Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Phil Coulter Versus the Haka

Ireland against New Zealand at Croke Park, a unique occasion, never perhaps to be repeated. There was a wonderful atmosphere in the buildup but isn't it appalling that our riposte to the haka is a bland Phil Coulter song. The shame of it. The crowd played an active role in the first half, disrupting lineout calls and becoming frenzied the few times Ireland broke out of the NZ half. But after the penalty try and the early score in the second half things petered out. The NZ defence was impenetrable so at no stage did Ireland look like scoring a try and in fact spent most of the match defending desperately. The team just lacked the power, speed and intensity of the All Blacks - especially the South Sea Islands contingent, who seem to make up a large proportion of New Zealand teams these days. Of course it's the start of the Irish team's season while NZ are battle-hardened after a testing campaign - and they had their very best team on duty. But Ireland were poor in most positions. I've never seen O'Gara so tentative - his first kick was charged down and he looked a haunted man throughout. There was plenty of aimless kicking to the NZ back three, asking for trouble and getting it. As we were efficiently decanted from Croke Park I was inclined once more to ruminate bitterly on the freakish chain of circumstances that led this NZ team to lose the World Cup a year or so ago - and cost me a pretty penny.

And what of Munster versus New Zealand today? What a farce, Munster playing without their ten Irish internationals surely have no chance. Their novice pack will be devoured, so their classy back line (mostly from the Antipodes) won't get a sniff of the ball. Let's hope NZ treat it like an exhibition match and don't humiliate us.