A Good and Not So Good Weekend Of Rugby

Courtney+Lawes+Northampton+Saints+v+Leicester+KBVhcSwKRSPlSaturday afternoon, t.v. on, a fridge full of ‘tonic’ and the prospect of a mouthwatering Premiership Final. Leicester were always going to start as favourites but, after the way the Saints took the game to Sarries from the start in the semi, we felt that a potentially thrilling and close game was on the cards. Unfortunately, Saints appeared a little over-awed by the occasion and started rather tentatively allowing the Tigers to gather momentum and lead 13-5 just after the half hour mark.

Up to this point Wayne Barnes was exercising a relatively light touch approach which, we assumed, was his experienced reaction to keeping the game as free flowing as possible given it’s profile and the wider viewing audience. All fine and well – up to a point, but the lack of lineout separation may have contributed to the nasty, but thankfully not serious, looking fall that Croft (of all people!) took on his neck/shoulder.

Courtney Lawes may also have been encouraged to push his natural exuberance, although he always seems to be on the edge, in the way he took out Flood – twice. Now, this may upset Tigers fans but, having watched the first incident several times I am tempted to disagree with experts like Brian Moore. I am not so sure that he could have pulled out after Flood released the ball. On the slo-mo, it looks as if he had already dipped his shoulder and turned his face away whilst travelling at enormous speed before Flood let go. At that point Flood may well have been considering a dummy so, in my opinion (and I only ever played at full back) Lawes was tackling the man with the ball. I wouldn’t have given the penalty and, if Barnes was calling it correctly, then it surely warranted a sin-bin.

Clearly this was never going to be an overly well-mannered game but the Dylan Hartley incident then ended it as a potential spectacle. Leicester did push early at the scrum and fool Mr Barnes but Hartley had previously been spoken to and can clearly be seen mouthing the ‘F…’ word. To whom is irrelevant if it was anywhere in the direction of the ref, who by then probably realised that he needed to assert a little more authority and could reasonably assume it was at him. Hartley and his coaches are adamant that it was directed at Youngs and, given the early push, they may be correct. Regardless, with form like his and with the responsibility of captaining his team in a long awaited final, the incident simply reinforces the conclusion that he got what he deserved and, noting the cautious response from Stuart Lancaster when asked about the incident and Hartley’s future England prospects, his international ambitions may well be over.

Then, straight after and on the stroke of half time, what was all that about? 13-5 down and after consulting the ref, let’s kick it straight into touch from a 22 yard drop out. But, listening carefully to the ref’s mike, he said ‘… you can’t…’  There were 82,000 passionate fans screaming the house down at that point and both Dave and I felt that it could have been easily misheard as ‘… you can…’. Myler certainly looked a little confuddled but, 16-5!

In fairness, although Saints had never looked the stronger team, had they secured the 2 first half tries which they could/should have, and had hothead Hartley kept his stupid gob shut, we would have had a second half in prospect to drool over. Fair play to saints again though in that they pulled it back to 24-17 after 57 minutes but, as Wales know from losing their captain at the World Cup, it’s damned near impossible to keep a strong team at bay on a hot day with 14 men.

Tigers probably would have deserved to edge it had it remained at full strength on both sides but, on a final note, will someone please shoot that nasty little Cockerill chap. I know the Lawes challenges were heavy, and Cockers is naturally concerned to protect his players, but his harassment of match officials and the general impression he gives to the t.v. viewing audience was disgraceful. He is known for badgering officials very much in the mould of Sir Alex Ferguson and in my book he needs stamping on now. How about an 11 week coaching ban?

cockers

On the very positive side, I wonder just how hard Gatland is scratching his head this morning after England’s win over the Barbarians. I looked at the Baa-Baas pack line-up and the England backs before kick off and thought this would make for one heck of an interesting game. The Baa-Baas turned up looking lightweight, clueless and out of condition. With something like 800 international caps in their line-up compared to England’s 110, their scrum looked about as strong as Sale Sharks did for the first half of last season and the England backs rightly exposed the lack of discipline and pace from the start. Burns, Yarde,  Eastmond and the glittering Wade look like giving near future England teams the skill and speed to comfortably compete with the Southern hemisphere teams. Mike Brown and Billy Twelvetrees also had very impressive games albeit that the opposition didn’t really turn up in the first half. By the way, does anyone else suspect that Yarde’s foot may just have been swept across the whitewash on his run to his very impressive try? I watched it a couple of times and it is at the point where the incoming defender sweeps his arm across the ankles. Unfortunately, the arm tends to obscure the feet but if you look at the brief angle of Yarde’s legs ………?? Whatever, his speed and balance were well worthy of the 5 points.

On the very positive side, I wonder just how hard Gatland is scratching his head this morning after England’s win over the Barbarians. I looked at the Baa-Baas pack line-up and the England backs before kick off and thought this would make for one heck of an interesting game. The Baa-Baas turned up looking lightweight, clueless and out of condition. With something like 800 international caps in their line-up compared to England’s 110, their scrum looked about as strong as Sale Sharks did for the first half of last season and the England backs rightly exposed the lack of discipline and pace from the start. Burns, Yarde,  Eastmond and the glittering Wade look like giving near future England teams the skill and speed to comfortably compete with the Southern hemisphere teams. Mike Brown and Billy Twelvetrees also had very impressive games albeit that the opposition didn’t really turn up in the first half. By the way, does anyone else suspect that Yarde’s foot may just have been swept across the whitewash on his run to his very impressive try? I watched it a couple of times and it is at the point where the incoming defender sweeps his arm across the ankles. Unfortunately, the arm tends to obscure the feet but if you look at the brief angle of Yarde’s legs ………?? Whatever, his speed and balance were well worthy of the 5 points.

Up until the three quarter mark of the second half, the Baa-Baas were still simply not at the races, lagging behind 40-0 although forward substitutions had resolved the instability at the scrum. The introduction of Yachvili also seemed to bring some discipline and cohesion to the Baa-Baas game. His ability to organise and distribute quick, accurate ball gave them the impetus they needed to score two very good tries and also helped remind us of another sublime young talent in Elliot Daly.

Oh yes, I think the future looks very bright for Stuart Lancaster and his coaching team, Their only ‘problem’ may be having too many players to choose from.

FOOTNOTE – to Toby Flood. Hope you’re ok and now you know how Danny Cipriani felt a few weeks ago.

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2 comments

  1. your cronology is a bit wrong, the hartley incident occured after mylers duffed drop out…. and played a major part in the hartley vocals in my opinion.

  2. Without doubt the build-up was a major factor in Hartley’s incident although he had previously been warned. Whatever the case though Hartley’s actions are completely inexcusable.

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