Match Reports

Well, that was an interesting start to the tournament. It began with one of the worst games of international rugby I have ever seen, and was followed by an exciting, high quality encounter between two very good sides.

The short version, for those allergic to sports is as follows: England beat Italy 36-11; Ireland beat France 30-21. More detail follows.

In the history of bad coaching decisions, the attempt to make a scrum half out of Mauro Bergamasco must rank amongst the worst. I’m not saying that I could have done better, but an awful lot of people could, including the young kid that they brought on after the break. Scrum half is a very technical position, and you can’t learn to play there in a couple of days. Bergamasco’s passing was slow and mis-placed; and he occasionally let his flank forward enthusiasm get the better of him and got dragged into rucks. In defense he had no idea where to be.

Having a key position not working is bad enough, but if a scrum half is supplying ball that is slow and inaccurate then you can guarantee that the opposition will be all over the fly half by the time the ball gets to him. Poor Andrea Maracto never stood a chance, and it was no surprise that he went off injured half way through the first half. Meanwhile England scored a bunch of tries, all of them arising from Italian mistakes.

But if Italy were bad, England were no better. Of the five tries that they scored, only one was earned. The other four were gifted to them. And in the second half, once Italy had Toniolatti on behind the scrum, the match was pretty evenly balanced. Had Toniolatti started the game, Italy might well have won. The English scrum was under serious pressure for much of the game, and they had no idea how to create chances. I can’t remember Sackey having the ball in attack at all. And to top all that they had two totally unnecessary yellow cards.

Possibly the best comment on the game came from Martin Johnson. When England scored their third try, instead of celebrating he shook his head in despair as if to say, “what are we doing playing these clowns, it does us no good at all.”

The contrast with the Ireland-France game could not have been more stark. Both sides played some fine attacking rugby. The French in particular looked absolutely awesome in loose play. However, their defense still has some flaws and Ireland were able to exploit them. It was great to see O’Driscoll gliding his way through a defense with ease once again.

Ireland do have a few problems. Kearney messed up several kicks and went off early with a recurrence of his ankle problems. Paddy Wallace was fairly anonymous. There may be some re-jigging of the back line for the next game, but they are off to an excellent start and could well come to Cardiff on the last weekend undefeated.

All we need now is a Welsh victory tomorrow and the tournament will be shaping up very nicely.

2 thoughts on “Match Reports

  1. England were totally ineffectual and on that showing will only avoid the wooden spoon if Italy fail to win two games. Very Depressing.
    Disturbing lack of anything positive to say. At this point a loss by less than 20 points in Cardiff will be a lucky escape.

    If i was Johnson I’d be very annoyed and to be honest would sack the lot of them and promote the entire Saxons 22 to start next week.

    i thought france looked excellent going forward – Ireland deserved to win with a more composed performance – how may times did Nigel Owens shout “Hands off Green” without actually doing anything – he was consistent but i thought his interpretation on the day favoured the defenders heavily.

  2. The whole ruck thing is a bit of a mess. If the referee blows up for every infringement then people complain that he’s whistle happy, and if he doesn’t then they complain that he’s helping people who slow down the game. He can’t win. Hopefully what was happening was that Owens was yelling “hands off” and the players concerned did what they were told; and if they didn’t then he penalized them. But I don’t see any easy solution when the laws are such that infringements are regular and often difficult to avoid (not hands, obviously, but diving in and not rolling away).

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