Paddy Jackson praised as he gets form back
‘Give him positive vibes and he just pulls us around the paddock’
Paddy Jackson really ought to be cut some more slack. Yet, having been pitched into a Heineken Cup final at 20 and his international debut shortly after his 21st birthday, he appears destined to play under the most intense scrutiny.
Under the microscope again since his opening night misfiring against the Dragons, and again after a first-half miss compounded a couple of kicks out on the full, he responded by impressively steering the Ulster ship home with a maturity again beyond his years. But such is the lot of a young outhalf that the only emotion he betrayed afterwards was one of “job done” and move on. “It’s just good that I won’t get slagged off for once,” he smiled ruefully.
Instead, it was left to teammate Nick Williams to extol the young outhalf’s virtues, the number eight joining the chorus of Ulster players and coaches who tell of the way Jackson steers the ship. When it was put to Williams that a winless Ulster showed little sign of panic when falling 7-0 down away to pumped up provincial rivals, he said simply: “That’s the lad on your right mate. He keeps a cool head. We just gather around him. Give him positive vibes and he just pulls us around the paddock. It’s all credit to Paddy.”
Relieved to have won, Jackson expressed the hope that Ulster can generate some momentum now. “It took a while, as do most games in the Rabo. Connacht are very physical. I think one of our problems is that we were a bit slow to start.
“We had that breeze in the second half that allowed us to kick to the corner. I think once we stopped dropping the ball it made it a bit easier. In the last two games I’ve been blowing pretty badly, it’s been pretty tiring. Once we had that wind it made it a bit easier. Once we got a few phases together it made it easier.”
Mark Anscombe was as palpably relieved and also expressed the hope that their two tries will imbue the team with confidence. As significant, perhaps, was the barnstorming performance of Iain Henderson on his first start of the season,
“He’s a great athlete, and he’s a great footballer. I like him there (in the secondrow) at the moment. As he grows and develops I think it will teach you some good habits. Going forward I suppose he’d like to see himself as six, and I’m sure that’s where Joe (Schmidt) sees him, but I think he’s a quality player. He has power, he is big, he’s young, he is mobile. Look, time will sort that out, but there’s not that many big men trucking around the place in Ireland, he is a valuable asset. I think he will do an admirable job at either but his speed and agility and movement are things he needs to work on to master six.”
For Connacht coach, Pat Lam an anti-climactic night had been compounded by injuries to hooker Jason Harris-Wright and flanker Willie Falloon “At this stage it looks as if Jason’s bicep has had a significant tear, and Willie is off to get an X-ray on his ankle.”
Lam admitted that Connacht had issues at the breakdown which will need addressing, but sought to take some positives from the night, namely, “the effort and the commitment, and what we’re trying to achieve, particularly with the ball in hand. Our defence, bar two slip-offs, is pretty impressive, when you’re going up against a big team.
“Some of the tackles and the fightback, there’s a lot of positives, and guys playing at this level, getting more experience at this level, is good too . . . There are always positives and there are always learnings, and we move to next week.”