Tackles and kicks win matches in rugby, just like catches win matches in cricket. In rugby though, it does not always apply to one team.
The two coaches were left to think about what the result might have been for different reasons after the clash ended in a tight 16all draw. Wales Head Coach Warren Gatland agonized about failing to make the most of their promising possession around the Irish try line. Ireland coach Joe Schmidt reminisced about a tackle, that in the end was illegal, that might have well changed the game.
Schmidt firmly believes that the aggressive tackle, shown by the replays to be a tip tackle, was the moment that changed the game. At that point Ireland was well ahead by 13-0. The tackle on Liam Williams was illegal by the book, but the Dublin crowd enjoyed it as just a big aggressive hit. No yellow card was given, but the penalty awarded enabled Wales to get back into the game. Rhys Priestland, on for the injured Dan Biggar, converted and Wales used this as a springboard to get back into the game.
Schmidt admitted that that penalty rallied a Welsh fight back, together with a number of scrums in their own 22 thereafter. Rory Best, Ireland Captain shared the same view by admitting that the last 10minutes of the first period was when they let go of the hold they had on the game to allow Wales to come back into the clash.
Wales had 51% of possession and center Jamie Roberts was colossal in midfield although the match statistics showed that Wales had no line break in the match, whilst Ireland had five. It is not a new criticism Wales have faced over the years that they are too predictable by being so direct. An easy solution for the opposition according to critics is to defend and tackle with organization and heart. This is exactly what Ireland displayed at the Aviva Stadium yesterday to negate the Welsh attack.
Warren Gatland was still encouraged by his team’s performance and believes it was lack of game sharpness more than anything else. He backed his assessment up by explaining a few situations where the ball did not quite go to hand at the right time. Scott Baldwin, in the second half, completely dropped the ball when an opening was created on the left wing.
Critics cast minds back to the world cup when they failed to make a 13man Australia pay, only to lose the game in the end. This time it only ended in a draw. The question of Wales failing to capitalize good chances still stands.
Wales face Scotland at home in Cardiff next week with doubts over the fitness of number 10 Dan Biggar who picked up an ankle problem. Ireland travel to Paris next to standup to France and have their own injury concerns with Keith Earls unlikely to feature following concussion.
No team has ever won the Six Nations after drawing their opening encounter, and both teams will be wary of this stat. Records, however are meant to be broken, good or bad.