ronan O’Gara kicked the match away from the brave Italians may be consolation to the travelling Irish fans who were minutes away from a loss that would have made this dross even more dispiriting.
Whilst Italy acquitted themselves fairly well, there is no denying that they were nowhere near as efficient as the truly awful Ireland made them look. Howler after howler seemed to follow the green jerseys of Ireland around the pitch, unforced errors appearing more rapidly than in an Andy Murray grand slam final. What’s more, the presence of the always masterful Sergio Parisse seemed to transfix the Ireland backs so much that they conceded a remarkable 14 penalties through the course of the game.
Following the loss of Denis Leamy to the sin bin for handling at the ruck, Ireland’s scrummage began to look extremely weak, and they were unable to deal with the Italians, leading to the home side scoring their first try (and obtaining a one point lead) with just five minutes left on the score-board. Suddenly, a travesty of a loss was very much on the cards. Make no mistake, had this performance been matched with a loss, there would have been uproar in the Irish camp.
In the end, Ireland can thank the Italian’s lack of finesse for their victory. Gifting the Irish the ball immediately following the re-start, the home side practically gifted their visitors the points that decided the match, O’Gara looking almost serene as he calmly kicked the victory into view.
There are some consolations for the Irish following the performance. That they haven’t picked up any more injuries in addition to the twelve-plus players that are already on the sidelines will be great news, especially since their next fixture will be against the domineering French on Sunday. Once their most challenging game is out of the way, they will be able to look towards the other sides that they have a better hope of defeating.
Not if they play in a similar way, mind you.