Ireland's Six Nations season ended in defeat and disarray as Declan Kidney’s team were humbled 30-9 by a dominant England at Twickenham on St. Patrick’s Day.
The Irish pack never recovered from the early loss of prop Mike Ross to injury as their hosts dominated upfront and set themselves up for a victory that secured second place in the championship behind Grand Slam winners Wales.
It was the worst defeat of the Declan Kidney era and a bad omen ahead of a three game test series against New Zealand this summer.
“We’re really going to have to pick ourselves up if we’re to avoid being made a joke of in New Zealand,” admitted Ireland winger Tommy Bowe.
“We’re very disappointed and that performance against England was a complete let-down. We know we’re better than that. We’ll need to have a look at ourselves because it’s not good enough.
“That defeat has left a very sour taste in our mouths and it was a very quiet changing room.”
Bowe put his finger on the problem after a season that saw Ireland lose at home to Wales, draw away with France and only beat Scotland and Italy.
“Consistency is the problem that is letting us down,” the Ulster bound winger Bowe said.
“We have shown in the past that we are a top team and against England we should have been playing for a championship or a Grand Slam.
“We were ahead against Wales despite not playing that well and we were ahead against France until a bad 20-minute spell in the second half cost us the campaign.
“I hate saying we’re not far off but at times we’ve shown that we’re better than these teams and are good enough to compete. I don’t know if it’s in our heads, we’ve just switched off at times. It’s something we must look at.”
Ireland coach Declan Kidney had nowhere to hide after the heavy defeat -- on St. Patrick’s Day of all days.
“That was extremely painful. You never like losing and you never like losing 30-9, especially on St. Patrick’s Day against England,” said Kidney.
“All credit to England, they played well and deserved to win. I know we’re better than that, but we were well beaten.
“I wasn’t surprised by what happened at the scrum because Mike Ross got a crick on his neck at the first scrum and managed to play for half an hour after that.
“Tom Court came on and went valiantly, but our balance was off. That was always on the cards because we have guys who don’t have huge tight-head experience playing for Ireland at the moment.
“It’s something we’ll have to work on and bring more Irish guys through.”
Captain Rory Best simply refused to make excuses. He said, “There’s no real hiding from what happened. From the first scrum they were fractionally ahead of us, they took hold of us and didn’t let us breathe.
“It’s bitterly disappointing as a front row and front five. The scrum is something we pride ourselves on. The last 18 months we’ve talked about it and used it as a strength.
“We’re happy to take the pats on the back when it goes well so equally, when it goes wrong, we must stand up and take responsibility.
“Unfortunately it will be three months before we get to wear an Irish jersey and it will hurt for all that time. The error count was unacceptable.”
Rory Number Two
RORY McIlroy’s reign as golf number one came to an end when Luke Donald triumphed in a play-off at the Transitions Championship in Tampa on Sunday night.
The pair are set to practice together in Florida before renewing rivalries at the Augusta Masters at the start of April when Tiger Woods will be fit enough to play.
McIlroy did congratulate the Englishman and tweeted: “Well I enjoyed it while it lasted! [email protected]! Impressive performance!”
Padraig Harrington, who hit a course record 61 on Thursday, had to settle for a share of 20th place.
BRIAN O’Driscoll is set to make a dramatic return for Leinster in Friday night’s Celtic League clash with the Ospreys, just five months after shoulder surgery which was expected to rule him out for the season . . .
THE IRFU have advertised for a new scrum coach for the Ireland team, but insist the advert was authorized before Saturday’s problems in the pack in the embarrassing defeat to England . . .
ENGLAND hooker Dylan Hartley has been cited for allegedly biting the finger of Stephen Ferris during the Six Nations clash with Ireland last Saturday.
RACING: JP McManus’s Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Synchronised could look to make it a double in the English Grand National at Aintree next month . . .
ATHLETICS: Donegal’s Maria McCambridge has qualified for the marathon at the 2012 London Olympics after making the A qualifying mark in Rome on Sunday . . .
BOXING: Ulster’s Carl Frampton retained his Commonwealth super-bantamweight crown with an easy victory over Ghana’s Prosper Ankrah last weekend . . .
BOXING: Olympic bound Joe Ward claimed a gold medal and the Best Technical Boxer award at the 39th Chemistry Cup last weekend . . .
CRICKET: Ireland are through to the ICC World Twenty20 play-offs in Abu Dhabi after wins over Oman and Uganda at the start of the week . . .
SNOOKER: Stephen Lee beat Neil Robertson 4-0 in the final of the Betfair Players Tour Championship Grand Finals in Galway.
DUBLIN players, officials and fans have come together to remember dual star Jim Stynes after his untimely death at the age of just 45 in Australia.
Stynes finally lost his battle with cancer in the early hours of Tuesday morning when he died at his family home in Melbourne with wife Sam and his two young children at his side.
The Aussie Rules star – the only non-Australian to win the coveted Brownlow Medal – has been remembered as a great Gaelic footballer and a unique human being.
His charity work and his inspiration to others fighting cancer have been well chronicled since his death, while such is his stature in Australia that the governor of Victoria will honor Stynes with a state funeral.
Back home, former teammates and coaches paid tribute to the player who won an All-Ireland minor football medal with Dublin in 1984 before embarking on a highly successful Aussie Rules career.
Former Dublin footballer and fellow Ballyboden St. Enda’s clubman Paul Bealin paid his own tribute to Stynes.
Bealin said, “Jim was a massive loss to both the club and the county when he went to Australia.
“And I think it was always a burning ambition of his to come home and play for the seniors and try and win an All-Ireland but unfortunately it never happened.
“But he had carved out such a career for himself in Australia that it was almost impossible for him to walk away. He was a legend around the club and he had a great way about him, a really great smile.
“He is a massive loss and my sympathy goes out to all of his family.”
Likewise, former Ireland Compromise Rules team boss and former Down manager Pete McGrath paid tribute to Stynes whom he met on several occasions during the series in Australia.
McGrath told the Irish Sun, “For people who are unfortunate enough to be touched by cancer he showed them the positivity and courage on how to confront the disease.
“He was a man who showed the same focus, bravery and determination on the field. Those qualities help against the trauma and all the problems that life can throw up.”
Dublin County Board chairman Andy Kettle said, “He was an iconic figure, he represented Dublin and Ireland with dignity and honor in Australia he showed his continuing love of Gaelic Games through his involvement with the International Rules.”
Australians have also praised Stynes for his sporting ability and his courage in the face of cancer after his death was announced on Tuesday morning.
In a Facebook message, his wife Sam wrote, “Jim Stynes died on Tuesday the 20th of March at 8:20 a.m. Jim was pain free, dignified and peaceful. Matisse and Tiernan (his children) were present.
“Not surprisingly, in his last week of life Jim continued to defy the odds and lived his life to the fullest, attending the Melbourne vs. Hawthorn football match, his son Tiernan’s seventh birthday celebration, the MFC blazer ceremony and a casual Friday night dinner at Toplinos in his much loved suburb St. Kilda.
“In his final days Jim was immersed with insurmountable love and tenderness surrounded by his family and some close friends in the comfort of his own home.
“On behalf of Jim my heartfelt thanks to all those who have so generously cared for, guided and supported Jim throughout his challenging cancer battle.”