Ireland v Italy
Going into this fixture we knew it was never going to be easy. With Italy progressing over the past year and qualifying for the World Cup they were a strong challenge for the new look Irish side. With a frantic first 20 minutes it took us a while to settle and get into the game and we found ourselves defending in our own 22 for a high proportion of it. Lack of discipline cost us the first 3 points on the scoreboard after Italy were awarded a penalty in front of the posts.
From the kick off we asserted more pressure on the Italian defensive line, and with speed from the wing we forced a knock on. That positive response started to rebuild our confidence as a team and we became more comfortable in attack. We went through a number of strong phases with some lovely offload balls to get in behind the defensive line again and put us on the front foot. With a good strike from the backs and a number of pick and goes by the forwards we were finally across the white line.
Half time soon came and we were conscious of missed opportunities when we had needed to be more clinical in our handling and accurate with decision making in certain areas of the pitch. With that realization we came back recharged and hunted in packs, putting pressure on and working our way into the Italian 22. Italy had strong ball carries up front but found it difficult to utilize their threat of speed on the wing, and Ireland reduced their 9’s chances to snipe with a tight defence around rucks. Again, the opportunity was in front of us to carry slow ball on the oppositions 5m line but with a knock on we were again wasting opportunities.
With fresh legs from the bench the game picked up pace again, and with a strong forward maul from a lineout we drove over the try line. 14-3 remained the final score, with hints of improvements but with much more to progress on. With that we go into the final weekend facing Scotland on Sunday 20th March 1pm KO in Donnybrook stadium.