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News

Ooooooo, Mark’s Six is on Fire…

by UAFC Editor on Fri Sep 07, 2012 11:15 am
Rating:
  • 3 votes
(3 votes)


A little belatedly (my fault... The Ed) here is Neil's view of last week's match (kudos for the title, Neil :D )

Anscombe’s new broom and no baggage policy has seemingly put every position up for grabs, bar 4, with squad journeymen and youth getting a long-awaited chance to stake their claim against the established, absent stars. Initially at least…

The major benefactor so far is a resurgent, combative Robbie Diack; punishing in the tackle, ravenous for contact and ball, Octopus-like in the line-out, Diack reminded us of the potential Ulster saw in him when he first came to Ravers 3 seasons ago.. When rampaging and mean, it’s apparent that he is, in the local vernacular, a big lump, built like a brick outhouse; certainly the physical equal of Ferris.

With an abbreviated senior squad due to injury and the IRFU player management programme, the first competitive match of the season was approached with both excitement and trepidation by Ulster fans and media alike. Ulster/ Glasgow matches have been traditionally abrasive, stodgy slugfests, and a large, expectant, tense, but often flat crowd were treated to mostly familiar fayre..

Glasgow came with new coach but familiar, dour, forward- oriented game, Duncan Weir the conduit, a conductor with a school brass band to orchestrate in the backs, discordant; a Challenger tank of a pack to slipstream behind… after prolonged trench warfare between two huge packs willing to slug it out, sufficient hegemony from the forwards enabled Ulsters’ young tyros to fashion two tries and take them clear in a match where a 7 point lead would probably be unassailable.

In contrast to Glasgow’s tough, experienced but turgid midfield and back three, Ulster’s baby- faced assassins gave the backline the look of rugby’s equivalent to Bugsy Malone, (even without Nevin Spence..) However, their ordinance was made of sterner materials than custard pies, with Leicester, Bayonne and Newcastle already feeling the full metal jacket to varying degrees.

In the competitive furnace of the Pro 12 opening night, Ulster’s Goonies again delivered the coup de grace, and learned a few more hard lessons to take forward, especially when weakly defending the Glasgow try.. Allen sluggish due to cramp, and Gilroy culpable of standing off when Seymour should have been nailed at point of contact; showing Seymour the outside line, flailing and failing with a weak challenge which Tommy finished with relish. Lessons hopefully learned..

All told, the youthful Ulster backline, ably marshalled by the classy, swashbuckling, visionary Payne (looking significantly bulked up and hungry,) were more than a match for their more experienced and grizzled opponents, a pleasing influx of academy and development players laying a marker. Ulster and Anscombe looking forward and trusting callow youth instead of looking back; long may it continue, lest “we open a quarrel between past and present, and in doing so, find we lose the future..”

Up front, aside from MOTM Diack, Stevenson was again immense, pummelling the gain line with surging pick and drives, perfect foil to captain Muller; both locks stifling Glasgow attacks repeatedly with engulfing tackles, and text book rucking. All 3 jumpers reaped steals on poor Glasgow throws and via pure anticipation. This will be a formidable weapon, with Tuohy also to come back.

Overall, Ulsters’ aggression, rucking and counter rucking and breakdown management has visibly improved, due, it seems, to the influence of the new coach- the Ulster/ Kiwi Way? Logan will be pleased..

Glasgow made few incisive breaks, and any breaches were quickly plugged. Indeed, despite the visitors’ dominance and possession during the opening 20 min, the Ulster line remained largely untroubled. Defence was offensive, causing constant Glasgow backpedalling.

Ulster are also developing credible front row options to manage the fallow times of 6Ns call ups and IRFU policy- Herring is a chunk with a pleasingly low centre of gravity, nuggety with Bristow-like accuracy, and the ability to hit no 6 consistently- given his 3 targets, Ulster reaped a harvest in the air. Hugely mobile, Herring is from a similar mould to Rory; Ulster again replete with tough hookers, Brady adding the necessary experienced head.

Black has been a revelation given Paddy MacAllister’s unfortunate injury; newly mobile, able and unbendable in the tight, a credible back-up to Tom Court. Afoa needs no introduction, although his first full start was a quiet one in the tight; he looks he still has 20% to give.

Overall, Ulster have 2 full front rows that give considerable options, from huge and intimidating, to low and difficult to get under; horses for courses and the ability to punish opposition scrums for the full 80.

With Diack on form, and in tandem with Nick Williams, the concerns regarding paucity of depth in the back row doesn’t seem so apparent now. Initial concerns regarding Nick William’s hunger (!) and Diack’s toughness have been allayed for now, and Ulster have a mouth watering array and subtle blend of impact players, spoilers, and at least one Lion. The back row options, if fit, offer dog, aggression and explosive line breaking potential... perm any three now from Ferris, Henry, Wilson, Williams, Diack, Birch, the unsung Doyle, the added option of Henderson, and the loss of Pedrie may not be the problem many thought it would be.. Williams has the ability to suck in three or four tacklers, punch large holes, or open defences for his colleagues to pour through - a more than useful talent, especially in the last, 20 minutes.. the guy has impact player tattooed all over him.

Heaney again displayed an ability to do the basics required at 9 well, but without the game breaking flair of Marshall, who made a welcome, if rusty return. But to this ageing forward, Heaney has a slicker, more consistent pass, without Marshall’s little skip and tell, and a steady, nerveless aspect to contrast Marshall’s Duracell bunny..

Ruan's return is eagerly anticipated however, for reasons in addition to the fact he's world class. There remains a question mark over the nexus of the team - with so much resting on Paddy Jackson, every knock is greeted with trepidation, and either injury or poor decision making assumes great significance. Niall O’Connor, place kicking aside, did the basics competently, and steadied the ship when Jackson retired. But the overall feeling is that of limited ability to get a potent back line moving like IH in his (fleeting) pomp.

The thought occurs however, that a potent, pulverising pack, punching holes, may not in fact require the same wayward genius to unlock a tight Rabo defence. This may buy time to allow PJ to develop in a less pressured environment, with Pienaar and Wallace to nurse him behind a dominant pack. This is not necessarily the case against tougher Heineken opposition, however.

That’s the trouble with over reliance on talismans.. “ A fool there was, and he made his prayer, to a rag and bone, and hank of hair...” A new way may need to be found, until the Man who would be King is crowned..

Marshall and Farrell in tandem offer the future, but currently lack that cutting edge honed by Cave and Wallace; Farrell will hopefully improve his handling and distribution skills, but has time and immense physicality on his side; Marshall, a bullocking blonde barrel, with unusually deft hands, and siege gun boot, heir apparent.

With Spence returning, the future is taking shape.. wither an all Ulster backline permed from Marshall / Heaney, Jackson, Wallace / Marshall / Spence, Farrell / Cave, Bowe / Gilroy / Allen / Cochrane / Trimble, Nelson? A supernatural backline of Midwich Cuckoos....
Anscombe and Ulster must have the nerve to pursue this particular Ulster way, and the tyros must show the bottle to meet the challenge; “For every (Ulster) Son of Thunder, then be a lion in the path, and don’t be trampled under..”

Ulster eventually overcame, and a result that rarely seemed in doubt was achieved less comfortably than it might have been. Warriors eventually crushed by a new strain of Red Branch Knights, Ulster’s warrior elite eventually taking libation to the spoils of opening day war, in tribute to Ragnor Redbeard’s Viking meditation on warrior combat: “This circling planet ball is no navel contemplating Nirvana, but rather a vast, star-lit Valhalla, where victorious warriors quaff the foaming hearts’ blood of their smashed up adversaries, from their scooped out skull goblets in never ending war…”

Ulster will drink their fill, then gird and rejoin for a more difficult cattle raid into the land of Owain Glendwyr..

The curve remains upward, but bigger hurdles to come will test this particular team’s mettle, and educate coach and fans as to how deep the well is to fight a war on two fronts.

Battles will be lost, but the war must be won; “Success is not final, failure not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts..” Mark Anscombe, Ulster and the fans must ensure we remain courageous to reach the summit of the Ulster Way..

 


 

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UAFC Editor has been a member since Thu May 03, 2012 8:02 am. He/She has posted a total of 18 News item(s) for a total of 27 post(s).

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Polls

Treviso vs Ulster MoTM

Peter Nelson
1
6%


Robert Baloucoune
0
0%


James Hume
3
17%


Stuart McCloskey
11
61%


Henry Speight
0
0%


Billy Burns
2
11%


David Shanahan
0
0%


Eric O'Sullivan
0
0%


Rob Herring
0
0%


Marty Moore
1
6%


Alan O'Connor
0
0%


Kieran Treadwell
0
0%


Marcell Coetzee
0
0%


Sean Reidy
0
0%


Nick Timoney
0
0%


John Andrew
0
0%


Andrew Warwick
0
0%


Tom O'Toole
0
0%


Clive Ross
0
0%


Greg Jones
0
0%


Jonny Stewart
0
0%


Johnny McPhillips
0
0%


Angus Kernohan
0
0%


 
Total votes : 18

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