A win is a win and Saturday’s success over Argentina was a tough, bruising battle for Ireland, but one in which they ultimately prevailed. And, despite the gloomy tones of some TV pundits, that was the most important statistic at the end of an ultra-physical game of rugby.
The win also means Ireland secured eighth place in the world rankings, thereby boosting the team’s chances of reaching the quarter-finals at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.
It was also a relief to get the better of the Argentines, who had won the last three matches between the sides, the last being the World Cup win at Parc Des Princes, which eliminated Ireland from the tournament.
Man of the match Ronan O’Gara has had better days and appeared quite tetchy during several altercations on Saturday, but he still produced the goods when Ireland needed them.
The Pumas are coached by Santiago Phelan, who told the Irish Times last week that “my surname is from Waterford,” and his team battled well in the absence of Juan Hernandez and Felipe Contepomi.
Just three points up at half-time, Ireland could count themselves lucky that Hernandez’s late replacement, Santiago Hernandez, found the going tough in his international debut at fly-half.
Nonetheless, the game remained tight and both packs tore strips out of each other – most of the time, legally, it has to be said. But there was a considerable tetchy air throughout this game and we always felt that matters could have boiled over given the lack of control exercised by the refereeing officials.
The Irish try was brilliantly incepted, with Tommy Bowe catching O’Gara’s excellent cross-field kick to touch down for the game’s only try. Bowe’s father, Paul is Waterford by birth and a proud Waterpark man and he must have been filled with pride to see his son score such a fine try.
A 14-point win against the team ranked fourth in the world is something we ought to be quite pleased with.
The 73,000-plus crowd represented a tremendous turn-out, meaning that in just a week, there have been almost 180,000 people attending the games held at both Croke and Thomond Parks, significantly boosting rugby and hospitality coffers alike.
Pretty it was not, but the importance of this win cannot be underestimated. The Six Nations Championship looks wide open, and there’s plenty of room for optimism from an Irish perspective, due in no small part to the performances of younger players including Luke Fitzgerald and Stephen Ferris.
Dermot Keyes adds:
Two wins from three was always the likeliest outcome from the autumn internationals for Ireland and that’s exactly what’s transpired at the advent of the Declan Kidney era.
Saturday’s match was marred by both the swirling wind that returned to Croke Park and the palpable sense of nastiness that tends to permeate when these two nations meet in rugby.
Ronan O’Gara, perhaps over-enthusiastic when it came to answering his own call for greater Irish pride, still produced several noteworthy moments without ever getting close to top gear.
When a fly-half can drop kick a goal from just under 50 metres, set up a glorious try for Tommy Bowe and still be said to have left a few boxes unticked, it speaks volumes of how high the Corkman has set the bar for himself.
As I wrote last week following the defeat to the All Blacks: “(this) match is now all about the result.” And it was. Ireland won. End of. Time to move on.