London Irish 75-12 Pau (21st January 2006)

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London Irish 75-12 Pau (21st January 2006)

by OxonRob on Sun Jan 22, 2006 4:14 pm

Viva la Revolucion!
by OxonRob

Today was the day that the Brian Smith circus finally hit town. An extraordinary feast of running rugby, from a cast that was nearly but not quite our strongest line-up, amply demonstrated what we have promised for several months, but never quite delivered. After the often ineffectual thud and blunder of Parma, this was genuinely an awakening, a fulfilment of what Brian Smith and Toby Booth have been working towards. And it wasn’t little green shoots either, but a fully developed rain forest.

Sadly, the game was watched by two men and a dog. Thousands went missing today, people who tell their friends that they support London Irish. Hmmm.

We were one match away from the quarter final of the European Challenge, one decent win away from having it as a home game, so there was all to play for. The two match squads boasted fourteen international players between them, and we had the promise of some running rugby in dry conditions - from one side at least, and possibly from both. Well, you know what the French are like!

And what do we get? A crowd of 4,647 people, that’s what. After today, I can only think that no supporter will dare to miss a match for fear of missing a repeat performance – no matter who the opposition are.

Those of us who did turn up had a whale of a time. And if the style and quality of play the lads showed in today’s first half remain in place, we are going to frighten just about everyone we meet for the rest of the season, even Sale. That is how good we were. In short, in the first half, London Irish were quite stunning. Sailosi Tagicakibau must be licking his lips at the prospect of the ball he is going to get.

Photos by Cormac.

Did you hear that, in the back row of the stalls? Stunning. Us. Today. When you weren’t there to enjoy it. Eat your heart out that you missed London Irish scoring eleven tries. Oh ballox to the lot of ye. Rant over, let’s turn to the rugby.

The revolution is no longer a promise

Ambition was high from the outset. We didn’t kick for a penalty goal once. We attempted very few of those nice kicks up the middle to the opposition full back. The spectators were denied their usual opportunity of a coronary in the third quarter, and the oldest member didn’t manage to get a kip. In short we kept the ball in hand throughout, and we looped around and backed up throughout to ensure that there was always someone to pass to.

The game was played at a fast and furious pace, which one could hardly believe could be continued for the full 80 minutes. It was. Brother, these guys must be fit!

Don’t kid yourself. This wasn’t that weak a Pau side. Weakened, possibly, but not weak. Their team was packed with international talent, and as we saw in the second half, when our substitutions disturbed our rhythm, and the scoreline may have dimmed some of our ambitions, they were quite capable of playing some rugby of their own.

In fact the Pau 13, Captain and French international Jean-Charles Cistaq, was a thorn in the Irish side all afternoon, whether in attack or defence. He stood out in all phases of play and not simply because of his height.

When the teams ran on we saw one or two changes from the published line-ups. Dec Danaher wasn’t there for Irish, due to a training ground injury which could well keep him out for at least a month. Kieron Dawson played 7 instead. For Pau, Dumitras (15) and Quesada (10) were missing from the published selection, being replaced by Cabannes and Beauxis. Hardly a weaker team than the original, then.

How we did it

We beat them up, up front. We beat them up in the back row. We beat them up for creativity and invention. We beat them up for finishing. Our guys saw gaps where gaps could not be seen and they took them with a will.

But the foundation was the forward effort. Clinical and efficient, the Irish pack destroyed the Pau scrum, by and large dominated the line-out, and picked well at the breakdown. Our back row had a field day.

Leguizamon caught the eye throughout, and to be sure it took a lot of Pau tackling to bring him down as he invariably took us over the gain-line. However, he curiously seldom got his pass away, and his distribution is something he’ll doubtless be working on. Olivier Magne was altogether a contrast and his distribution was a joy. He glided almost anonymously around the pitch putting in some big hits and runs. He has the happy knack of always being in the right place at the right time, but, like Richard Hill, you don’t see him unless you look hard. This was clearly his way of celebrating the birth of his child in the early hours! Kieron, our Kieron, had a field day, doing what Kierons do best, procuring ball and getting it away.

M.Magne having been despatched home to catch up on his beauty sleep, Gussie came on for the second half, and was just as destructive as Olivier, if a little less creative than Juan Leguizamon, whom he then substituted at No 8 after 50 minutes. The tall Argentinian was quickly replaced by the rather smaller David Paice, apparently still fresh after nearly an hour of hooking. Paicey played flanker instead of Gussie, and continued to compete in French faces, taking no prisoners in the tackle. However, a Leguizamon he is not. We missed Juan, whose absence upset our balance.

Big Bob and Rochey were not only athletic in the line-out ballet, but hugely mobile in the loose, and this made a real difference. Strudwick, on in the second half, did more of the same. Do it again, lads, for we are so much better when you play like this.

Neal Hatley, David Paice and Faan Rautenbach were squeezing the life out of the Pau scrummage right from the start. Faan had some chats with the ref, but I have to guess that they were of the “Be fair to the lad. He only has 20 caps” variety, for the front row penalties were just about all in our favour. The Pau scrummage retreated backwards at speed several times. Paicey overthrew twice in the first half, but as our official fourth hooker, I wonder whether he gets in as much practice as some of his hooker colleagues. Other than that, the line-out was much as we have come to expect.

Photos by Cormac.

Outside them, Dodge played a good Dodge game, but seemed to realise early on that all he had to do, really, was get the pill to Riki and Catty. In a perverse kind of way I wish they’d get injured more frequently, for on their combined come-back they were on fire. Slicing breaks and half breaks combined with short and long passes of vision and creativity. They shirked no tackle, and did the down and dirty stuff too. These are not prima-donnas, these two, but real ‘genuine Bedouine’ rugby players.

Photos by Cormac.

Nils Mordt thundered where his peers floated, but he relished the space, and played his part in putting the fliers away. The ball went Topsy’s way a lot and Delon Armitage also had his share, but usually in traffic, necessitating one of those infuriating little chips behind the defence. By way of contrast, young Topsy seemed always able – and willing – to apply the after-burners, even if he risked being bumped into touch occasionally. Behind them all, Mike Horak spent so much of his time in the line that I had to check that he had not been selected as a centre!

The not-so-boring detail

Armitage returned the kick-off to touch just outside the Irish 22, but Pau had forgotten to remove their training markers from the pitch, so play was delayed in the first minute, while an embarrassed official dealt with them.

The ensuing line-out to Pau is overthrown and Dawson ensures that the ball goes down our line to Ojo who finds a good touch in the Pau 22. The Pau full back’s clearance from the line-out gives the ball back to Topsy, however, and about ten pairs of green hands touch it before we knock on in front of the Pau posts, having gone through the Pau defence like a knife through butter. The Pau clearance from the scrum to the fly half is too slow. He chucks it in haste to a colleague, the ball runs loose and the alert Hodgson pounces. It’s all green pressure.

7-0 after 4 minutes

(Riki Flutey converted, as he continued to do all day, getting eight from nine. Mordt took over the kicking at the end and got two from two. So, no more about kicking. Not now. Not here. Not called for.)

After five minutes we get our first penalty from a scrum, around our 10 metre line, and we run it. Sign of our confidence, perhaps? Another penalty at the breakdown sees us hoof the ball into touch in the Pau 22. Leguizamon half breaks and sets up Catt for a break that again rips the heart from the defence.

14-0 after 9 minutes

Two minutes later we turn over their line-out, Topsy breaks, and the ball comes down the line to Armitage who chips and chases. Paice is pushed out of the way, and we are rightly awarded a penalty. It has to be said that the referee is keeping pace too. (This says much for the middle-aged!) Rautenbach goes open from our penalty line-out, and drives well. We get another penalty but our penalty line-out stutters, Pau latching onto our overthrow. However, Armitage takes their kick and starts an attack which dies with Leguizamon’s forward pass on the Pau 10 metre line.

That’s the way it is when we are not scoring tries. The referee spends much of the match calling our forward passes, some of which decisions sit badly with the crowd. The difference between a flat pass and a forward pass isn’t much. These decisions may also have sat badly with the Pau front row! They suffered terribly at scrum time.

The referee now manages to get in the way of a ‘short one’ just outside our 22, and the re-taken penalty lands on the Pau 10 metre line. Down the line the ball speeds, one miss pass, back down a short line to Horak on the burst under the posts. Breathtaking stuff.

21-0 after 17 minutes.

The Pau kick-off goes directly into touch. Then they are penalised at the scrum on the centre spot. They seem to be losing their nerve. We run this penalty as well, but Armitage’s inside pass is judged forward. It’s their scrum but it retreats under our shove. Nonetheless, the Pau full-back gets in a good clearance. A second Irish throw over the top goes astray, but Pau are only up to kicking it, and we return the ball with interest. Irish are penalised for offside by the threes at our own line-out and Pau attack, only for the ball to ricochet forward into green hands from the chest of their No 3. From now on it is attack, attack attack by Irish, mostly stopped by forward passes, although Horak telegraphs one of his line incursions and gets dumped.

Finally we run it up the centre and so to the right wing, where Armitage completes the move at speed.

28-0 after 27 minutes and that’s the bonus point

Two minutes later Ojo scores an individual peach, running through traffic from somewhere near half-way. Hell, he looks quick.

35-0 after 30 minutes

Another two minutes and we turn over a Pau scrum. Down the line the ball speeds. Mordt feeds Ojo, and it suddenly looks like a cricket score.

42-0 after 36 minutes

Only another two minutes and we run in their kick-off which hasn’t left our hands. Rochey supplies the coup de grace.

49-0 after 38 minutes

Armitage and Horak combine to miss out on an Armitage chip ahead (He does do an awful lot of chips ahead) Pau run it back and the ball goes loose. Flutey kicks ahead just short of their line, where the Pau defender makes a mess of grabbing the bobbling ball under pressure from Ojo, who grabs it and scoots over for his hat-trick.

56-0 after 42 minutes. Half time beckons.

Never was a half-time rest more welcome. And that is speaking as a spectator!

With the match in the bag London Irish ring the changes at half time. Collins comes on for Hatley; Gustard for Magne; Geraghty for Catt and Strudwick for Casey.

Pau quickly get a couple of penalties which they kick for touch. Needing a lot of seven-pointers, I suppose they would! The East Stand, a good-humoured and sporting lot, start cheering Section, Section. However it is all to no avail as we turn over their second penalty line-out, Dodge carries it wide in-goal, and we finally get a penalty in front of our line. Whew! Not used to this.

The kick finds touch on half-way. What on earth has Riki put in his boots today? Leguizamon (who else) makes huge yards, but spills forward. At the back of the Pau scrum, their 9 fumbles and we press. Flutey gets the ball from the scrum and bumps off three or four tacklers to touch down under the sticks.

63-0 after 7 minutes

We are running as many penalties as we are kicking for touch, and from one such Armitage brings up the ball, makes his trademark chip ahead and chases. The Pau 15 turns to chase back and gets Armitage with a high late tackle around the neck from behind. Physically this is impossible unless you mean to do it. Cabannes gets a yellow card, but one is left wondering what red cards are for. Armitage stays down and out for nearly five minutes, before groggily returning to play and to huge cheers from his many admirers. Only then do I notice a grim-faced Olivier Magne emerging from the Pau dug-out, where his French was, presumably, useful.

Flavin now came on for Leguizamon, and Paice went to play flanker. But it was Flav who scored the next try, receiving a 12 inch pass from Armitage with at least two feet to go, in the corner. To be fair the hard work had already been done, much of it by Armitage.

68-0 after 16 minutes

From the kick-off Geraghty makes a trade-mark break, and Pau are penalised just inside the Irish half. There is a fair amount of loose ball in the next few minutes as one player or another tries to turn a hurtling missile into a decent pass. We finally attempt a rolling maul from the Pau 22 and Hodgson breaks for the line but throws forward in the try-saving tackle. Was it unexpected?

In the 21st minute Penney comes on for Flutey, and Geraghty moves to 10. On 25 minutes my notes tell me that I wonder how we can keep going at this hectic pace? A good Dawson runs ends with a spill forward. Irish are pinged for a crooked feed, as Pau had been earlier, and from the penalty Pau run it up through their nameless 21 and score a soft forwards try from a ruck under our posts. I tell you, Captain Mainwaring, it wouldn’t have happened in the first half!

68-7 after 27 minutes

Willis now comes on for Hodgson, and there is no lessening in the frantic pace of our attack. Geraghty makes a half break, and the ball gets from him to Paice before Penney knocks on. Some of our attacking is starting to look a bit uncoordinated, with our knock-ons increasing, but we are still well capable of being dangerous! On 73 minutes Neal Hatley returns to the fray in place of Rautenbach, and Collins moves across to tight head.

Mordt sends a long slow floater of a pass out to his left wing (Ojo) but Cistaq (always Cistaq) intercepts, and a try looks likely. Happily Pau are pinged for holding on in the tackle. Lucky! However, we go offside at the penalty line-out and Pau run a short one, putting through a sweet grubber kick for their 11, Souverbie, to run onto. Dead simple. There was no one out there. Beauxis hardly bothers with the kick.

68-12 after 36 minutes

Honours are even in this half, which just goes to show how good we were in the first half. Still, I guess we do need to keep the lads fresh for those tractor-people next weekend.

Pau are still gamely attacking, nearly getting through on a couple of occasions. Horak intercepts a scoring pass, and play moves back upfield towards the Pau half. Now Roche intercepts and puts Armitage away for his second try of the afternoon as the clock stands at 44 minutes.


And that was how it finished. What a day! The rest of the season looks interesting.

London Irish: M Horak*, D Armitage, N Mordt, M Catt* (captain)(rep: S Geraghty, 40), T Ojo, R Flutey (rep: R Penney, 61), P Hodgson (rep: B Willis, 68 ), N Hatley (rep: M Collins, 48 ), D Paice, F Rautenbach* (rep: N Hatley, 73), B Casey* (rep: R Strudwick, 40), K Roche, O Magne* (rep: P Gustard, 40), K Dawson*, J M Leguizamon* (rep: A Flavin, 53).

Pau: R Cabannes (sin-bin 53-63), G Puyo, J C Cistaq* (captain), J M Cassin, J M Souverbie*, L Beauxis (rep: F Cazalot, 64), C Laussucq* (rep: C Darbo, 45), F Boiroux (rep: O Sourgens, 64), J Luro (rep: R Terrain, 45), D Laperne* (rep: S Delpuech*), K Rudski, G Morgan*, E Laborde-Greche, P Tabacco*, T Soucaze.

Referee: Mr P Allen (SRU)
Last edited by OxonRob on Mon Jan 23, 2006 12:02 am, edited 2 times in total.
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by Loobs on Sun Jan 22, 2006 7:28 pm

Nice one, Rob. It was great to see Rochey score a try. He is really flying this season in his no. 5 role.

The pack were awesome. The back row were devastating to watch, much less play against. The front row had a field day too.

One thing I have to disagree with, the bobbling ball that Topsy took. It was right in front of where I was sitting. Topsy made about 30M over the distance over his opposite number, the ball was ALWAYS going to bounce to Topsy, because when it's your day, it's your day, simple as that! The poor winger shook his fist in disgust. He must have got well hacked off with Topsy skinning him all afternoon. That boy has some speed.

Great team performance though. totally agree with the Catt/Flutey combo. But the pack delivering the quick and safe ball to Dodge is a joy to behold. That Faan bloke, remind me to call him Sir as and when I meet him!
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by Shawshank on Sun Jan 22, 2006 8:01 pm

It was a fine first half from the lads, but let's get real - Pau weren't even playing touch-rugby during that 40 mins.

I'm sure that BS recognises this, and his job will be to translate the confident attacking approach seen yesterday to the environs of Castle Grim.

Flutes is key - with him at 10 we can truly play an attacking ball-in-hand game.

We might as well give it a lash down there a la the cup a few years ago, as our league record at Glos is dreadful.
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by Mackem on Sun Jan 22, 2006 8:16 pm

Correct me if I'm wrong but surely the boys' job will be made easier (not easy!) due to the RBS 6 Nations players not being available and joining respective training camps a week before 6 Nations kick-off? And sadly, Phil Vickery is injured again.
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by Shawshank on Sun Jan 22, 2006 8:22 pm

Mackem - The whole RFU v Clubs fight has been about player release, and with the RFU caving in this week quite humungously, Glos WILL deffo have their full England contingent available for selection v LI.
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by Mackem on Sun Jan 22, 2006 8:33 pm

Thanks for the clarification Shawshank. Never mind, we can still turn them over.
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by OxonRob on Sun Jan 22, 2006 8:46 pm

Steady on, guys.

Pau had internationals in the front row, the second row and the back row, at half back, on the wing and at centre.

They were made to look poor, but that doesn't mean that they were poor. They just got blown away. All credit to them that they fought back in the second half.
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by ascotintheantipodes on Sun Jan 22, 2006 8:49 pm

Thanks, Rob ........almost as exciting as the webcast. Sounded like a great day out.
You're right about David - in schoolboys and juniors I often suggested he put himself forward as a flanker but I do not recall him EVER playing in that position (he was quite pleased with himself on Sun morn though!)
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by gabriel on Sun Jan 22, 2006 9:15 pm

Full marks for keeping up with it all Rob. It was so breathtaking that there was hardly time for a song at all, at all.
I think however it might have been Nils who missed the conversion rather than Magic (who lived up to his nickname). I also thought both Kieron and M. Magne were quite superb.
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by dom_pedro on Sun Jan 22, 2006 10:37 pm

Great to see LI really knock the stuffing out of a team but I'd have to say that I really don't think Pau were up for it at all. Certainly no weak team as such but I was disappointed that it was such a one sided first half. And in the second half I lost track of the forwards' substitutions and I can see why now with props on as flankers, and we had three centres in the backs. I thought that even Parma at home gave us more of a game.

Thanks for the report as ever, I really don't know how you manage it. Fantastically detailed, though I think it's slightly uncharitable to suggest that people who weren't there might be exaggerating if they call themselves supporters. We all support LI differently and many of us I'm sure can't be there every week.

Thanks to Cormac too for the photos ... I nicked three of them this time. :)
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by gabriel on Sun Jan 22, 2006 10:56 pm

Surely the more season ticket holders that don't turn up the better? I must admit I don't understand how the charging system works for the use of the stadium. Does anyone know?
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by Mrs Chicken on Sun Jan 22, 2006 11:28 pm

Rob, excellent match report, but I have to take umbrage on yourpoint about attendance.

I don't think that not turning up for this game merits the accusation that one is somehow not a proper LI supporter. Not explicit but certainly implied in your review.

For me, this was a match which did not make an impact on LI's chances of qualification. I don't have enough spare cash to throw about on games which don't have enough meaning for me to open my wallet. I don't think I'm alone in this. On a budget, what do you do? Opt for a league game between LI and Wasps, say, or go for a match which, effectively, has far less meaning? No contest in my mind. I'd rather save my pennies for Bath or Glaws. Had this been a life or death contest, I'd have gone. But it wasn't, so I didn't.

I also think it's best not to cast aspersions about what constitutes a real LI supporter. A while ago, it was whether you wore a green wig or not, which effectively meant that the vast majority of long term, hardened, season ticket holding punters were not deemed worthy of the soubriquet "true supporter", and we all know what nonsense that is.

I didn't turn up on Saturday. Sorry if that makes me an LI apostate, but there you go.

Right. That's enough of me being anal.

Otherwise, I love you dearly, as ever, and believe you to be the greatest chef in the British Isles - nay, Europe.

(he is, folks, he is)
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by Huck the hooker on Sun Jan 22, 2006 11:41 pm

Good report Rob and I feel suitably chastised, even though I was there! :shock:

When we went in at half time 56-0 up, I thought 'we could win this.' Not much tension in the second half, I just couldn't see this slipping away so a few beers and a chat until the final whistle. Some outstanding play Mordt, Catt, Olivier, Juan, Riki, Topsy and Mike H to go through 3 defenders (that I counted), for his try, good stuff.

Pau, were a very poor team.
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by OxonRob on Mon Jan 23, 2006 12:06 am

Apologies to the absent. No slight intended.

My inadequate and wholly emotional point was that this team and the way it plays deserves huge crowds and isn't getting them.
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by JamesC on Mon Jan 23, 2006 12:32 am

Rob, whilst I do agree with you on crowd size I think it really reinforces the need for us to get into the HC which I know we are all aiming for. Having said that there was a HC game in Scotland with just over 1k attendance and the home team won. Let's hope that all the non-attenders have marked their diaries and busy schedules for 2 April v Bayonne. That should be enough notice and there is something riding on this one.
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by Loobs on Mon Jan 23, 2006 8:35 am

There's the debate ref. Saturday and Sunday rugby to contend with too. A fair contingent from LIARFC and other local clubs will have missed out due to the fact that they play on saturdays. I noticed the absence of the Tadley delegation in the cowshed for instance.

Gabriel, as I understand it, there is a flat fee for the stadium payable whatever, then an amount per attendee on top. That could be incorrect, but it is as I understand it.

Apart from that, it was the belief of the team right from the off that did it for me. How many times would Irish have struggled to grind out a win (or a draw, Dax anyone?) against a team that should be on the end of a drubbing? The Irish team BELIEVED in their ability, took it onto the park, exploded from the start and we were treated to a rugby fest. I don't believe that Pau weren't up for it as they fought to the end. They simply didn't have the gas to play the game at the pace distated by the Exiles.
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by cormac on Mon Jan 23, 2006 10:12 am

Great report Rob - a much harder game to review than the normal, more balanced affair I'd guess.
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by SwanieBoy on Mon Jan 23, 2006 11:02 am

Great report Rob! A truly stunning LI performance. It was a great shame the game was on Saturday as a huge amount of people have kids that play or play themselves as I do and I watch my son play on Saturdays, so not surprising the numbers were down dramatically.

It seems Brian and Toby's coaching is finally paying dividends as the team gel and mature together. I believe we can expect a lot more of this and I also believe we will beat Gloucester convincingly. Let's hope so as we owe them a turn over in front of the shed.

Come on Irish !!!!
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by JamesC on Mon Jan 23, 2006 7:13 pm

one for Gabriel:

Soixante-quinze would be an appropriate way of summing up the game. Not something to check out on the top shelves but French for the quick firing 75mm field gun used to such effect by the French army in the First World War. Rate of fire was about 10 rounds per minute in trained hands or about 11 tries per game.

Don't know why I didn't think of this earlier. Obvious really
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