‘… and don’t forget it, it’s just a silly phase I’m going through’.
Well alright, I’m just finding it hard to re-acquaint myself with the oval ball game again in case you’re wondering.
As I type, Ulster have won their second league game in a row, this time away to the Ospreys. I remarked after the win against Glasgow that we would not know how good Ulster’s performance was until we saw the Glasgow team against different opposition.
Comparisons Are Odious
We now know, following Glasgow’s home defeat to the Scarlets that the curse of Gregor Townsend haunts the Weegees. Glasgow played very much in the same vein as Scotland when Gregor was assistant coach, all endeavour but unable to find the whitewash.
In mitigation, the Scarlets, are very much the in-form team from Wales and quite often hit the heights at this time of the year before hitting the form equivalent of a slow puncture.
Its early days and comparisons could be a trifle odious
Less of Thriller
By common consent Saturday evenings game against the Ospreys was a less than heart stopping affair with a midfield battle fought twixt 22’s and precious little to write home about. Both sides though scored decent tries.
In Denial About Niall
There were some very encouraging performances and some that won’t live in the memory.
I try not to criticise in disparaging fashion these days but there are times when one must revert to type and say it as I see it. That’s the beauty of a blog, you get to express an opinion.
My heart rarely skipped a beat when Niall O’Connor played for Ulster first time round. Perhaps the memory of all those Limavady GS chaps coming on and boosting their team’s school cup prospects in the face of extreme odds lingers in my hardened soul.
I always felt O’Connor was playing in 3rd gear as though from a distant memory, loosely related to a game he once played that set the world on fire and has never been repeated.
The renting of him out to Connaught, I thought, would be the making off him, with Elwood, kindly encouraging him along in the finer arts of outhalf play. Sadly, Connaught’s message to him was to sign a ‘has been’ international Dan Parks and thus O’Connor was left in no doubt about his future.
When Ulster re-engaged him, it was hardly the most inspired of signings and so it has proved. As Ali G might have said, ‘we’re all in de-niall about him’.
To rephrase we’re all laying in de Niall at the moment.
There is nothing to suggest his game has shifted up a gear following his detour out west for a season. If anything his kicking from tee has got worse. Ulster need those 3 pointers, to build on the pressure exerted by the forwards.
Watching our forwards play in the last two league games has reminded me of the reign of King Solomon. Back in those days, in Ravenhill at least, Ulster’s forwards went about the opposition in workmanlike fashion, piling on first half pressure which led to 3 pointers before expanding their game in the second half.
This is the way they are playing now but we need to post 3 points every time the opposition cracks under pressure. Had Niall kicked his kicks against Glasgow I firmly believe we would have put ourselves out of sight in the second half. As it was the game stayed closer than it should have been by not converting those penalties.
By contrast, another signing Nick Williams added several finely tuned strings to his bow by lasting 80 minutes and embroidered his work at the breakdown by forcing turnovers, in addition to the already familiar ball carrying.
A man of the match performance by Mr. Williams, with all the signs that there is a promising and consistent rugby performer trying to get out from under a hefty looking physique.
It’s difficult to assess Ulster’s performance to date against two under-performing teams, although any kind of win at the Liberty is not to be underestimated no matter how poor the opposition.
Next Friday, the oul enemy, in the shape of Munster looms on the horizon. A rise in performance is required. The rugby to date from most teams has been pretty sterile, let’s hope the season breaks into a festival of rugby. For now, I’m not in love….
Add in sloppy journalism and the sense of not belonging only increases exponentially. Peter O’Reilly surprisingly was the perpetrator. His Sunday Times article on Irish project players lauded Munster’s signing of a young Saffa and welcomed Leinster’s cautious signing of a lock in the footsteps of the Irish qualified Richard Strausdt.
Jared Payne was donated a couple of lines as Ulster’s project signing and O’Reilly completely failed to mention our very own Robbie Diack, Irish qualified and in a rich vein of form.
The 3 Musketeers
Just a few moments to herald the arrival, early October, of the 3 musketeers all the way from central France in time for Ulster’s first Heineken game with Castres. Some of you will recall how last year one of the 3 failed to make it for the Clermont match after suffering serious injuries in a fall.
The good news is Le Paul has recovered sufficiently to make the trip with his two erstwhile companions Jean Luc and Phil Baker.
Tickets have been purchased and a spot well away from the second barrier crew will be secured prior to kick off so that Le Paul can comfortably stand up for the Ulstermen on his wounded leg for the full 80.
Should add, Jean Luc will be strapped to the barrier as he imbibes the odd pint of Guinness, strictly for safety reasons.
They Seek Him Here and Often Find Him
I have been avidly following Glynn Commando’s world tour on Facebook.
Whether it‘s flopping over the try line at Lanzarote beach rugby, reading a book some place or esipping a glass of chardonnay, GC is proving more elusive than Lord Lucan, more culturally insatiable than Johnathon Meades and a global brand to equal Bradley Wiggins.
I await the next exciting instalment of his adventure. Rumour has it he is going to some rugby match at Ravenhill on Friday night.
They seek him here …
Once again English rugby goes on one of its occasional solo forays, bucking the trend, breaking deals and generally behaving as if the universe revolves round a small kingdom twixt Manchester and Exeter.
We’ve been here before when they decided to organise their own 6N coverage through SKY and of course Ulster followers will recall with some relish the year they decided to avoid getting beat in the European Cup and boycotted the tournament and Ulster won of course, 1999 being the year.
The BT Premiership TV deal is good for everyone, even the Scots and Italians, yo ho ho, says McCafferty, the Premiership’s CEO. For sure!
Would like to be round the table when they meet to negotiate/discuss on the next wedge of the Heineken. If there’s one left to negotiate that is!