THREE POINTS would have brought the scores level, a try would have won Ireland the game. Last week against Italy Ronan O’Gara split the posts with just three minutes to go, but despite a capacity crowd at the Aviva Stadium willing a repeat performance, the scores remained 22-25 for the last 11 minutes, leaving the fans, players and management regretting what could have been a significant victory for Ireland.
The hosts lost despite scoring three tries to France’s one, but ill-discipline cost them dearly and left France still well in the game at the break. French scrum-half Morgan Parra’s 100% kicking rate meant the score was 15-12 going in at half-time, with everything to play for.
Captain Brian O’Driscoll blamed his team’s high penalty count for the defeat, and said: “It was a kick in the teeth. We could have won, but unforced errors cost us today. Goal-kicking is a huge part of the game and ill discipline can be punished. It’s difficult to take.”
The majority of France’s points were kicked by Morgan Parra and replacement Dimitri Yachvili, while Fergus McFadden, Tomás O’Leary and Jamie Heaslip all crossed for Ireland but this brought no consolation to Declan Kidney and his men.
“There were positives but we need to get the results, and the public who pay money to come here and watch want to see results,” said Kidney. “They got too many turnovers and penalties, on the wrong side of the half-way line for us, and it was an opportunity missed.
“It may have been an improved performance but we’re there to get a win. We need to keep playing in this way (scoring tries), but get better at what we’re doing.”
O’Driscoll urged his team-mates to step up to the plate, and called on Ireland’s outsiders to help improve the standard within the squad.
“We’re not being clinical and that’s what’s killing us, but there are factors within our control, like individual errors,” said O’Driscoll. “Guys have to look at their own individual performances and the errors they made, and there needs to be pressure on the starting 15 from the other players – you need to up your game or you’ll be replaced.”
Ireland now have a fortnight to mull over their defeat and a plan of action to adopt against Scotland, and Kidney will be following the advice of his captain, and keeping a close eye on the rugby being played around the country.
“Two weeks is a long time and there’s a Magners League round to be played in that time,” said Kidney. “I still have faith in the team, but we need to look at the guys who didn’t start today.”