WHILE SEAN O’BRIEN and Rob Kearney expressed an anger after the late, late denial of a historic win over New Zealand, Gordon D’Arcy was feeling something a little different.
Anger is a young man’s game.
“I was broken I think,” D’Arcy offers instead. “I’ve been involved in other games like that before. This is probably a low point in my career.”
Sport can be that fickle. After 79 minutes and 30 seconds you’re about to exorcise the demon and take a place in Irish rugby legend, after 81.20 you’re just another statistic.
Cruden and Crotty combine to bury Irish hope. ©INPHO/James Crombie
For D’Arcy the game held extra resonance too. As ever, the focus prior to this game had been on Brian O’Driscoll and his final crack at New Zealand, but his 52-time midfield partner was in the same boat.
“Yeah,” D’Arcy says with a lump growing in his throat and the pain of his body moving into his eyes. “I don’t think we have them in the next year and a half, so it probably it my last go at them…. it’s a pretty horrific one to take.”
The centre looked every bit like a man who was happily emptying the tank against the Kiwis. In this form it’s difficult to imagine him coming close to calling time on his career. The 33-year-old set the aggressive first-half line speed, he tackled with a solidity that spread confidence throughout the side and he forced two turnovers at the breakdown. Yet, while he was buried in that final ruck of the game, New Zealand were forced him onto the losing side again.
While many have looked to lay the blame for that at Jonathan Sexton’s door, D’Arcy prefers to lament the fact that the Racing Metro number 10 was only given a solitary kicking opportunity after helping Ireland take a 22 -7 advantage through the interval.
“We did have the ambition to go after our scores, but we didn’t get them. It’s one kick, but there’s other opportunities where we could have been more accurate, maybe force another penalty. To only get one kickable penalty or to not get a try…
“You’re not going to put it on one kick, generally, not scoring in 40 minutes isn’t good enough.”
The great shame about this commendable performance with its unfortunate result is that the momentum will likely fade in cold storage and be given an artificial boost before Joe Schmidt’s next game against Scotland in the Six Nations.
Last year’s title contenders England and Wales played four games each this month, on four consecutive weeks. This afternoon, Ireland’s squad will once again split and go their separate provincial ways, but many will be taking time out to see Australia take on Wales in Cardiff next Saturday.
He may be aching in body and soul and beginning to mark the end point of his career, but D’Arcy craves more games: if only to see where Schmidt’s next improving step can take them.
If only to fit as much as he can into his remaining time as a pro.