For all the rapier-like incision of the French back three, for all their vicious efficiency in punishing Irish errors, nothing deflated our players like the final whistle. France couldn’t put them away. In the end Ireland did it to themselves, whether you believe it was the first half errors, the decision to let it go wide in the final play or the kick through in preference to keeping the ball in hand, or something else again.
Some idiot at the press conference afterwards suggested Ireland had been lucky to escape a much worse margin of defeat. Ignoring for the moment the relief etched all over the French faces at the final whistle, Brian O’Driscoll had the ball booted straight into his happy sacs immediately before it caromed directly into the grateful arms of Heymans to let him charge unopposed under the posts for try number four. Our captain had to rally the troops gathered behind the posts with his lovespuds in his mouth. So that’s lucky? God knows what unlucky looks like!
I can’t be happy. We lost after all. But I can be proud. These players love their country. They love playing for it and they understand they must honour the jersey whenever they pull it on. When any reasonable person would have concluded that God didn’t want them to have any rugby dignity left by the final whistle they just fought harder.
And now they must put the home nations to the sword. Nothing less will do.