- Sun Oct 13, 2019 3:52 pm
My thoughts on the game:
Overall a mixed performance, we never really looked in total control, and had to rely on star players for our tries, but a bonus point win away is a bonus point win away.
Agree that Luke James looked very good, especially after he got up after he looked to be knocked out cold. He was motionless on the floor for a good minute, no idea how he returned out after his HIA.
Ashton looked very good, as did Hammersley. I'm pretty confident he will be the key signing this season in terms of team cohesion, having an out-and-out fullback means we look so much more solid than last year, no matter how good the wings are.
Dan du Preez is an absolute monster - one great offload for Hammersley's try, and then a huge carry and a filthy offload off the floor got Ashton in. No idea how he got the ball away. I've said it before but for me out strongest starting XV must include Dan and Jean-Luc.
One area of strength was our line-out, some beautiful balls floated over the top by both Webber and Akker. Whilst Irish's maul did look good at times, we put them under a lot of pressure at the lineout, with Beaumont in particular having a strong game in the set piece. I think he should certainly stick to second row now, he's solid enough as an 8 but he seems so much more at home at lock.
Phillips put in a typical shift, very low error count and nothing flashy, gets the work done. Jono Ross seemed a lot less rusty, didn't catch him knock any thing on (though I did miss the first 7-8 mins). As a Captain I think he's a great leader but think his ref chat could be better. Ben Curry had by his very high standards an average game, think he should have been rested for this. Didn't really do anything wrong but LI back-row were allowed a bit too much dominance at ruck time. Evans also looked good when he came on, kept the line out ticking well and solid in the wide channels.
Cliff certainly looks like the starting 9 at the moment, not that I don't rate Papier, he looked electric when he came on, stepped past 4 defenders in one run, but I think Cliff gives quicker ball on the front foot, and Papier coming off the bench against tired legs was quite effective. For similar reasons I would start Webber and then bring Akker off the bench. Certainly in a more "finishers/game-changers" role than subs.
I think the James brothers are a decent yet slightly un-creative centre paring, though Luke really grew into the game as it went on, with a very nice show-and-go leading to a decent line break. It's a different game with RJVR, I really hope we can keep him fit. Sam James had a poor game in my opinion, needs to get more ball out to the wings. He looks so much better with RJVR inside him (though who wouldn't?!) Redpath looked good, lovely touches and has a similar calm and elusive running style to Hammersley.
Whilst it seems like Rob du Preez is second choice to AJ for many on here, I rate him quite highly - got a fizzing pass and takes it less into contact that AJ, though that may be due to our strong pack giving us more front foot ball than AJ is used to. He also put in some big shots in defence and had decent game management. I think we kicked a little bit too much off 9 when it should have gone to Rob to get us some territory. Of course, I think AJ is a more reliable boot, so should be given the nod when he comes back, though on a dry day Rob has a far superior running game and is quite pacy. For me, Rob is the better offensive 10 and AJ the better defensive, though think AJ just edges it overall. What a luxury to have two solid 10s!
Yarde looked solid when he came on, Irish immediately tested him under the high ball and he had a few solid runs. Still feel he needs more game time before we see where he's really at. Tough day at the office for Denny, nothing really came his way but put in some solid hits. He really needs to be given more ball. He's the player I think Faf brings out the best in, lots of short inside balls and looped miss passes out to his wing. Ashton had a great game and just seems to score his trys on instinct. I've seen him try that grubber through, beat the winger on the outside move a few times but it came off for him yesterday, razor sharp.
I'm not a front row expect but didn't really sense that either team had the upper hand, from what I can see at the moment JCW is our best prop, but do take that with a pinch of salt as I don't really understand scrums. WJG and Harrison looked solid as ever.
As a team I still think we're not quite there yet, yet to fully gel, but maybe that's to be expected with quite a few new names in key positions. Whilst Irish played well I think we made them look better than they are, could have had greater line speed to shut Jackson down earlier. Don't like the guy but he did look very good yesterday.
Irish playing at the Madejski is quite ridiculous, whilst the official count was something like 2500 my brother and I didn't think there was more than 1000 at the game. Though Heading Down to Boston is certainly a great tune for a player to run out to! MOTM was given to their 4 but it was clearly Dan du Preez. Still not sure how confident I feel about Glos next week, I'd back us too win but we will have to play better than against Irish. I do think that many of the players we have are big game players, and it's simply a case of it being hard to get up for London Irish away in the prem cup in front of a handful of fans, I reckon we'll turn up the intensity in the Premiership against a solid team.
All in all, can't complain and feeling pretty good, though still think there's more too come.