U18s overcome Banbridge
By Philip Johnston
Improving performance against Bann
So, this week the youth section were hosting Banbridge.. Now, for some people the name of Banbridge throws up images of those great Ulster players, the Best brothers Rory & Simon, for others it’s the shopping metropolis of the “Boulevard” (as sure as Marathon became Snickers, Ravenhill became Kingspan, that windy hole called The Outlet became the Boulevard)… but for others of a certain age Banbridge holds fond (or very fond) memories from places such as The Coach and Circus, Circus…..anyway… I digress.
After last week’s disappointing defeat to the Met, the guys worked through some of the issues arising from this at training during the week (let’s just say it’ll take more than a week and Rome wasn’t built in a day…)
And so, on a crisp autumnal Saturday morning, the team were ready for the return visit for Banbridge. Having beaten them comfortably in a friendly a few weeks previously the guys were confident and upbeat about repeating this feat. However, it was a much changed and very different looking Banbridge team that took to the pitch on Sat. However a cursory glance at the cards allayed any fears of “half term schools ringers”.
For this match, the coaching team had made a few positional changes, both with an eye to the remainder of this season and also looking at what players would still be at U18 level next year, and what positions they could play, or could adapt to.
Bann kicked off and Malone were quickly in their stride, some solid running and ruck play saw Malone score within a few minutes. Conversion good – 7-0 to Malone. Now, maybe we scored “too” quickly as for the next 20 minutes or so, we made a number of basic handling errors, and overall very loose play. Defensively, we were not too bad, but again inconsistent. Sometimes we had the line speed and pressed up as a line, then the next time it was dog leg central with players all over the shop. Passes weren’t going to hand, and rucking intensity and clearing out varied between demonic aggression, and “oh I say old chap, please have the ball while I practice my future career as Ruck Inspector General”.
A second converted score, around the 25 minute mark seemed to settle things as the last few minutes of the first half were played at a better pace and with more control and precision.
Half time talk focused on basics not being done correctly, and again some players watching while others did all the work, and overall structure (or lack of mostly).
The second half started and continued in a much more promising vein, mostly.
Passes were going to hand – mostly, rucks were being cleared out – mostly, line speed and structure was consistent and effective – mostly… but, hey if we were perfect, we’d be wearing black and doing the haka before our matches.
A steady stream of possession and improved play saw the scoreboard tick over ... and for some strange reason Matty Mc had his kicking boots on as each try was converted (it has absolutely nothing to do with any financial side bets, honestly..).
Again, some inconsistency and lack of attention saw Bann score, when from inside their own goal line (yes their goal line), their winger spotted a gap and set off down the touch line. When nothing more than a simple tap would have put him out, our full back completely “mis-timed” his tackle (we’ll go for polite, not too derogatory wording here) to allow the Bann wing to sprint away for a try.
Another verbal kick up the ass while awaiting conversion (missed) and from the restart we plied the pressure on and scored again. Whilst awaiting the conversion the Bann coach asked the ref to blow up as there were only 5 mins or so left. And so, with an improved, but still inconsistent performance the score finished at 42-5.
The guys know what they are doing wrong and where improvements need to be made, but an issue at U18 level is a combination of coursework, job and other commitments is making it continually hard to get everyone out at the same training sessions week after week.
But, as mentioned already, Rome wasn’t built in a day and as long as the guys continually improve and strive to improve then as coaches, that is all we can ask.