We’re Catching Up

Posted: May 18, 2015 in International Rugby, Rabo
Tags: , , ,

Rave reviews regarding northern hemisphere rugby poured in after the last Saturday of the six nations championship this year. Wales ran in try after try, followed by Ireland and England alike. It seemed the days of boring kick-and-maul rugby were ending.

The final day of the Rabo league proved to be much of the same. David Kelly wrote in today’s Irish Independent that “rugby should consider getting rid of the coaches altogether and just let the players at it”. He’s not too far wrong it would seem.

I watched the Munster game in a pub with friends on Saturday. One arrived after twenty-odd minutes, and on asking how they were playing, was shocked to hear that Munster had the bonus point already. Not only that, but the Dragons had two tries to their name themselves. Six tries in 24 minutes. Happy days.

But what made it brilliant to watch was that the game wasn’t thrown into a sevens-like event; the structure of the game was kept and players stuck to their strengths. In other words, Munster forwards still utilised their maul while Conor Murray and Keith Earls ran the show in the back line.

The Ospreys continued the trend and had three tries scored by half time. Granted, Connacht aren’t a team famous for running rugby, but they managed a scoreline of 24-20, and could have won if it wasn’t for a poor first half. 24-0 was the halftime score, which highlights how hard they worked in the second half.

A Leinster team with three fringe players scored 36 points against Edinburgh, with five tries to boot. Given their poor run of form this season, five tries is no mean feat against any team, especially given their lacklustre performance last weekend against Treviso.

Whereas Ulster failed to ignite much, Glasgow enjoyed a good victory at home running in four tries and earning a bonus point. Glasgow are the team tipped to win this year’s playoffs and given the season they’ve enjoyed, it’s no wonder. They love to throw the ball about and their forwards are just as comfortable on the ball as their backs. Townsend has done a fantastic job with them. And with Taqele Naiyaravoro joining from the Force, they’re only going to get better.

For years southern hemisphere teams have been saying that northern rugby is boring. We rely too much on our kickers and not on scoring tries. New Zealand Maori team have gone on record in previous interviews that at training the coach will sometimes throw players a ball and just let them at it-no moves, no set calls, just playing. The skills they learn from playing off the cuff rugby have become an integral part to their game. Geordon Murphy wrote in his book that these sort of skill games should be introduced in under-age rugby in a bid to develop these skills. New Zealand forwards have always been comfortable ball carrying and offloading out of the tackle. Just look at Sam Whitelock’s try for the Crusaders a fortnight ago-he has no problem relying on his running ability.

But northern hemisphere rugby is catching up. The days of “taking your points”, the 3-6-9 leads through penalties, are slowly fading away. They will never be completely gone as winning comes first. But teams are starting to throw caution to the wind, especially when the points margin comes into effect. This years Six Nations and Rabo have shown us that teams can play fantastic rugby when push comes to shove. Long may it continue.

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