England v Ireland
England v Ireland
2010, RTÉ Two
You get home, ever so slightly tired and emotional, in the early hours of Saturday morning. By way of a taster for events at Twickenham later in the day, the clever people at TG4 are screening a repeat of the famous 1982 clash of the sides at the venue. Maybe it comes with the slight tiredness and emotion, but for a few moments you're forced to wonder whether or not your eyes are deceiving you.
There's Fergus Slattery, kicking for touch from a ruck: bizarre. There's Willie Duggan, without a cigarette in his hand in the mauls: bizarrer still. And when Ginger McLoughlin panzers over for that try, he's not so much "festooned with Saxons" as legend has it, as shoved across the line by the Irish pack. What a stunning conversion by Ollie Campbell from the touchline to add the two points that make the difference in the end, incidentally.
You stay watching till the final whistle, hoping for two things to materialise. Too late the penny drops that it was at a different Twickenham international, alas, that Erica Roe made her name. You retire to Leaba Land dreaming not of Ms Roe but pondering whether Johnny Sexton will prove as accurate as Campbell should the occasion and the need arise.
You surface 12 hours later to hear George Hook proclaim himself as "hugely optimistic – I always expect the better team to win and Ireland are the better team". George, according to himself, is also "an extremely logical person", and Hook's First Law ordains that a team "with an out-half near the end of his career and a coach who rules by fear" will be defeated. QED.
Inside three minutes Tommy Bowe is in for a try after a fine rippling move in which Ryle Nugent swoons, "all the right decisions were made by the Irish players across the field". England had owned the ball up to then and Ralph Keyes, somehow managing to stifle his giggles, can't help himself pointing out the irony of it all."In the first two matches they went out to kick the leather off the ball. This match they went out to move it – and find themselves five points behind."
Poor Martin Johnson. Sexton, perhaps discombobulated by having been tackled late after he kicked through, misses a tricky conversion. The Bring Back Ollie movement starts right here.
The rain pours down. The game turns turgid. Sexton, from his third kick (and his first easy one), makes it 8-3 despite England's territorial dominance. Ollie who? Back in the studio George, with what turns out to be remarkable prescience, brands it as "classic Kidney. Ride the punches and hopefully deliver a knockout blow in the 15th round."
By half-time it's back to 8-6. Although the panel don't doubt that Ireland are the classier team, cavaliers to Cromwell's – sorry, Johnson's – roundheads, these are not their kind of conditions. "A dirty wet day," George sighs. "More knock-ons, more pileups." If Kidney's side can eke out 40 per cent of second-half possession they'll win, Brent says. It's the getting-the-40-per-cent part that worries him.
Fifteen minutes after the resumption they're awarded a penalty that should have gone their opponents' way. They recycle the ball from the lineout and Keith Earls dives over in the corner. Brent, not someone to be blinded by green spectacles, labels it "a disgraceful decision". Whether Martin Johnson is feeling aggrieved is impossible to tell from his expression, which is much the same as it usually is. If and when the RFU give him the boot he shouldn't worry overmuch; he can always find a job scaring bold children.
The last 10 minutes are best watched from behind a sofa. Victory however goes to the classier – three tries, all of them from backs, to one – and, yes, luckier team. "The gutsiest display I've ever seen from this group of players," Conor acknowledges. "When you want to win matches," Brent adds, "this is the way to win them." The Supreme Optimist and Extreme Logician, who called it correctly, need only smirk.
Can't wait for the repeat on TG4 in 28 years' time.