Kicking costs Irish
Tactics undo Ireland as Fiji progress
Last Updated: November 10, 2008 2:04pm
Cullen: Chance missed
Paul Cullen and Martin Offiah were united in questioning coach Andy Kelly's tactical approach after Ireland crashed out of the Rugby League World Cup with a 30-14 defeat by Fiji at Skilled Park on Australia's Gold Coast.
"Watching this game and watching the game against Samoa, I was sitting here screaming at the screen. Where's Liam Finn? Why has he gone off?"
Martin Offiah Quotes of the week
The Irish only trailed 12-10 at half-time but Fiji ran in three tries after the break as Kelly's men wilted, and it was the normally reliable kicking game and the lengthy absence of substituted talisman Liam Finn that Cullen and Offiah could not quite understand.
Speaking in the Sky Sports studio, former England coach Cullen said: "We just can't quite work out, and it's the big question I've written down, what happened to the Irish kicking game?
"Liam Finn, off the field tactically substituted. Karl Fitzpatrick, a full-back by trade and not a recognised kicker. We simply couldn't work out how and why the Irish kicking game had gone to pieces.
"If you think back to how well the Irish had done so far; those great kicks to Pat Richards, those little kicks in goal - we haven't seen them at all in the second half of this game, and I'm afraid that's where it has gone."
Offiah admitted he too was disappointed with the approach Ireland used after the break
"I have to say Andy Kelly, and I don't like to be overly critical, got it wrong today, completely wrong. Watching this game and watching the game against Samoa, I was sitting here screaming at the screen. Where's Liam Finn? Why has he gone off?
"I know he wanted to introduce Karl Fitzpatrick, but maybe take Bob Beswick off and play him at hooker. Throw a few passes around and keep them going forward. They just gave the Fijians too much ball. It was resolute defence of epic proportions, but you just can't keep soaking up that much in defence.
"Pat Richards scored twice against Samoa with kicks and today anytime he fielded a kick he was five metres out from his own line. So I just don't understand why they got away from their game plan."
Cullen felt, at half-time, the chance was there for Ireland to progress to what would have been the toughest semi-final imaginable, with the rampant Australians, but that in the end defending for such lengthy spells, was always going to be too much.
"You simply can't defend your try line against a side as powerful as that for so long. It was like watching a game that was going downhill. They spent most of the game in the Irish half and we needed to see Ireland making some plays. Their wing-play and in the three-quarters is not that good - that's not an observation, it is fact.
"What's done well for them so far is the kicking - that short kicking behind the line. I think when they won the last game out, they scored three tries from kicks.
"At the end of procedings, the Fijians just had too much of the ball. It could have been closer and genuinely I think it's a game Ireland could have won."