WWW.RLFANS.COM • View topic - And so it continues....
And so it continues....
Post Fri Sep 08, 2017 8:33 am
Posted by Roy Haggerty on Fri Sep 08, 2017 8:33 am
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Joined: Sat Dec 22, 2001 12:04 pm
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I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling a bit like the owner of a terminally ill, but much loved, family pet. On the one hand, I feel it might be better if we were all put out of our misery rather than painfully staggering on. But on the other hand, you know....hope....

Last night our players simply refused to lay down on the vet's table. We have got to give them credit for that. Not least because they look as if they are hating every minute of being on the pitch. Their body language and facial expressions give the impression of men who are simultaneously anxious, frustrated and angry. There are few smiles. When plays go wrong, players scowl at each other and turn away shaking their heads in fury, rather than console and encourage the mistake-maker. When we score, the reactions are closer to relief at not messing up, rather than the cocky pleasure of an expected triumph. Without doubt, this Saints squad is in a difficult mental place.

I suspect they're there for the same reasons we fans are there: this is a team which is not worth the sum of its individual parts. We have many good - some excellent - players out there, and yet it's not working. Simple passes are dropped. Lines are not run well. Supporting runners don't appear. Timing is off. Confidence is low, and we could all see that every time Wakefield sent up a bomb, and nobody looked like they wanted to take the responsibility of trying to catch it without cocking up.

And yet....

Last night, there were signs of what could be. We've been largely one-sided all season, only able to attack down the left, and thus easy to defend against. Last night, Barba in particular was joining in on the right and creating options there. Still not well executed, with players not getting their lines or timing correct. But there was ball movement and player movement where previously there has been none. Get that right, and we'll create more space on the left for the undoubted attacking ability of Percival to use the genuine speed of Grace more effectively.

Thompson played the best game I've seen him play for Saints last night. Instead of putting on weak steps to remove all speed from his run, and then getting stopped dead at first touch, he was making yards after contact. He still has a tendency to plant his feet in the defensive line, but his aggression is much needed in the pack. Richardson must now surely keep the number 7 shirt. And he must be given the ball more, because he adds unpredictability to an otherwise entirely predictable Saints attack. Walmsley remains the best prop in the competition, even with most of his head in a maternity ward. Roby continues to be the greatest gift the rugby Gods have bestowed on the Saints club, with his remarkable consistency. Our defence remains remarkably solid, although Wakefield didn't test it much last night.

There are still real problems, and I'm sure Holbrooke can see them. One reason Roby doesn't run more is that there is never any support with him. Our players in the middle of the field don't push up on the offchance of supporting a break. They stand or jog behind the carrier expecting the next tackle. So on rare breaks, there is nobody there to finish off. All the things which confidence and belief affect are lacking - support play, dummy runs, offloads, timing, passes at the line. These will only be fixed in the players' heads, not on the training field. They know what they should be doing, but they have to believe it's worth that extra effort to do it. Will this get-out-of-jail-free card instil a bit of that belief?

We stagger on another week. Our fate isn't entirely in our hands. As Phil Clarke notes repeatedly, our attack - the worst in the top 8, means we shouldn't really even be in contention for the top four. The players still look stressed and frustrated.

But on the other hand, you know....hope....

"...the biggest boor, the most opinionated pompous bigot that frequents these
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