Posted in match reports

View from the armchair: Ulster 22 Sale 11 [HCC]

I’ve really been struggling to find something to say about this game, apart from “f—”.

Before it started, I was all ready with a pun about a “titanic battle”. That was almost true for about 65 minutes until Herring scored to put Ulster into the lead. From that point, even the magnificent defence that Sale had put up throughout the second half wasn’t enough to stop an Ulster team who had overcome their uncharacteristic dip in form over the past few weeks.

Look, I said last week that we knew way back when that it was going to be difficult getting past those two teams. That this failure to progress is so disappointing is a testament to how well the team has done in the Premiership this year. Had we been where we were in the league this time last year, our expectations would have been lower.

But look, we’re still second, we’re still in the Challenge Cup, and we’re still in the Premiership Rugby Cup. I’ll take that for now. And I quite fancy a weekend in Cardiff.

Am I disappointed? Hell, yeah. Am I particularly bovvered? Nah, not especially.

So, that’s past; let’s look forward, then: to Bath at home.

To resurrect an over-used cliché: this one has “banana skin” written all over it. We’re losing Bev, Jonny, Ben and Manu to England, and we have Tom and Dan injured. That’s a significant amount of firepower missing.

On the plus side, SiMac and Sharkey should be back and Cobus ought to be around, assuming he did his “naughty boy” re-education course.

With WorcesterBath having a bit of a surge in form recently, this game is less easy to call than it might have been a few weeks ago.

In the interest of reassuring myself, I looked at who was playing during the Autumn internationals, to get a feel for how we might cope with the player loss.

And it’s encouraging. We played two Premiership games at home in November: 27–17 against Gloucester and 25–20 against Bristol. Of those missing on Friday, we had Ben and Dan against Gloucester and Dan against Bristol.

On the other hand, SiMac was missing for both games and Akker and Cobus didn’t play against Gloucester. Ewan Ashman was missing for both games.

So, of the team that came through the last international period successfully, it looks like Dan du Preez is the only significant absence. That gives me hope that we can consolidate our league position. And we need it, given that we only have two more home games after this, and one of those is against Saracens.

Updated to add: after I published this, details of Axe’s press conference came out, and it seems that Dan may well be available. No George Ford yet, though…

I’m a little more confident than before I checked those matches, but it’s still too close for comfort to my mind, and that’s reflected in the SAMP™ prediction:

SAMP–5Sale 20 – 19 Bath
SAMP–10Sale 21 – 19 Bath

Squeaky Bum Time in the offing?



Photographer and science geek. Rugby fan (Sale Sharks).