The Big 46 [Sic] Pt.2 – Then Everything Is Wrapped Up In A Neat Little Package

 

The idea that test matches are a neat block of matches played at one level, with Heineken Cup games forming another distinct grouping a step down from that in intensity, speed, skill levels, physicality, time allowed in possession and tactical appreciation – and Pro12 matches a discrete block a further notch down from those Heineken Cup games – is one to which The Mole doesn’t subscribe. Continue reading

Losing Your Linchpin

Sure, there are a lot of moving parts in a team and they all have to do their job, but some are more vital than others.

Many moons ago, when the Mole was a nipper and student transport offered only two options – the heel-toe express or the push bike – to get to training or school or any of the other ‘priorities’ of our young lives, he learned all about the linchpin. Uniquely shaped [square at the top and tapering smoothly within its two inches to a round threaded base], the linchpin connected the crank-arm of the pedal through the centre of the big cogs of the front chain ring to the joint of the frame where the seat tube met the down tube. It seemed insignificant in the overall use of a bicycle: it wasn’t a wheel which covered the ground, and it wasn’t a pedal which took the weight. But without a linchpin, the bike wouldn’t go. You couldn’t apply power and you couldn’t cover ground. Continue reading

Match Preview: Ireland vs New Zealand @ Hamilton

Steve Hansen was right: New Zealand didn’t play that well in the Christchurch test. Some of that was forced on them by an aggressive, hard-nosed Irish performance, but they also made a number of unforced errors. Ireland didn’t perform cleverly or with the required level of concentration and aggression in a number of areas in the Auckland test [especially after the first half hour] and as a result handed New Zealand not just the result, but also the big performance. England caved in a similar way in Lansdowne Road in 2011, and let Ireland play close to their potential.  Continue reading

Match Reaction #3: Another One For The Reel Of Infamy

Andy Dufresne and lovely Rita.

“Me? My lawyer fucked me. Everybody’s innocent in here. Didn’t you know that?” 

As Declan Kidney said in the aftermath, you can only control what you can control. It’s no news that Nigel Owens comes down on the side of the hometown team more often than not; Ireland, Munster and Leinster have all profited by it before on their own patch. Continue reading

Match Reaction #2: Absent Friends

O’Connell and Heaslip: how’s about you do your job, and I do my job?

It’s strange to say that somebody who’s only winning his second cap could teach somebody who has been to three World Cups and two Lions Tours a thing or two, but one of the odd pleasures of this second test was not seeing Paul O’Connell carry static, one-out ball into contact and go to ground. Brodie Retallick didn’t get on the ball much: he just went around charging into rucks and bashing things.  Continue reading

New Zealand 22 – 19 Ireland: Match Reaction #1

Ireland’s tempo and intensity was where it needed to be, but the team didn’t show much cutting edge out wide. There’s room for improvement as to how we play once we have the ball.

While this was a very good performance from Ireland, it’s not as though it can’t be improved upon. In some ways it was similar to the 15-6 win over Australia in RWC11 – you couldn’t fault the intensity of the players on the pitch, or the decisions made by the management in selection or substitution, but tactically there’s still quite a lot of ground for improvement. That’s encouraging. It’d be downright grim if you had played as well as you could possibly play and not beaten a team who weren’t at their best. Continue reading

Match Reaction: New Zealand 42 – 10 Ireland

Israel Dagg didn’t bag a hat-trick of tries, but he was just as damaging to Irish hopes. His much-anticipated match-up with Rob Kearney was a blow-out.

Ireland started their three test series against New Zealand with enterprise and verve, but the All Blacks were able to stand up well to the twenty-five minute onslaught, bought a lead with a couple of long-range Dan Carter penalties and then utterly took over, wrapping up the game before half-time. Continue reading