I am this far away from being seriously pissed off. Not with the result – I expected that. Or with the league position – that can be recovered. No, I am frankly sick and tired of watching a team that seems to be constitutionally incapable of keeping fifteen men on the field for more than a couple of games in a row.
We seemed to be doing quite well: three Prem games and two PRC without a card, corners had been turned. But, no. Five minutes into the second half and Byron goes hyperbolically ballistic in response to some puerile needling by Tompkins. Red mist, red card; simple equation, really. No defence, no excuses. Referee Foley summed it up perfectly: “the reaction was disproportionate”. If a seasoned professional can’t keep a lid on it, then he deserves all he gets.
Three yellows and two reds so far and we’re only a third of the way into the season. Sorry, I just find it unconscionable, especially on the back of last season’s antics. And yes, I don’t understand how Itoje stayed on the pitch, either, but that’s irrelevant to the issue here.
It probably wouldn’t seem quite as bad if I hadn’t also watched a team that had 58% of the possession and 65% of the territory score fewer tries than the team that had the scraps. It’s been a feature of so many games: good possession, some good handling, loads of pressure, drop the ball or get isolated and pinged for holding on.
Ah, sod it. Look, this is going to be a short report. Raffi had a cracking game. The Currys had a cracking game. Everyone else… meh. Not that there wasn’t plenty of good skills on display, lots of recycling, good handling, offloads, all that stuff. It just didn’t go anywhere. Or, at least, it didn’t go that final, all-important couple of metres.
And then, to cap off a wonderful day, Akker goes off with what looked like a serious injury and Jono fails another HIA. I think Jono should now consider retiring with immediate effect. That’s too many – he’s already had that enforced time out last season and now this. Jono, we love you mate, we appreciate everything you’ve done for the team, you’re a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame but, for your own sake, call it day. Please.
We’ve got a week off now. We need to use that time profitably – I’d suggest some of that much-vaunted mental conditioning goes into techniques to counter getting wound up by childish opponents. Smiling winsomely and saying “ah, bless” might work.
Let’s also hope that the time off is enough for Tommy and Curtis to recover, otherwise Ewan’s going to be putting in some serious pitch time. With Denny gone and Byron likely to be unavailable for selection for a while (I’m not sure he’ll get off lightly), we need Arran to step up. If Marland has recovered, that’ll help, but I want to see Arran come good. He’s got pace to spare and, as people never tire of pointing out, we have probably the slowest backline in the league.
So, that’s it for this game. A bit short, but I can’t really get my head around any sort of analysis while I’m still fuming. Back to normal next game, I hope. With a bit of luck, this game will be the point of change and we start to see the team that Sale can be from here on out.