Monday, July 08, 2013

Scrums scrums and more scrums

When it comes to the Lions series, scrum’s the word, says 2nd Row Half…

Rugby Opinion

As the dust settles on a famous win in Sydney, all talk of team selections is quickly forgotten. When 007 himself enjoyed the celebrations in a champagne soaked changing room, there was a collective sigh of relief in a job well done.

The match itself became a Brains vs Brawn contest but it was the Lions who showed them both in abundance and ran out comfortable winners.

Why, time after time when AUS had a 100% goal kicker on the field, did Horwill persist in going for the corner, still remains a mystery. 12, maybe 15 points went a begging. His cavalier approach undoubtedly contributed to the Australian downfall. (His post game dignity and grace were very commendable and he's maybe not the monster which the pantomime booing suggested.) The lions on the other hand were super streetwise and had the game wrapped up with 15 mins to go.

Leigh Halfpenny deservedly got the man of the series award after his excellent return with the boot. For any Northern Hemisphere team seeking success in the south, a top quality goal kicker is a must, think England World Cup.

The lions in their gameplan went for the 'beat them up' tactic, and it worked a treat. Star players and leaders like Warburton, O'Connell and O'Driscoll weren't missed. The call to leave out BOD seemed even more futile when we watched the lions go about their play. Anyone really could have played in the centre, the demolition job by the front 5 was a joy to watch, the outside backs although contributing a few points weren't the deciding factor when it came to the result.

The stand in skipper rose to the occasion and produced a performance to put him up there with the all time great Lions second rows and we all know there has been few of them.

For me, the man of the moment and deciding factor in the series was Alex Corbisiero. A late call up to the squad after a injury disrupted season, he single handedly went through Australian tightheads like a hot knife through butter. His technique and scrum prowess is a thing of beauty. Time after time he did the business up front and left easy kicks as the lions extended their lead.

The game of rugby itself has always had an attraction to all in that it caters for everyone. From early in school, picking teams, in Rugby Union the big lanky boy, the wee small nippy boy, and the little fat fella, all are needed to be in the team.

Being a prop is an art in itself, it's not the movie star, eye catching theatre of a Folau or North, but its probably more important. How many young props go home on a Saturday night after a game and wimper in pain, after a grizzly encounter with an old school expert. If the same young guy has the guts and heart to stick at his job, eventually he'll become the man who dishes out 'the medicine' to a young pretender. Propping really is an apprenticeship and its not an easy one. As the game becomes more professional, coaches of underage teams are quick to move big carrying, good handling back row forwards, into the front row. These guys are told, "you aren't tall enough to make it in the modern back row, you should try prop" ( to all those coaches, Neil Back wasn't that tall and he won the World Cup) Occasionally they find a hidden gem, but often the player is discouraged and doesn't like propping. You'll find a guy who has always been a prop, (from early in school) will relish each scrum, and talk about them passionately. The IRB, in their quest to make the game more viewer friendly have tried many times to improve the scrum. Safety is paramount ofcourse and anything to improve that has to be applauded. Refs have a difficult time figuring out what's happening in there, and no one wants to watch reset after reset, however, the scrum, along with the breakdown, is what defines our game and we can't let directives from the IRB make it a non contest. We all want to see great athletes playing at the top level, but the old prop with the beard and the beer belly cannot be confined to history.

This Lions series, for me was great to watch, drama to the end and moments that will live long in the memory......and not forgetting, lots of scrums.

The 2nd row Half : Rugby Player, Coach and Nerd. From the club house to the National stadium, My take on all things Rugby


Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019