Saxon Style

1 02 2010

Watching England Saxons beat Ireland A at the Rec last night, the Compulsive Hooker was struck by the style of rugby England played in the first half especially. Contrary to what the senior side achieved, or more accurately didn’t achieve in the Autumn, the Saxons team demonstrated a sound ability to play attacking ruby and at the heart of it was Shane Geraghty. Acknowledging the fact that Ireland A are not the Kiwis or Australia, it was still a reminder that English players are capable of playing in this fashion and it makes the senior teams all the more real.

After taking a few minutes to allow the scrum to settle, England truly bossed the first half scoring two tries through Strettle and Geraghty. Ben Youngs proved why he is rated so highly with an old school blind side break for Strettle’s score, and then a combined forwards and backs move allowed Barritt to put Geraghty over. During the second half Ireland surged and despite scoring a try when England were down to 14 men, the Saxons should be praised for their sterling defensive work. Geraghty deserves further praise for an astonishing chase and tap tackle on Irish wing Fion Carr who looked certain to score in the corner.

The Saxons team is coached and selected by Stuart Lancaster, Head of Elite Player Development. It is interesting that under Lancaster, Geraghty was able to play with more freedom of expression and looked a great deal more confident than under Johnson. Perhaps it is simply that the standard of play is a rung down from the Autumn plus the fact that Geraghty was playing at 10 rather than 12 yesterday afternoon? Or perhaps it is the coaches? Regular readers will know our views of Johnson as a coach/selector/team manager are less than favourable* and this in our eyes is further proof. For the senior team Geraghty was a stuttering, stumbling presence. For the Saxons, a midfield general orchestrating all that was good about the performance. From many sources far better placed than us, the criticism of players under Johnson being afraid to think for themselves and always looking to direction from the bench has been levelled many times. Perhaps he is too imposing a personality for the players to imprint their own instincts upon the game or perhaps, simply, it is his innate conservatism that means he doesn’t like to go into any game without a rigid plan.

Judgement must be held back until after the Six Nations to be completely fair to Johnson and to enable him to have a chance to answer his critics. If by the end they are still playing the stodgy try less rugby of the Autumn then we know we have real issues. Without a doubt though this performance by the Saxons will be a genuine boost to the England squads and with players like Ben Youngs potentially featuring next Saturday at Twickenham, it is possible that the form shown here can be carried over.

*It should be remembered though that our memories of Johnson as a leader and player still fill us with awe and not a little love!

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2 responses

1 02 2010
Max the Dog

I agree completely H.
I believe Geraghty’s been developed fantastically under Mallinder at Saints (who in my humble opinion is the rightful England coach). Geraghty thrives under an attacking, expansive gameplan, however last night I felt his tactical kicking was average at best and his decision making was poor in parts.

1 02 2010
Bradders

Funny you should say that about Mallinder, Max. A friend and I were discussing Mallinder last night and came to the conclusion that we would like to see him in the England job too.

No doubt that there are parts to Geraghty’s game that could be improved on. His aimless kicking was on show in the Autumn too but would still like England to persevere with him.

Thanks for reading.

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