We’ve grown so accustomed to heroics from Ireland’s rugby team in recent years that their capitulation to England in Dublin was one – or rather 80 – of those rub-your-eyes moments in international sport.
Was this a one-off debacle for Joe Schmidt’s all-conquering troops of 2018? Did it offer evidence that the Irish can be knocked out of their rhythm and stride by the brutal physicality of opponents such as Mako and Billy Vunipola?
Or was it just a rare blip for the side which won the Grand Slam, the IRB’s World Team of the Year accolade and beat Australia in an away series and the mighty All Blacks at home during the last 12 months?
We’ll soon find out, because Ireland’s next challenge is against the Scots at Murrayfield on Saturday and the momentum shift on the opening weekend of the Six Nations Championship means that Gregor Townsend’s personnel now have a terrific opportunity to inflict fresh misery on Schmidt’s men.
It could work both ways, of course. The visitors to Edinburgh have been heavily criticised for their lack of ideas and aggression in the 32-20 loss to England.
They will be fired-up, determined to come blasting out of the blocks, and the Scots will have to be ready to confront the tempest.
They certainly won’t have the luxury of space which was available against Italy for the first hour and, whereas the Azzurri had the haunted look of fellows forever loitering on the Via Dolorosa, the Irish are blessed with more than enough world-class stars to respond to adversity.
And yet the contrast between Johnny Sexton and Finn Russell provides another reminder of why Townsend can be quietly confident not just on Saturday, but also at the World Cup, where the countries will be in the same group.
Sexton loves establishing the tempo and rhythm at No 10. If he is allowed to dictate the proceedings, he can orchestrate chaos against any rivals.
Yet, he’s 33, and was strangely out of sorts on Saturday, leaving a few (fickle) fans across the Emerald Isle to query whether the bell might soon be tolling for him.
Russell, in contrast, has been a dazzling diamond in recent displays and if he keeps angling the ball behind the Irish defence, there’s no reason why it won’t reap dividends.
The Irish will still be slight favourites prior to the kick-off and Townsend is sufficiently smart to realise a backlash beckons. But he has helped to re-establish Murrayfield as a fortress and if his team can snaffle an early lead, the stadium will be rocking.
That has to be the goal, given the astonishing statistic that the Irish have lost the last 21 contests where they were trailing by more than a point at half-time.
In short, they like setting the pace, rather than chasing the game. Another fact which should offer the Scots optimism in what won’t be a fixture for the faint-hearted.