In cricket catches win matches, in rugby tackles and kicks do. But not always for the same team.
After Ireland and Wales’ nerve-wracking 16-16 Six Nations draw in Dublin, both coaches were left to reflect on what might have been.
For Ireland’s Joe Schmidt it was a tackle that occupied his thoughts – an illegal one.
For Gatland, it was more frustration that Wales failed to make the most of their chances close to the try-line.
Tipping over the line
Let’s start with that tackle.
Ireland had opened a 13-0 lead and were good value for it when Andrew Trimble upended Wales full-back Liam Williams about 35 metres out from the Irish line.
It looked aggressive and the home crowd loved it, until replays revealed Williams’ legs had gone “beyond the horizontal” and he’s dropped painfully on to his shoulder.
In other words, a tip tackle.
There was no yellow card, but Rhys Priestland’s successful kick was the green light for a Welsh resurgence. And by half-time they were back within three points.
“It’s a thin line but that tackle let them back into the game and they used that as a platform,” said Schmidt.
“Once they got us into the 22 and that series of scrums it was just very difficult to get out of there.”
His captain Rory Best agreed: “We’re disappointed with that last 10 minutes of the first half. We let them back in to it.”
Must try more
The official match statistics revealed Ireland made five line breaks while Wales made none, in spite of 51% possession and the heroic efforts of centre Jamie Roberts.
It’s a familiar accusation that Wales are too direct – critics say predictable – and can be nullified by the kind of fearless tackling Ireland exhibited at the Aviva Stadium.
But Wales did create opportunities, and Gatland felt it was rustiness rather than lack of ambition that was Wales’ undoing.
“There were a coupe of overlaps. I thought in one Luke Charteris took a little too much out of it and Alun Wyn Jones had to try a ‘give and take’ when Tom James was unmarked on the wing,” said the New Zealander.
On another occasion in the second half Scott Baldwin dropped the ball when Wales had again opened up space on the left flank.
This time it did not end in defeat – as their failure to score against 13 Australians in the World Cup had – but chances are precious and rare. Waste them and there is usually a price to pay.
No time for recovery
Both teams now face matches six days after this bruising encounter.
Wales have a serious doubt over fly-half Dan Biggar who has an ankle strain before they host Scotland in Cardiff on Saturday.
Ireland have slightly less time before they take on France in Paris and have serious doubts over Keith Earls who was concussed and flanker Tommy O’Donnell who passed a head injury assessment but will be reviewed before selection.
“To have half an hour less than six days before we take on France in Paris and compete with the athletes they have will be a monumental task,” said Schmidt.
“This is such a competitive competition and when you have a six day turnaround to try and compete with another really good team it’s tough.”
Looking on the positive side, neither team lost.
On the negative, no team has ever won the Six Nations having drawn their opening game.
Another fact, which both coaches will be clinging to, is that there is a first time for everything.