Saturday 29 December 2012

Munster vs Ulster Review

Final score 24-10.

Despite the score there was some good performances from both sides.

Paddy Butler and Tommy O'Donnell (man of the match) were everywhere, smashing into the breakdown, making big tackles. O'Donnell showed me that that one performance against Glasgow wasn't a once-off.

A lot of the young "tyros" from Ulster put in some great performances too. Chris Cochrane showed some promise from the start, but I was most impressed with Stuart Olding, Niall Annett, Ali Birch and Michael Heaney from the bench.

Annett was the under 20's captain for the last two years, hit every line-out jumper, and the scrum improved immeasurably when he cam on. That may be because of Tom Court's appearance too, but Annett showed me a lot more than I was expecting at this stage and he needs to be considered as the back up to Rory Best and getting more chances.

Stuart Olding came on and showed some good touches. He has a great pass off both hands, took his conversion well, and kicking out of hand was very impressive. I'd like to see more of him. He looked better than Niall O'Connor, but it's a bit soon to call for more.

Michael Heaney was awesome. He seems like a younger Paul Marshall. He was energetic, a livewire and upped the tempo. The consolation Ulster try was made by his break, step and awesome over the shoulder offload. I'd love to see more of him, but with Marshall and Pienaar ahead of him it may not happen.

First I'd seen of Ali Birch, a 24 year old Irish blindside flanker, but it was hard not to notice him. Made one great break after a brilliant dummy, showed strength and pace to get away and hold up and wait for support, He took the try really well too.

But one player who stood out for me in the end was Luke Marshall. Admittedly, in the beginning I saw a lot of errors, some inexperienced giving away of penalties, and he was caught out badly for a O'Mahony break when Marshall was sinbinned.

But, he redeemed himself with some huge hits, constantly tackling much bigger players and putting them backwards, I counted a number of turnovers from him too. He also stood up and took responsibility, with some great kicks to the corners, strong carrying and showed he has a bit of a step too.

Future doesn't look so bleak, but these lads need some chances.

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