Crazy? Yes, Entertaining? Definitely
By LI Bohemian
November 28 2019
This was my fourth viewing of the boys in green in the flesh this season and the first this season I’ve actually witnessed them running onto the field. This was due to complicated reasons I won’t go into (overindulgence). I wasn’t expecting to see much actual open rugby, due to the drizzling cold November rain with bleak overcast skies, reminiscent of the shocking performance in the premiership game at home to Sale Sharks I’d previously witnessed.
I recalled going to the first game against Sale for the warm-up cup and narrowly losing but feeling confident that Irish were moving in the right direction. Then Irish showed the inept side of themselves in the following home game.
The Leicester Tigers game was for me a massive redemption. The last three tries from Irish - the best I’ve seen since the days when Tagi, Topsey and Delon were on show - that said Tigers were not the team they once were.
The game against Bayonne was like no other game this season and in another way like all of them mixed together.
When both teams came onto the pitch and lined up in their positions it looked obvious that Bayonne were markedly physically larger than Irish were and in most positions, particularly their number 5 - he was a giant.
I sat there in my terrible Hulk Hogan style tash and thought the conditions suited Bayonne and we could be in for it.
The game started pretty normally for the first five minutes, Irish moving up the pitch, kicking the ball away and then Bayonne working their way back into Irish territory. From the usual ruck that looks like a bus queue falling forward the ball was lofted high, the attempted catch from Irish resembling a volleyball pass that landed, like a gift from Santa, into the hands of an on rushing Bayonne player leading to the first try for the visitors. Irish forced their way back into the game through a deft kick into the corner from Paddy Jackson that was not delt with well by the Bayonne winger, with two Irish players descending on him, the ball was stripped from the Bayonne player leaving it for Freddy to smartly dab it down. We are back, I thought. Wrongly. From the restart Irish could not retain the ball and in an instant Bayonne had scored a try.
Irish then worked the ball forward and into the Bayonne 22 with good inter-passing and phase play. Paddy Jackson received the ball and showed a dummy pass so good that I even tried to catch it. This action parted the Bayonne defence and he raced over the try line to score. We’re really back this time, I thought again. Wrongly, again. From the restart, blah blah blah, you get the picture.
Irish again forced themselves back into match to so much of an extent that one of the Bayonne players decided to pat a pass forward, receiving a yellow card for his troubles.
Irish kicked to the corner and rumbled a maul over for one of my personal favorite players, Albert, to score a try.
At 19 all, with one of the Bayonne men in the bin, I thought, now we really, really are back in the game. Wrongly. Christmas gift doesn't even cover what happened next.
Irish had not been able to take the lead in the game so far and were trailing by 5 points, with just over 5 minutes left in the first half.
Irish, again, doggedly worked themselves back into Bayonne territory, I did mention earlier that it was raining during the game, I had to almost keep reminding myself that it was due to some of the outstanding ball handling from both sides in their attacking play.
Tom Stevenson received the ball just inside the Bayonne 22. He ran laterally until the rush defense had passed him and then darted through the gap to score a solo effort. With the successful conversion Irish had finally taken the lead in the game for the first time, a lead that they never relinquished.
The next restart proved to be a turning point. I had given up the “we’re back in the game” thoughts by this time. The ball from the restart kick was actually retained and hoofed to safety, causing the sparse crowed of Irish faithful to give the biggest cheer of the game, this to me was an apt reflection of the first half.
Irish extended their lead, when Terrence smartly dotted the ball in the corner.
Half time came and I thought about the Ping-Pong style of the game so far.
The second half saw Irish increase the lead with two more scores. This seemed to put the game out of reach for Bayonne. A bad injury to Conor Gilsenan broke up the last quarter of the match. A mention to the Bayonne players who seemed to be more alert to the severity of the injury than the match official. After the match restarted the referee, who officiated well up until that point, seemed to lose a bit of composure, making a few mistakes in my opinion, Bayonne got a score back but could not score anywhere near as easily as they had done in the first half.
It was a thoroughly entertaining game, where Irish more than held their own in the set pieces, but struggled badly in the first half with the restart.
Paddy Jackson gets better, as his confidence grows with each game, the forwards notably Botha and Albert are as competitive as I’ve seen for Irish, Rona is no winger and should not play there again.pqs: qs:
If you do not already have an account Click here to Register.