Sunday, March 11, 2007

Make me dream - Ebren

November 22nd, 2003, 500 Englishmen and assorted Aussies and others in a pub down the road from Twickenham, the last minute of extra time, and Jonny hits it with his wrong foot.

I and all I was thinking was "it's not over yet".

Since then it hasn't begun - until Sunday.

The world champions have never taken my breath away like they did in 2001, no one has taken the ball in hand an ghosted through a defence like Greenwood, Balshaw, Healy, or Guscott.

That ended on Sunday.

Strettle, Catt, Geraghty, Flood, Rees.

For the first time in six years England players were offloading, beating men, using their heads, and doing their utmost to keep the ball alive.

For the first time in four years England had a back row.

Rees, Easter, Worsely.

Finally, a back row with the mobility to impact a game. Even Joe Worsely started playing properly again. Picking up the ball in open play and making 20-metre runs like he did when he was 19.

Young players using their heads and their hearts, taking the fight to the six-nations favourites - and out-classing them. Possession, territory, phases, passes. England beat France on every stat.

Two tries to nil, running rugby, an attack from your own half that results in a try.

It might have only been one game, but, as Geherty went past his fifth French defender, in Flood's offloads, in Catt's awareness, and in Rees' ever-present destruction and ball-carries there was hope.

Of course, some things haven't changed since 2003 - Jonny was injured and Tindal still hasn’t realised there are men outside him.

But there was potential in that performance, I could dream again.


MotM said...

I had expected England to lose by plenty - as I guess most of the crowd did. I did think we would get plenty of ball and I had hopes of at least some imagination at last now Catt was at centre instead of yet more human battering rams. I knew England would get ball, but, as seems always to be the case, who could use it?

And would you believe it, France had no imagination and plenty of fear with England doing a passable version of the All-Blacks with runners on shoulders, pace through the side and decision-makers all over the pitch.

Back this up next week, make Catt captain full time, and...

guy anthome said...

Yes, it was a no contest, you may keep dreaming Ebren.

Ebren said...

I was expecting a big french win. Before kick off the beeb revealed that England's biggest loss at home to France was eight points.

I really thought that record would go.

I thought that for most of the game, but as the minutes ticked by I started believing again. I started remembering what it was like when you watched England waiting for them to explode, rather than fearing a cock-up.

Strettle was brilliant, Flood was one of those players who looks like he shouldn't be on a rugby feild (too young, too skinny, too tall, and with that weird-up/down kick-off style).

But he did everything today, broke the French line ball in hand, offloaded in the tackle, took Betson on and made him look a fool, kicked goals, showed vision for the chip.

Then he left, and there was a new cap on at fly half, against france.

And his first touch [or almost] was a great spinning pass out of contact.

Then the run.

and the kicks.


Every time Strettle touched the ball I leanded forward. He was excellent.

All build on forward dominance (I loved the rolling maul, I know we lost possession from it, but being able to shout HEAVE! again was wicked).

Rees was an ever-present like Hill used to be.

And Catt, first Six Nations start in six years, first time as captain, dropped 13 times by England, and then showed exactly why we need intelligance and not systens in our back play.

Made one try, and had a hand in the second (although a kinder pass would have seen him score).

So Happy.

Ebren said...

I should point out that somewhere in the back of my head I know it means nothing, that France were below-par, that we were at home, and that this might be a freak result.

Robinson was caught every time he tried to run, we made too many stupid mistakes (especially in contact, although the ref - Bennet? - was an arse), Tindal was brainless as ever, Lucy and Catt had massive brain-fade moments, but sod it.

We just out-classed one of the favourites for the world cup.

The Blacks will bottle it again, the Boks and Aussies aren't good enough.

Us or Ireland for the cup!

andrewm said...

Is this about rugby? Oh lord ....

I played rugby for a few weeks as a kid. It was horrible.

I shook hands with Kenny Logan once. He went to my high school a few years before me.

PS. Nice article Ebren, whatever it might be about :o)

MotM said...

We shouldn't get carried away, but if we had shipped 30 points, the knives would have been out that's for sure.

Strettle could be another Guscott or he could be another Balshaw. Rees could be another Hill or he could be another Corry (but didn't he play better in the tight where he didn't have to think too hard?)

The great thing for me was that the side played in the image of its captain - vulnerable, but intelligent, dynamic but with lapses in concentration. And most of all (and for this I am so grateful) never dull.

I loved Catt's interviews on telly and radio - he really wanted that.

greengrass said...

Nice instant writing, Ebren!
It sums up my feelings about the game
perfectly - expecting a loss, frustrated when good work was squandered, amazed when they got it all together.
Strettle good again, the pack working pretty well - and suddenly 3 out-halves who look good in very different ways.
I dream of going in again expecting a loss and letting them surprise me!

Ebren said...

Pseuds came to my rescue here - I thought about big blogging it, then realised I wanted to talk about it now - so put it here and didn't take it to 500 words (there might well ahve not been enough there to make it 500 anyway).

Anyone got a link to Tindal's try andthe run that led to it?

guy anthome said...

hey wait a minute, I heard Arsene making few points, 1)the ref screwed up, 2)the wind was blowing your way and 3)we had the sun in the eyes....was it suny?
anyway, he probably never heard of the old say"may the wind always be at your back, may the sun always shine upon your face".

olivier said...

offsideintahiti said...

"and may the road rise to meet you." (Come on, Ireland!)

I wish I could provide a really insighful comment but in Tahiti the game was on in the middle of the night and I was blissfully asleep.

Bit like the French defence, then.

zephirine said...

Afraid I'm pretty much with andrewm about rugby, but great to read something written in the white heat of the moment like this!
Sport, eh? How to be made radiantly happy/bloody miserable by a bunch of people you've never met in your life.

mimi said...

Bit too soon to be dreaming of an England revival in time for the World Cup, but good to see My Cat leading from the front. Well done to Ashton for going back to the drawing board for this selection. Young boys did well, but old heads played the best hand.
Helped of course by the fact that it was one of those times, that we all know so well, that the French just didn't really turn up. Laporte must have been soo pissed off. I quite like that!

jonnyboy71 said...

Ebren, why don't you work this up into a submission for this week's BB?

andrewm, I'm surprised that Kenny Logan didn't miss your hand when he went to shake it. The number of place kicks he shanked to the corner flag is legendary!

andrewm said...

jonny, I'll take your word for that. He was a very nice man though. He did the presentations at our awards ceremony and told some very funny stories.

How did I get started on this again?

Tweet it, digg it