Tag: Nick de Luca

Well Of Course Not

Still, for about three minutes there it looked like we might give New Zealand a game. Having watched the match since on video, most of my initial thoughts on it remain unchanged from the beery haze of Saturday.

The Good:

Euan Murray was dominant in the scrum and should cement his place in the team, and hopefully the list of Lions contenders. Alongside him Ross Ford showed up well in the loose and the lineout was solid until he was taken off. John Barclay put himself about well, but didn’t turn over quite so much ball as he might have liked. Moreover Scott Gray did when he came on. Depends on training this week, but might there be a switch or another way of bringing him into the team? Thom Evans showed excellent spirit and pace chasing balls and tackling, and of the other backs Chris Paterson actually showed up a lot more than it appeared from the stands. Once again, Mike Blair was outstanding.

The Bad:

As usual the finishing was very jittery. So jittery that we didn’t cross the line. At all. Comparing the number of fluffed tries (Lamont’s air shot, Blair’s drop, Evans’ chip, Hogg’s failure to pass out) to similar opportunities at the other end and Scotland were more in this game than you’d think. The All Blacks only created a couple of chances but took them, while ruthlessly exploiting our poor play with quick hands and thinking for their other scores. Heart can be taken from the fact that usually the good bits happen in our own 22 where it doesn’t matter. Now Scotland are making line breaks, Scotland are getting down to a few metres from the line, putting pressure on a better team. They’re just not crossing it. This time last year we looked nowhere near it. Make no mistake, Scotland will have a cutting edge soon. They can pass and handle well (there were some nice examples during the game further away from the line). I think it’s a bit of confidence and a little more concentration near the line that would see us over it.

One thing that could be improved are the supporting runners. Often the Scotland team are so far behind Mike Blair that they’re standing about admiring himĀ  – “look at Mike go, isn’t he brilliant”. If he was wearing a Black shirt he’d have men on each shoulder pouring through the gap behind him. Too many times a Scotland man made a break only to find no passing options on either side and the move ground to a halt. Mossy was one of the few guys who showed up well in support, but sadly due to the laws of physics was not available to support himself during his excellent early run.

Big Jim played well later on, but you get the feeling he’s not quite mobile enough for the sort of game Scotland need to play. Big Jason had a few good runs and restart takes, but looked short of match fitness as you’d expect. Hopefully Simon Taylor will be fit for next week. But you still might want to try and slot Hoggy in.

Thom Evans didn’t get any ball in space, despite his incredible pace. Welcome to being a Scotland wing, Thom.

The Ugly:

Frank Hadden’s substitution policy of rotating the half-backs for no reason other than his watch tells him to. Unless Blair was injured, why bother taking him off? One could argue that the try he looked like the only prospective creator of would be more important to Scotland’s confidence than giving Parks and Lawson 10 minutes game time. Godman is another player who would have benefited from staying on. Giving him a chance should be just that.

Wayne Barnes’ refusal to give a penalty against New Zealand scrum which was crumbling under all sorts of pressure. Props were kneeling at one point. Other than that I thought Barnes had a pretty good game.

Nick De Luca’s sin binning after only 3 minutes was justified, stupidly playing the ball on the ground. I have a lot of time for him as an attacker and he put in some big hits late in the game, almost atoning for his earlier sins. But he has to cut out the silly stuff.

Also, TV people, do we have to look at Dan Carter all the time? He only played ten minutes, and at scrum half. By the end you’d think he was man of the match. Mikey Blair was nominated for IRB Player of the Year too, you know.

The Future:

Brewer seems to have instilled some solidity into the set-piece, and while the defence wasn’t quite as reactive as the All Blacks’ scramble it would take time to adjust to the new systems in any case. Perhaps given Edinburgh’s similar inability to cross the line despite masses of pressure, the benefit of the doubt should be given to backs men Hadden and Lineen. My team for next week might be:

Paterson, Evans, Cairns, De Luca, Lamont R, Godman, Blair, Hogg, Barclay, Gray, Taylor, Hines, Murray, Ford, Jacobsen

Fitness allowing, of course. You could switch Paterson and Lamont, but I think Paterson did enough to justify his place at full back regardless of goal kicking, so why not let him be rather than shuffling the poor chap again.

Improvement next weekend is a must, and it’s fairly easy to spot the area for work: scoring tries.

Edinburgh Beat Wasps

Bet you never thought you’d see that headline – indeed you may not see it again this season when the Heineken Cup warms up properly. For now though, Edinburgh Rugby seem to have given the visiting Premiership champs a decent game under the new ELVs, and more importantly held out for the win in this pre-season friendly.

Mossy as predicted came on at full-back amongst a half-time bucketload of subs, but Godman still seems to have done a fair bit of the kicking. Ben Cairns worryingly may have picked up a ligament injury, but De Luca seems to have once again come through with honours against a reasonably strong Wasps side. Even better news was a good sized crowd of 4,225. Let’s hope the crowds – and the wins – continue. Next up: Bath away.

Anyone at the game?

UPDATE: In other news, Glasgow lost narrowly 15-12 to Bristol in a game that sounds a lot less fun.

It’s All Good News for Edinburgh

Ospreys 18 – 19 Edinburgh

Edinburgh sneaked victory away to the Ospreys in a last minute nail-biter (this side of the border anyway). Edinburgh were definitely worth the win, with both sides alternating between throwing it about and throwing it away. Nick De Luca was a deserved man of the match – and it looked like he would be man of the match on the losing team, until a 3 or minute spell at the close where Edinburgh refused to let the ball die, and refused to finish without scoring another try. One lucky bounce later and Edinburgh edged it by a point, to resounding boos from the home fans, and the delight of (miracle-worker?) Andy Robinson who had been frustrated by some of the decisions to that point. Answers on a postcard (but not in the comments section please) as to precisely which word it was that caused the ref to give a penalty against De Luca though. Edinburgh currently sit in third in the Magners League, and with immediate neighbours Munster (hopefully preserving their strength for the Heineken Cup final) and Llanelli (in disarray after the sacking of Phil Davies this week) to play each other tomorrow, it is not inconceivable Edinburgh could still finish in the top 4. Who would have thought that at the start of this season?

And so according to BBC Sport Chris Paterson’s European adventure is over, with the Gala man set to return to Edinburgh after only a year away at Gloucester in which he didn’t get picked much, and – shock horror – missed the odd kick. One or two contributed to Gloucester’s exit from the Heineken Cup, so you can see why the Kingsholm faithful didn’t have much patience… Here’s hoping he settles home again and finds some good form under Andy Robinson. I wonder if he’ll join Gregor Townsend’s stand-off class with Al Warnock, Phil Godman and David Blair…?

Two Point Perspective – Pro Team Round-up

Edinburgh 15 – 13 Leinster

Leinster turned up in Edinburgh needing “only” 4 tries and the victory to clinch the title. Despite Edinburgh’s best efforts to throw it away in the dying minutes, the home lads clung on against heavy pressure from the Leinster forwards to grab the points and move up to fourth in the Magners League (for now) – with a little help from the goal post that denied Contepomi in the final minute. Despite pack dominance, Leinster never seemed like scoring as often as they needed to, with the back division a little bit clueless at times, even with Contepomi and O’ Driscoll a world class centre pairing. De Luca and Callam both had good games, and Godman sounded a wee bit hit and miss. Hugo missed a drop-goal. Telling that Leinster didn’t cross until the 75th minute – the championship will have to wait.

Glasgow 25 – 23 Llanelli

A decent sized crowd at Murrayfield from the sound of it too, although not as enthusiastic as the support at Glasgow, who also came out the end of their rollercoaster match against Llanelli two points ahead. Once again Parks made it difficult for his critics with a try scoring and kicking display. Colin Gregor seemed to pop up at scrum-half and full-back, scoring a try in the process. Afterwards, coach Lineen criticised his teams decision making, that “butchered” a number of potential tries, but it seems they couldn’t be faulted for effort at the end to hold on to the win. They may regret allowing Llanelli the bonus point though.