Too little, too late as Ireland rue ‘disappointing’ Six Nations campaign
We weren’t good enough, says skipper Rory Best
Ireland ended their Six Nations campaign on a winning note against Scotland, but skipper Rory Best admitted they will view this year’s tournament in a negative light.
Defending champions Ireland were looking to create history by becoming the first team to win three titles in a row.
However, a draw against Wales in the opening game put paid to hopes of a grand slam, and the title was surrendered following narrow defeats to France and England, despite holding second half leads in both games.
Ireland ended the tournament with convincing victories – 58-15 over hapless Italy and 35-25 against Scotland on Saturday, but it was too little, too late as far as Best was concerned.
“It’s been good to finish with two wins, two good results, but for us we expect to win every game – that’s the standard that’s been set,” Best said.
“So we’ll look back and be disappointed. The most disappointing part was the France game. We won the first half and then we let them off the hook and didn’t keep attacking them.
“We’ve increased how we trained each week. A lot of guys who’ve come in over the first three games, they realised you can prepare a bit during the week and play, but to win a game you have to minimise your mistakes.
“Sometimes it takes those few weeks [to learn], but we’ve a good pool of players now who know how to win after a few tests.”
Ireland impressed against Scotland on Saturday, backing up their nine-try showing against Italy, with four more tries, and Best was thrilled with how the team continued to create – and finish – chances.
“We did a lot of the stuff we’ve talked about, that were big things for us over the past two years,” he said.
“We kept the ball, took them through phases, made them make tackles. I know how it is when you’re on the back foot like that, it increases pressure on teams, and makes you concede penalties.
“We carried over the gain-line well, and won penalties, and put pressure on the referee too. We felt in control.”
Scotland head coach Vern Cotter was unhappy with the result, but was pleased with the progress he believes his team are making.
The Scots scored three tries for the third game in a row – a first since 1999 – but missed out on the chance of a third championship win in a row thanks to a slow start and ill-discipline that saw two players sin-binned.
“We’re not particularly happy, obviously, because we want to win games,” Cotter said.
“We controlled major parts of the game, but not to the end, and sustaining pressure to the end was one of the key things.
“In the Italy and France games I thought we did that. Today, I saw character from the group, even though we were behind on the scoreboard.
“We didn’t start well but the guys didn’t give up. These are good things to keep bringing to the fore, and there were clearly things we could improve on.
“It’s better than last year, but we’re still not completely satisfied. We want to get much better than that.
“I think this year is the highest number of points that Scotland have scored in the Six Nations. There are a few things that you could rattle off that are indicators that things are getting better. There is ambition within the group and we’ll keep developing that.”