The Offload: Alex Soroka seizes opportunity in game against Stormers

Seven sons and their father make up unusual all-Irish family pack in English club match

Leinster’s Alex Soroka is presented with the URC Player of the Match medal. Photograph: Thinus Maritz/Inpho

One thing that a coach looks for when presenting a young player with an opportunity is the aptitude to grasp it, so Leinster coach Leo Cullen will have been delighted with the way flanker Alex Soroka took his complete with the official man-of-the-match accolade in the province's narrow 20-13 defeat to the Stormers in Cape Town.

The 21-year-old underage international, in just his fourth appearance for Leinster and second this season, produced a towering display in a physically abrasive environment. There is no doubting his talent.

He said in his post-match interview: “There was a lot of chat about us sending a weakened team and [in terms of] the other teams that it was going to be easy for them, so we just wanted to prove everyone wrong. We wanted to show what this team is about even when we were missing a few players, that we could still bring that intensity and that energy.

"Although we didn't get the result, I thought we showed that today. We can do special things with this team. You look at that [Stormers] team, three or four Springboks in the pack, we matched them all. I think we got on top of them in the lineout. I think it is a credit to us and a credit to the work that Aaron Dundon did during the week. Slava Ukraini (Glory to Ukraine)."


The last sentiment is a reference to Soroka's Ukrainian roots. Although Alex was born in Ireland, along with his sister, Dasha, his father Vassyl and mother Tanya,, hail from Kyiv and Dnipropetrovsk respectively, while his older brother Ivan, who played for Clontarf in Sunday's All Ireland League final, was six when the family moved to Cork first and then Dublin.

Alex recently raised over €37,000 for a children's hospital in the Ukraine by auctioning a signed Ireland Grand Slam jersey from 2018.

A family that packs a punch

An Ireland pack was involved in a 65-7 victory over Wythenshawe in England's North West League, Division 5 east. The Ireland eight in question was a family, seven sons and their father, Mike, who played for the Heaton Moor Third XV. The past tense is applicable because Saturday marked the final match in Mike's rugby career, aged 56.

A tighthead prop and captain, Mike was joined in the frontrow by Sam (loosehead) and Dan (hooker), Joel, the youngest of the seven brothers at 18 and Matt formed the engine room, while Luke (blindside flanker), Steve (openside flanker) and Tommy (number eight) completed the pack of Irelands.

Mike, who only started playing rugby when he was 41, also has EIGHT daughters. He said of the occasion: “I didn’t play sports myself as a kid, but it was great to get them to do something and do it along with them. During the years I’ve played many games for the Mighty Threes, as we call them, and I’ve played with one or two, three or maybe four of my sons.

“But I’ve never had them all on the field at the same time, so I’m really grateful to the people at the club who made it happen. It was a great treat for an old man retiring.

“I’m not the most amazing rugby player in the world, and some of my sons are very good and play for the first team, but rugby’s not about that, it’s a very big family thing, especially at grass roots level and everyone’s welcome of all abilities.”

By the numbers

6: The number of yellow cards that Danny Care has picked up this season, a record for the English Premiership. His latest was for dissent late on in a 32-31 defeat to the Northampton Saints and overtakes the mark set by former Bristol, Newcastle and England secondrow, Garath (stet) Archer.

Quote of the week

"I was disappointed today to be honest with you. It's funny now, because I'm split in my emotions. Obviously, I'm delighted for my players; it was really important for the momentum and the work they put in. You can see their commitment to the jersey and the cause, but we've got a lot of work to do."
Ireland Women's head coach Greg McWilliams after a 15-14 win over Scotland.

Reid shines for London Irish

London Irish enjoyed a 59-20 victory over the Leicester Tigers in the Premiership Rugby Cup and a major contributor to that win was former Leinster player Noel Reid, who also spent some time at Welford Road as well as France. Reid produced a very polished performance at outhalf, scoring a super try with some excellent footwork and tagging on six conversions to boot.

His general play was first class in managing the game. London Irish had gone for a more established pack in terms of a few more senior players in a tournament that's generally for fringe squad players. Reid's direct opponent was Dan Lancaster, son of Leinster coach, Stuart.

One other player of interest from an Irish perspective was the Exiles replacement scrumhalf Caolan Englefield, a former Ireland Under-18 and Under-19 international. The 22-year-old has a brilliant, bullet-like pass which he showcased to good effect and it will be interesting to watch his development.

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer