Step aside, I’ll take it from here

Fridy night’s interpro between Ulster and Munster was a thriller; one of the best, most intense games we’ve seen in the Pro12 in some time.  Both sides had much to commend them, not least two great performances from full-backs Jared Payne and Denis Hurley, as well as their up-and-coming fly-halves.  This was surely both Keatley’s and Jackson’s best performances in their respective shirts.

In the end it came down to Munster looking to set up a winning drop goal, but not quite managing it.  They looked to have got themselves into position, but kept going through the forwards, presumably to get a little closer.  Then, driven backwards, the opportunity appeared to be fading, but they did, twice, get the ball into ROG’s hands but he couldn’t get his kick away on either occasion.

It made us wonder: should Keatley not have been the one in position to drop the goal?  Sure, ROG has form when it comes to last-minute drop goals, so his credentials are not in doubt.  But it was his first fifteen minutes of the season, and his general performance was showing plenty of rust, with two passes thrown to nobody particularly conspicuous.  Keatley, on the other hand, was playing well and kicking the ball sweetly.  He has now made his last 12 consecutive penalties and had already dropped two goals on the night.  He had his eye in.  Surely he was the man to drop the winning goal?

It reminded WoC of an incident at the end of the 17-17 draw between Ireland and France in Paris.  Late in the game with the scores level, Jamie Heaslip won a ruck penalty deep in his own half.  Ireland’s only chance of snatching the win was to boom the ball downfield far enough to get within drop-goal distance.  Sexton and Kearney have the biggest boots in the Irish team, but Paul O’Connell hit the default button, the one marked ‘Give the ball to ROG’, who gained about fifteen metres on the kick.

ROG is not a man to shy away from responsibility.  But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the best man for the job in hand either.  It’s something he, and the leaders in the Irish and Munster teams, have to get used to.

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  1. Jeffrey Lebowski

     /  September 20, 2012

    Kidney doesn’t have the stones to demote ROG from kicking duties.
    The question is, will Penny?

    • Radge Fan

       /  September 20, 2012

      Jeffrey – sorry to interrupt a good moan, but I think you will find that Sexton was taking all the kicks in the 6Ns & NZ tour this year when both O’Gara and Sexton were on the pitch.

      I also seem to remember Sexton missing a penalty goal (dropping short) in the French game which would have been the winning of that match. POC went with Sexton’s opinion on that occasion. He would have been far better off going for a lineout (though funnily enough, O’Gara defended Sexton afterwards for going for it). Surely Sexton must have known his own range?

      A Munster fan has done a second-by-second account of the attempt at drop goal on Munsterfans. I’d put the whole thing down to rusty communications – bearing in mind someone had to give O’Gara the ball first of all to attempt a kick and its not easy if the Ulster defence is up on top of you. Lets congratulate Ulster for defending well rather than writing O’Gara off on his first 10 mins of action this season (not 15 WOC).

      • @Radge Fan I thought this article would flush you out 🙂 You’re right, Sexton kicked everything from placed ball for Ireland since the RWC. He place kicked well. I think Jeffrey may be referring to the kick from hand referenced in the article, though.

        That penalty was in the Wales match. It was from a long distance and would have taken the lead beyond seven points. I don’t know what it has to do with the discussion here but anyway… It wasn’t out of Sexton’s range, he just didn’t nail it. Sexton commented afterwards that he had been kicking from that distance in the warm-up so felt he could get it. POC is the captain, it was ultimately his call; a bloody tough one too and it’s easy to say he got it wrong after the fact. Sexton gets the penalty and Ireland win the game.

      • Jeffrey Lebowski

         /  September 21, 2012

        You’re absolutely right Radge Fan -I didn’t phrase that well at all, apologies.

  2. I had the same thought on Friday night. After nailing two drop-goals in the game already, Keatley should have been the go to man for the endgame. It was patently obvious that ROG was rusty (as anyone would be in their first minutes of the season) from his two passes to no-one. Credit to the Ulster defense for getting out as quickly as they did both times ROG got the ball in position, they would have made it difficult for for anybody, but in the 10th minute of his season O’Gara just wasn’t sharp enough. As much as anything else it was a chance for Munster to pass the last-gasp-winner baton to another fly-half.

    The broader question is why ROG was introduced at all at that stage. It was a fast, high intensity game, hardly suited to someone making their season debut. He came on for Casey Laulala so it required an extensive reshuffle; Keatley to fullback, Hurley to the wing and Earls to centre. There is plenty of logic in bringing in someone of O’Gara’s experience and composure to win a try and win a tight PRO12 game mid-seaon but he hasn’t started a match since the first week in April, there were bound to be some cobwebs. Surely, at home against the Dragon this weekend would have been the more opportune moment for his re-introduction.

    • Amiga500

       /  September 20, 2012

      Ah, but if Radge hadn’t come on and Keatley hadn’t scored the drop goal would the Radge MediaMachine have let Penney know in no uncertain terms who was ‘responsible’ for the defeat?

      • That’s a fair point. And in a way Friday night might have done Penny a favor. He can say we can’t be depending on this one guy forever and here’s the proof.

  3. @Amiga & Ronan – it all serves to underline that replacing ROG is about a lot more than just having a good player to fill the shirt! #politicalminefield #webofintrigue

  4. Bob R

     /  September 20, 2012

    I expected Munster to use O’Gara as a decoy so that Keatley could take the kick without half the Ulster back line bearing down on him. Maybe next time!

  5. Len

     /  September 20, 2012

    I can’t comment on last Friday’s game as I didn’t see any of thanks to a family wedding. I was following it on my phone and seem to be a real nail biter. You raise an interesting conundrum in relation to the choice of kicker.

    My personal feeling is that if the original kicker remains on the pitch and is performing well then he should remain first choice. By allowing another player to come off the bench and immediately take up kicking duties the coach is sending the message “Your good enough to do the job but only as long as the other guys not on”. That could have a very negative effect on a players confidence.

    There is a tendency to become overly dependant on key players in this country in both the provincial and national teams. While I don’t agree with the ‘just give it to ROG’ mentality any more as we now have proper alternatives i can understand it. For years our senior players have had one dependable option in such cases and ‘Give it to ROG’ must be (especially for his Munster colleagues) an automatic reflex at this stage. If this were a few years ago I’d be screaming for management to knock this out of the players and make them think rather than just handing over the ball to the legend. however we are now dealing with a player in his mid thirties, we’ll have a new manager soon and we have emerging talent in Munster, Ulster and Leinster so i think that ROGs influence in both the national and provincial side is starting to dwindle. I could be wrong but I think this will be his last season.

  6. Jeffrey Lebowski

     /  September 20, 2012

    That’s a really good point Len re: the original kicker staying as the kicker. At least with Ireland when Sexton starts, he keeps the kicking duties even when ROG comes on. I think it’s very destructive to Keatley’s development to automatically have to hand over the reigns once ROG is on the pitch. Furthermore, surely after his performances so far this season, he (Keatley) deserves to keep it?

  7. Pedantic Pete

     /  September 20, 2012

    To be fair gents, it wasn’t a case of handing the kicking reins over to Radge: it was a drop goal and O’Gara was brought on in the 10 channel.

    Keatley, if i remember correctly, was up in the line also for most of that passage, but standing somewhere near outside center. It would have taken a helluva pass to hit him there. And its not like there was time on the heat of battle for Radge and him to swap places..

    • I’m not sure. If Munster wanted Keatley to take the drop they could easily have shifted him into the pocket and put Rog elsewhere. Backline positions go out the window in that situation.

  8. Stevo

     /  September 20, 2012

    If the starting goal-kicker is still on the field and he’s kicking well, as Keatley was, then he should remain goal-kicker. This has been the case on the occasions where we’ve seen ROG come on for Ireland while Sexton remains on the field. However, in a situation you’re looking for a drop-goal you’re naturally going to look for the man playing fly-half because he’s free to move into the pocket. Unless Keatley did what Geordan Murphy did to Toby Flood for Leicester against Saracens last season and told him to get out of the bloody way (and can you imagine that happening?) then Keatley is not going to be taking any drops at goal. It’s the fly-half’s responsibility, so the question then is should ROG have come on at all? Maybe the last ten minutes in a fiery clash at Ravenhill isn’t the ideal place to give a guy his first few minutes of the season, but that’s a different topic.

  9. Len

     /  September 20, 2012

    Ok so The question is now less should Keatly have taken the shot and more should the ten have been changed in the first place? While penny may have wanted to give ROG a run out considering the way things were should ROG have been subbed in else where? The subbing in of ROG caused a whole reshuffle of the backline. As I said I didn’t see the game so can someone clarify if this had the usual effect of knocking the momentum out of Munster for a few minutes? It’s one of my pet hates. When in the last quarter of the game a coach makes to many subs at once or rejiggs the back line and the team go flat for a few minutes while the new arrivals settle in.

  10. Radge Fan

     /  September 20, 2012

    WoC – you are correct about Sexton missing the penalty to win the Welsh match. If it was ROG who missed, you’d blame him, not POC. From what I can see, the way it works is that whoever is captain asks the kicker what their chances are. ROG turned down some kicks from the sideline that he didn’t fancy in the world cup and was much criticised for it – BOD/POC was not blamed for telling him to kick for a lineout. After losing the match like that to Wales, is it any wonder POC would autmatically look to O’Gara when it comes to good decision making?

    Back to Keatley at fullback. Paul Warwick played there for 2 or 3 years with ROG at 10 and he was pretty good at the old DGs. Give both lads a break, they are a bit rusty playing together / not really having played together up to now.

    Link here to Mr. Chips summary of the sequence of events of the attempted DG against Ulster:

    Post No. 184

    • Radge Fan, we’re getting a little weary of your straw man arguing. You’re projecting your own blame-x-blame-y attitude onto us, when we haven’t singled anyone out for blame. I find trying to nail a defeat on one incident that suits a provincial mindset a bit unedifying. As we said above, the lineout-or-posts call was a marginal one and was not the losing of the match. Ireland lost that game because their defence was tentative all day and kicked the ball away aimlessly and repeatedly, not because Sexton missed a kick. The line about POC looking to ROG for good decisoin-making is bizarre and nonsensical.

      For what it’s worth, we haven’t for even a second blamed ROG for not scoring the drop goal on friday – merely pointing out that Keatley should have been the one in position to score it given how he’d performed in the game.

    • doughballs

       /  September 21, 2012

      Hey Radgefan, I blamed BOD/POC for telling ROG to go for the line the whole time against Wales during the world cup as we weren’t getting any points from it and it can be pretty demoralising to spend lots of time and effort in the opposition’s twenty-two without getting any reward. I couldn’t firgure out why Ireland had brought ROG in for Sexton ostensibly because Sexton wasn’t kicking his goals (yip yip) and then not have ROG kick them either.

      I blamed Sexton for not kicking for the lineout against Wales in the 6N last time out but less so as he couldn’t (and neither could I for that matter) have imagined that Wales would make up all that ground for the score that would win them the game. I remember thinking at the time that the lineout would eke more minutes out of the clock and there were only five or six left. But I understood that he figured he could make the kick and lengthen the gap on the scoreboard and if he missed they still had to run it out of their twenty two and score, which, it must be said, they had little trouble doing. Still gutted.

  11. Jeffrey Lebowski

     /  September 21, 2012

    I’ve got to say, I really believe they did the right thing in going for the posts with that penalty against Wales. My reasoning:

    *Best case scenario, we get the 3 & we SHOULD win the restart
    *If Sexton misses, then with the drop out, we SHOULD win the restart, and we can have a crack at a drop goal at that stage.
    * If we go down the line, we weren’t guaranteed to win the lineout -granted they may not have contested it, but still.
    *Assuming we win the lineout, we could easily have turned it over/knocked it on.
    *The idea that they’d get all the way down the pitch (and so easily) is what lost us that game -not the penalty miss.

    I’d have been quite happy for ROG/McFadden/Kearney to have a cut at it if needs be, Sexton taking it was irrelevant in my mind.

  12. zdm

     /  September 23, 2012

    I think this debate is more an issue of how Munster have managed the succession of big names in key positions – ROG was world class and is still a very good player but he is increasingly looking his age and Munster have not planned ahead – would you trust ROG to land a 50 yard kick from the touch line in a HEC semi or a drop goal to win the Pro12? 2 years ago, there was no question but now it would be very far from a given. Keatley, for me, is a huge drop off in talent – as far as the depth chart for Irish born 10’s goes, I personally would have him at number 5 or 6.

    Munster have been dependant on Club Ligind for too long, Ireland were too reliant on the old guard for too long but have shown some signs of life. While Leinster first, then Ulster recognised the need to bring in new blood, Munster have not.

    Leinster have a at least 5 go-to guys with 4+ seasons left in the tank at the top level and Ulster are not too far behind in terms of the future but where are Munster’s pinch hitters going to come from? How much longer can POC and Howlett drag them along?

    In 2 seasons, POC, ROG, BOD, D’Arcy will be gone and there are a good few boys who won’t be too far behind – Rory Best springs to mind and there are others. Leinster have managed this situation and Ulster have a hugely exciting young team, many of whom have now got HEC and big-game Pro12 experience under their belts. Where is the future for Munster? Where will the leadership come from? Who do they go to when they are 14 points down to Northhampton in a HEC quarter final? Who gets them the 3 points they need to make the Pro-12 play offs? I don’t know and it seems that the Munster management don’t either

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