Metaphors for Ulster’s game against Aironi assumed new levels Monday week ago, when travelling up the M2 in my Citreon Picasso, MPV. For Citreon read Ulster rugby, a family friendly, middling to good model, with a decent engine and a reasonable performance.
Travelling up the inside lane, the sun was shining, if a little chilly at nought degrees and the road was dry. A truck up ahead was travelling slower than expected as I checked my mirrors and prepared to pull into the faster travelling outside lane of traffic.
From glancing in the rear view mirror, I turned to look ahead only to find the car in front braking heavily. I slammed on the brakes and hazard warnings and came to a shuddering halt, just a metre from the car in front.
I noted two cars just beyond it had crashed, sending one into the central crash barrier. As I anxiously checked the mirrors in case the guy behind had failed to put the anchors on in time, I watched two more cars slalom into each other in a cloud of dust and steam.
Another crash a further 100 metres up the motorway was being dealt with by the emergency services.
This was a car crash waiting to happen, just like last Friday night’s game with Aironi. I had a beautiful sunny morning, time to get to my destination and out of nothing I almost ended up crashing. Couldn’t be a more apt description of Ulster’s game last Friday night.
Conditions were good, a decent team out and an expectant crowd. So where did it all go wrong? Well the opposition turned up and after their initial reticence and acclimatisation to the intensity of the game they began gain confidence as Ulster’s initial verve disappeared up a blind alley of mindless running and dropping the ball.
Add the belief that the forwards merely had to supply ball off second phase and watch the backs deliver and you have mistaken overconfidence.
The forwards must make the opposition work hard, we didn’t and the simple act of moving the ball wide quickly didn’t work, as our lineout, a source of quick ball, stuttered more than usual.
The support played its part by remaining ominously muted, no doubt adding to the sense of doom that seemed to pervade play for a while.
Mike Strikes Again!
Holywood Mike for the second week running decided to cross examine or was that just cross, a prop. The object of his ‘affections’ this time was BJ Botha.
BJ had taken up residence outside the URSC tent and was engaged in idle chat when in walked Holywood and waved a Munster flag behind his head hoping, for a photo opportunity
Being suitably circumspect about such a stunt, BJ took evasive action but was ruthlessly hunted down by Holywood still waving his Munster emblem.
A harassed BJ, flung the portly flag to the car park floor. My view was obscured temporarily at the critical moment but said flag appeared to hit the deck.
Got to say, ‘wise up Mike,’ take a break and have a kit kat!
Signatures that hit a dodgey note
Reading the UAFC messageboard I was struck or dumbstruck by some of the signatures below the posts.
‘Climb up onto the top of your house and start screaming: ‘stand up for the Ulstermen, stand…’
This little nugget of advice would get me sectioned under the mental health act where I to take it literally in my august neighbourhood.
On a more ambitious note this poster declares:
‘From the rolling glens of Antrim through the hills of Donegal we will stand and shout for Ulster as we win both scrum and maul from the lovely lakes of Fermanagh tae the shores of ould Lough Gall we will scream and shout for Ulster as we beat them one and’
He was apparently lost for words after that…
Alternatively if you wish to get arrested for talking to yourself:
‘If a man speaks in the woods and no woman is there to hear him…………is he still wrong?’
Or spare a thought for this philosopher:
‘”noun A Fan”
an enthusiastic devotee, follower, or admirer of a sport,
Not an expert, not always right just enthusiastic….well most of the time! ‘
Something Old, Something Borrowed, Something Green.
The Ireland team was announced to general indifference and yawns with even the normally imaginative Irish media finding it difficult to drum up anything new, fresh, not borrowed or hackneyed.
Lots of imaginative speculation from internet chatterers that Eddie O’Kidney had simply changed the name of the opposition and date of the match at the top of the team sheet and re-submitted it.
The problem in Irish rugby continues to be lack of determination evident to encourage competition for places in certain areas of the team. At the moment it is principally in the positions of centre, second row and no.8.
For years Ireland persisted with Peter Stringer through thick and sometimes thin end of a dubious wedge and to my eyes at least never encouraged competition. Scrum halves came and went at Provincial level in a blaze of talent but Strings remained the Irish constant despite failings in his all round game.
Despite almost institutional defensive frailties, Munster fans could recall the Stringer ‘Luger tap tackle’ in 2002 or the ‘Glen Metcalf last ditch heroic hand to ankle tackle’ in 2004 and the now famous and rare blindside break for try, paid for by an obliging Biarritz winger.
All good things come to an end of course and Strings has been left behind the International rugby stage curtain these days apart from the odd cameo appearance when there’s no-one other than Kiwi origin 9’s on hand.
Should Brian O’Driscoll’s sometimes temperamental hamstring let him down for the RWC then there will be all sorts of excuses made, for Ireland not achieving their goals without anyone ever asking did they actually plan for this scenario.
Can you name the ready made replacement? A few names spring to mind but are they nailed on certainties?
School of Hard Knocks! (SOHK)
What’s it all about?
It’s a SKY sports programme featuring a couple of veteran pro players with about a zillion caps between them for their country, British Lions and clubs.
In SOHK Messers Greenwood and Quinnell take on the country’s most socially retarded, economically disadvantaged and educationally sub normal youth and try and knock ‘em into shape as aspiring rugby players.
The lads, who spend quantum time drinking, smoking, thieving, cussing and swearing all take turns in between training routines to go to the locker room and explain the philosophy of being turned into proper hard men courtesy of SOHK.
This week, ole buddies Greenwood & Quinnell bring in ex buddy Jason Leonard, who looks like the man with no name as he narrow eyed, teaches the young dogs some tricks of scrummaging.
After a few hours on the training pitch the lads are sent out to play Old Harridians XV and lose, while Greenwood and Squat expostulate on the touchline as to why their charges are not going through multi phase rugby in the forwards!!!
Gripping stuff and can’t wait for next week’s instalment!