Maybe it’s just as well the Euros are on at the moment and people aren’t following the rugby down under so much, although that hardly spares Ireland’s dignity after our recent performances against Spain, Croatia and Italy. Nobody’s happy.
Last week, we set a new record for the worst performance in the European Championships and this morning we set the benchmark for all future Irish rugby teams, losing by a sixty-point margin to the All Blacks and, as they say, being lucky to score NIL. The worst defeat ever to the All Blacks. Not a fitting end to the career of the magnificent Brian O Driscoll.
Did I get up to watch it?
No. I did not, although last week, I turned out for the Christchurch game, which Ireland came within a whisker of taking, denied by the dreadful refereeing of Nigel Owens. I always had respect for this guy, but he seems to be as infected as all the other refs with the belief that New Zealand are above the laws of rugby. With the sides on level pegging, he wrongly awarded a penalty to the Blacks when it should have gone our way, and although it was probably not kickable, it would have put us into their 22, with a functioning lineout. At the very least, we could have worked a drop-goal from it and taken the game.
That was then and this is now. Nigel Owens gifted an undeserved victory to the All Blacks last week, but there was nothing undeserved about their win today. It didn’t matter that Romain Poite missed two forward passes for New Zealand’s first try, or that he ignored numerous infringements throughout the game. Even if he had blown for every single one of them, the A-Bs would still have trounced us. They played Route-One rugby for the full 80 minutes. I have this and I’m taking it there.
Do you remember Mike Catt’s comment when he tried to stop Jonah Lomu and ended up with footprints on his chest in the 1995 World Cup semi-final? It’s like trying to tackle a motorbike, he lamented.
Keith Earls found out something similar today when he tackled Hosea Gear and found himself bouncing off the New Zealand winger like he’d run into a concrete wall. A big, fast concrete wall, running with ball in hand to score a try.
These were tough, strong guys, smarting from last week’s fright, and they clearly set out to give Ireland a lesson.
What can you do? Can you be miserable and grudging? No, you can’t. Never mind the fool of a referee. He might be a disgrace to international rugby, but even if he had been fully competent — which he is not — Ireland would still have been hammered by a vastly-superior opposition.
You can blame it on a lot of things. The long season. Injury. Management.
But the truth is that unlike New Zealand, we play many sports in Ireland, and we diffuse the talent available. In microcosm, look at Kilkenny, the Sparta of hurling. They play nothing else and that’s why they win everything, just like the All Blacks. I suppose it does no harm to entice giant Tongans and Fijians onto the national team, augmenting the giant Maoris New Zealand already have, but leaving that aside, they have always played an expansive, creative form of rugby, making them worthy world champions in 2010.
All the same though, is there some rule against penalising Richie McCaw? Are they told in referee-school that this man is above the law? For all his faults, Poite pinged Richie this morning for going off his feet yet again, and it wouldn’t surprise me if that resulted in his never again refereeing a top-flight game.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think Romain Poiute is fit to officiate at an under-14s game, but he should be sacked for the right reason, not the fact that he stood up to the All Blacks’ captain.