Most of what needs to be said about the match against Karlstad has already been said. Poor attendance at training damages our game. Getting up at six in the morning makes us drowsy. Travelling for seven hours saps the strength from our legs. It’s hard to turn that around and with the exception of a few passages of play, we never did.
I’m going to keep it relatively brief in this match report, point out a few of our strengths and weaknesses and highlight what needs to be highlighted.
The first ten minutes of Saturday’s game were promising. People made their tackles and we looked formidable with the ball in hand. Adam “One Hand” Borg hit some effective lines and with strong support off his inside shoulder, the Karlstad defense was put under considerable pressure.
But things quickly turned a different shade. Balls were turned over and while the lineouts were strong, our performance in the scrum left a lot to be desired. Our props were outweighed and outplayed, and the hook never came quickly enough for the eight-man to gather. Poor scrummaging starved our backline of possession and put our defensive line on the back foot.
I know I sound like a broken record when I say this but it absolutely true: scrums set the standard for the rest of the game. On Saturday this played a huge part in our loss. If we are to retain our position at the top of the league we must get bodies on the scrum machine; we have not had a proper tight-five at training since June. There is never an excuse for losing your own feed!
But the forwards were not completely to blame for the change in momentum. A lot of our backs began the game out of position and took a long time to settle. Poor kicking put us in some weak tactical positions and soft first-phase tackles allowed Karlstad to outpace our backrow. Most tellingly, Lugi’s back three conceded ground between the fifteen meter line and touch. We have dominated this channel over the last few games and it was disappointing to see us get beaten at our own game.
In the second half frequent stoppages and insistent counter-rucking prevented us from building phases. “Half-French” Le Pluart kept up an inspirational work rate, but with the rest of the tight-five camped out in the backline, his efforts were not enough to consistently recycle the ball. To be honest, the only time that we managed to effectively co-ordinate the forwards and the backs was during the after match fashion parade.
But when the big boys did get the ball they were dangerous. “Preacherman” Imberg is fast making a name for himself as a powerful runner. Despite only touching the ball a few times a game, he seems to have a natural gift for eluding defenders and offloading in contact. On Saturday he wracked up yet another assist with a well-timed pop pass to fellow front-row forward Tadas “The Bulldozer” Valutis, who then plowed through three defenders to cross the line for his first ever try. It was great rugby and a moment they shouldn’t let us forget for a long time to come.
As the game drew to a finish the outside backs from both teams were afflicted with an overwhelming propensity to kick the ball away. This made for some frustrating rugby and given the poor policing of the breakdowns, I can understand why they might have preferred this over running it up. But still, we are at our most dangerous when on the counter-attack. It takes a lot of confidence to back yourself, but when you are losing, backing yourself is often what is needed to turn things around. Hannes “The Eel” Olling demonstrated this perfectly, scooping the ball from the ground, weaving through defenders and running it in a good forty meters. A brilliant individual try, and again, his first ever.
Sadly whatever advantage these flashes of brilliance might have brought us were spoilt by silly mistakes and long stretches spent defending.
Hopefully we will all come away from Saturday’s game having learnt the lesson of complacency.
The Player Of The Day was awarded to “One Hand” Borg. He was great in the centres during the first half, and as reliable as ever at fullback in the second. One big positive that we can draw from this Summer break is that our experienced local players are really stepping up to the mark. It is fantastic to see Adam, Dion, Josef, Johannes and Viktor taking charge. I am confident that this will bode us well as we go into the final games of the competition.
Final Score: Karlstad, 41; Lugi, 14. Best On: Adam Borg. Points: Tadas Valutis, 1 try; Hannes Olling, 1 try; Adam Borg, 2/2 conversions.