England could have quite easily have beaten Ireland on Saturday, is it better that they didn’t?
I have no doubt Martin Johnson and his captain talked about taking the positives out of the game in the post match interviews – didn’t see them as the BBC forum on the red button somehow turned into a game of curling, which has pretty much been the case every time I’ve use said button over the last fortnight – and there was some positives to be had but with a victory they would just have been used to mask all the negatives.
Jonny came in for some stick after the Italian game, some of it deserved a lot of it not. You can blame him for the missed kicks, it’s not what we expect of the special one. Though the Ireland game showed yet again he needs to stop attempting the halfway line jobs, he hasn’t got the leg for it these days, when was the last extra long kick he actually got to the posts?
But you can’t blame Jonny for those around him and you can’t blame him for positioning himself on the pitch based on those around him. All the complaints about him being to deep, yeah it’s OK being flat with a decent scrum-half but when the number 9 takes three steps, then sends in a slow looping pass that’s a foot above Jonny’s head, can you really blame him for standing a little deep? Or would it be better if he stood flat to take everyone of those hospital passes.
So if one guy next to him isn’t Matt Dawson – who still can’t say Ricky Flutey’s name without adding a few too many syllables – the said centre isn’t Will Greenwood. Though that fact is hard to prove cause I’m not sure Flutey was on the pitch on Saturday. Heard his name a couple of times but never really saw him with my own eyes. So Jonny gets blamed for the guy inside providing crap service and the guy outside him disappearing. Then after the wining Irish try he’s blamed again for missing a tackle, or not being there to tackle. Blamed by Jeremy Guscott with a smug grin on his face. Yes the same face he used to try and protect by poncing out of tackles in the 90s.
Yet they still could have won, in fact really should have but for stupid things. Forget the Danny Care penalty, that shouldn’t have been overturned, one of the very few things the ref surprisingly got wrong. But really, really stupid things. There’s a few things I detest players doing in sport, in football it’s chickening out of a block, turning their back and jumping out of the way while pretending to make the block. In rugby it’s what England did time and time again at the weekend, seemingly every time they were in a great attacking position with Ireland on the back foot.
Lollygagging at a ruck. A ruck has formed, there isn’t enough players in there to secure it and the ball is almost out of it and they just stand around looking – “I’m not a scrum-half, not my job”. One bang from the other side, ball is loose and then turned over. That and lollygagging when a player is isolated with no support, it resulted in turnover ball time and time again on Saturday and the weeks before. If they’d played that part of the game with more brains, they would have had quicker ball and the running game which they wanted to play would have come off better than it did.
As I said the ref had a decent game, bar the odd choice. The Care penalty that was overturned being one because it highlighted something the ref missed, with the Irish scrum-half again stopping England play by holding onto the ball, the amount of times he penalised the Irish. If it had been the other way round what chance and England player wouldn’t have see yellow. When England scored their try, an Irish player had illegally tried to stop him on the line. The ref really didn’t need to ask the TMO, just awarded the penalty try, then shown the yellow card.
But other than that he was one of the fairest officials I’ve seen on the international game for a while, something needs to be done about many others and the way they interpret the laws. I mean I don’t know when rugby union changed into the NFL but it seems you’re allowed one forward pass per phase of play – one on Friday night was so blatant with a line on pitch highlighting it but totally ignored by officials, commentators and pundits alike – and if you’re Welsh you’re allowed to block any tackler off the ball with a “dummy run”.