Peter O’Mahony is likely to face a disciplinary hearing in the middle of the week to ascertain the full consequences of the 14th-minute red card he received in Ireland’s 21-16 defeat by Wales in the Principality Stadium.
O’Mahony was sent off by Wayne Barnes for catching the Welsh prop Tomas Francis in the face with his shoulder when attempting a clear-out at a ruck. On the premise that O’Mahony will be cited for foul play under regulation 17, which has a recommended low-range entry of two weeks and a mid-range of six weeks, even allowing for his good record the Irish flanker is likely to be suspended for next Sunday’s second-round match against France in the Aviva Stadium, and possibly the round-three game in Rome a fortnight later.
Andy Farrell could not have any quibbles with O’Mahony’s red card, although when asked he kept his answer fairly cryptic.
“I’ve seen them given before so I’ll let people who get paid to assess that do that.”
The Irish head coach had some sympathy for O’Mahony, for not alone did slow-motion replays make the incident look worse (as they always do) but it was almost certainly not a malicious act. But, all the more so given the head has to be off-limits, it was careless.
I got a bump on the side of the temple but I should hopefully be okay when I go through all the return to play protocols
“He’s gutted as well,” said Farrell. “Guys don’t do this on purpose, to get sent off and hamper the performance of the team. They care about the team and their team-mates deeply, so obviously Pete is hurting at this moment in time. He’s done a lot of good things for us in the past and I’m sure he’ll do the same for us in the future.”
In addition, James Ryan and Johnny Sexton departed with head knocks, although after the game the Irish captain, who had yet to undergo an HIA, said: “I’m okay now. I obviously got a bang on the head but I feel okay now, I got a bump on the side of the temple but I should hopefully be okay when I go through all the return to play protocols and hopefully I’ll be okay to return to training next week.”
Even with 14 men against 15 for the last 66 minutes, Ireland had more than 60 per cent of the territory and the possession, and had more of the game. They took the game to Wales, and had both good attacking and defensive shape, while the influence of Paul O’Connell on the Irish lineout, maul and breakdown seemed immediate.
But, in addition to the red card, there were costly lapses in possession and defence in conceding two tries.
“We certainly had an opportunity to win it. I suppose we’ll look at a few moments within the game that we’ll kick ourselves about,” said Farrell. “Obviously the red card and a couple of decisions that could have gone our way regarding yellow cards, etc… that will be reviewed. On the back of that, some errors that we invited them back into the game with.”
We didn’t get to celebrate what would have been a famous victory because some of the efforts collectively and individually were immense
So much effort for such relatively little reward compounded his acute frustration.
“I’m just gutted that we didn’t back that up with the win because it was there to be had. There are various different reasons we’ll talk about after we review the game.
“We didn’t get to celebrate what would have been a famous victory because some of the efforts collectively and individually were immense. Lads coming back and playing their first game in a long time, that will stand them in good stead for the rest of the competition.”
Ireland have now lost four Six Nations games in a row in the Principality Stadium and – as was the case after Wayne Barnes whistled Ireland off the pitch in 2015 (and on a few other occasions) – they were aggrieved that at least four cases of potential yellow cards to the home side were not punished accordingly.
“I don’t know whether they’ll be reviewed or not, I don’t know whether they agree or not but in the cold light of day, from what I saw, there was one or two there,” said Farrell.
As a 10, you have moments when you’re a hero and you have moments when you’re a villain
“But, having said that, we were still in control of our own destiny. We gave a couple of crucial penalties away that got them back in the game, one exit scrum where we knocked the ball on and that gave them the try.
“A valiant effort, I thought we played some really good stuff at times and asked a lot of questions, but at the same time, we were in the fight up until the death to win the game, but if a few more things had been a bit tighter that were in our control, we could have won the game.”
One of those “things” was undoubtedly Billy Burns finding touch-in-goal from a penalty up the line with the last kick of the game in overtime.
Both Farrell and Sexton defended Burns.
“He had to go for it,” said Sexton. “As a 10, you have moments when you’re a hero and you have moments when you’re a villain. You put yourself in those moments, that’s the responsibility that you have. If you kick the ball to the 22, that’s worse for me than trying to stick it five metres out and it not coming off. He’ll learn and he’ll go again.”
As Ireland will now have to do as well against the in-form French.