It was a privilege to be present for one of the greatest rugby 'battles' for many years, even if we came up a bit short - about two yards short in fact. It was that close. A fantastic match, with two teams laying down their bodies for the cause. It was Frazier v Ali. The tension at the end was incredible. It was unforgettable. But in truth, it would have been robbery if Stephen Jones' kick had gone over. The Irish had their tactics spot on. Their big kicks went higher than ours, and their follow up runners reached our man under it most of the time. They turned over more ball than we did - and in important field positions. Paul O'Connell was a giant out there, especially when he was destroying our line-out. Only reason we stayed in it was our fantastic defence. Only weakness was our failure to cope with O'Gara's cross field chips. O'Connell was my man of the match, though I agree that O'Driscoll has been the man of the series. These two men stand comparison with Willy John McBride and Mike Gibson, and they will rightly be revered for the rest of their lives..
But we played our part. We pushed Ireland all the way to the tape, but they had 'destiny' playing for them. Gavin Henson, Stephen Jones, Mike Phillips (that wild bullocking charge in the second half was amazing), Adam Jones and Gethin Jenkins stood out for me - but every player on the field deserves praise for total commitment. Well done Ireland. No 3 son, Tim's wife, Adrienne's little frame (she's from Macroom, and was just two seats from me) was bursting with the pride that her nation felt. I'm only sorry for No 1 son, Edward who works in Cork and has been boasting for weeks about how many we were going to put over them. Serves him right, I said. Never pays to be too cocky where the Irish are concerned.
Oh yes, and England beat Scotland, and France walloped Italy - both results of little relevance, unless you're one of these who get worked up about positions in the championship. I cannot raise any excitement about this stuff at all. And I have always said this, before you spit out the words 'sour grapes'. For my generation, what mattered was the game you were playing. In fact when I played rugby seriously, there were no leagues. It was just the quality of your fixture list. If you lost to a team too often, they would just stop playing you. Next post will be early thought on Lions selection.