London Irish 28-28 Dax (14th January 2002)

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London Irish 28-28 Dax (14th January 2002)

by dom_pedro on Tue Oct 18, 2005 12:29 pm

An old report from the Rivals site by Steve Smith

London Irish 28-28 Dax (14th January 2002)
We blew it (almost)

In truth, I have very mixed feelings about how Dax played. Yes, they were utterly cynical in executing their game plan of killing our quick ball (boy, have they done their homework on how we win games) and they gambled on the ref turning an incompetent eye to it, and won that gamble.

But from the moral outrage perspective, I would still draw a very big distinction between what they did and what Saints did to us. One was a clear disgrace to rugby and its values, the other a simple lesson that professional teams have outstripped amateur officialdom.

If I was a Dax fan I think I would be quite proud of the heart my team showed. When you consider their dismal form, their change of management, their pathetic first-half collapse to us in the first game, this was a very proud team, giving their all, even if that involved putting their bodies in front of our boots.

The opening ten minutes was key - we threw everything at them, had the ball on their line twice, but they stood up to us, did not buckle an inch, looking us in the eye as if to say 'is that the best you can do?' We blinked and their forwards took total control of the game. They were well worth their 10-6 HT lead, although their try was fortunate. My seat was very near where their lineout was taken, and I can assure you the throw to Charron did not go 5 metres. Still, once they were behind us, the belief of their forwards in powering the ball across the line contrasted sharply with our two attempts to do the same.

We had a fair amount of ball but our backs had another indifferent day. Rob Hoadley was trying far too hard to take on their defence by himself, where was those little touches of skill that have marked out his performances earlier this season? I can remember once OxonRob (I think) criticising the speed of Kevin Barrett's pass - I think, indeed, this is something he is going to have to work hard on if he to make strides at this level of rugby.

The second half was dominated by Dax's tactics in defending their lead. It seemed they only were interested in playing rugby when we got within one point - as whenever we did so, they seemed to be able to come back into our half and score at will. Brendan may well have pioneered Jannie De Beer's drop goal tactics - perhaps he now needs to go away and have a think about how it can be defended! Full marks to their number 10 for a superb MOTM display.

We've already had a thread discussing our tactics in the last five minutes. I maintain we were bloody rattled and some of the decision-making will make painful viewing on the video. At that scrum at the end, I was convinced that if they had gone for one more cynical infringement, the ref (crap as he was) may well have gone for a penalty try. So they allowed us one lot of quick ball, and well played Michael for his pass and especially Bish for a great finish. The kick was a nightmare, wasn't it? Barry did mis-hit it and it kept painfully low, but, there you go, the first time I've written this on this site - the luck of the Irish.

I can't remember screaming at a ref so much in a game for a long time. It's straightforward, isn't? If you can't spot that one side has a clear tactic of killing all the other side's ruck ball by not rolling away, then you should not be reffing at this level. What we said about the ZP needing 10 professional refs applies to all the competing European nations - if Italy can't afford to pay their officials to train to international class standards, then they should not be supplying officials for these games.
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