Foreign player system back to bite Connacht
The Saints need to lower the height of both their scrum and lineout maul. Their attack never troubled the Ulster defence and they lacked unity of effort. If given a choice of hooker I would take Rory Best 1,000 times over Dylan Hartley (now suspended). The Ulster veteran was still smashing Saints in the 73rd minute, long after Hartley had departed. In Ravenhill many aspects are crucial to Ulster but continued excellence at the breakdown will kill Northampton.
Energy and enthusiasm are huge components in the Heineken Cup, where Simon Zebo’s work-rate and quality at the breakdown were exceptional. Interestingly, there is a habit developing in Munster that Ulster have managed to avoid where over enthusiasm at the breakdown is costing them hugely.
The high energy game from Munster forces an unorthodox arrival of backrow players into the fast evolving breakdown, such as when a brilliant Ronan O’Gara kick from his 22 forced Saracens scrumhalf Neil de Kock into a midfield catch with Zebo smashing him. Mike Sherry, full of enthusiasm, slipped over De Kock to concede the first kickable penalty which Owen Farrell missed.
This happens too often which with a better average from Farrell will kill Munster.
There are many team policies around the breakdown (Richie McCaw!) but there are some simple principles. A player must sprint the first five metres as this brings him towards an evolving breakdown. He must then curb his enthusiasm while reading the ever-changing environment. He then picks the spot, powers through it but must prepare physically for the arrival of numbers on both sides especially from behind.
Openside Chris Henry has been brilliant in remaining a terrible nuisance but limiting the penalties; watch his core, trunk and rear end when the bodies are piling in.
Munster may struggle if Saracens start with John Smit and Mako Vunipola, releasing a livelier bench. Will Farrell miss four again? They looked far more threatening with him at 10. It took until the 73rd minute, with Smit throwing to Steve Borthwick, for the first contact between Barrett and O’Gara. Why so long? Saracens’ lineout malfunctioned so badly they couldn’t mount a challenge. Let’s hope it’s repeated.