Trimble meeting Gilroy challenge head on
Come the Six Nations and if Craig Gilroy isn’t picked for Ireland’s opener against Wales, Declan Kidney will assuredly receive plenty of flak. Yet, on the heels of the Ireland coach being vindicated for giving Gilroy his spectacular debut against Argentina after his hat-trick against Fiji, Mark Anscombe opted to retain faith in Andrew Trimble last Friday against Northampton. And he was thoroughly vindicated too.
Although his kicking and chasing game were flawed against South Africa, the 28-year-old Trimble hadn’t become a bad player overnight.
Forewarned by Trimble’s fine performance away to the Scarlets a week beforehand, Anscombe drew on what he knew would be the winger’s huge desire as well as his experience for the furnace that is a Friday night in Franklin’s Gardens.
Left to stew on his omission for the Argentina game, which he admits he couldn’t watch, Trimble was excellent. He made his tackles, caught a host of balls, dealt capably with balls in behind him, even kicked well once, ran hard, was twice unlucky not to free players with offloads deemed forward (one marginal), was creator in chief of Jared Payne’s try by switching the point of attack and giving a flat, left-to-right try scoring pass before Gilroy was introduced in the 70th minute.
Opened the scoring
He also, of course, opened the scoring with a superb predator’s finish, latching on to Paddy Jackson’s exquisite chip into a small in-goal area with an adroit catch and touchdown in one flourish on the run. It is surely enough for him to retain his place for Saturday’s re-match at Ravenhill, which will be his 50th Heineken Cup tie.
That was also Trimble’s 20th try, making him Ulster’s all-time leading try scorer in the competition, and compares well with the try-scoring machine on the opposite wing, Tommy Bowe, whose subsequent finish was his 23rd try in 50 Cup matches (25 each for the Ospreys and Ulster).
As endearingly honest as ever, Trimble admits the pressure coming from Gilroy compels him to reach the standards of last Friday every week.
“It had been a tough enough couple of weeks. It’s difficult losing your place to someone at your club because there is more at stake and it puts pressure on you to perform. If you get an opportunity you have to take it.
“If I keep getting picked I have to keep performing as well as I did last weekend or I won’t be picked again. It puts the emphasis on the next game; nobody wants to be dropped and nobody wants everyone to be talking about someone you’re competing with for a place.”
Trimble, compelled to wear a red tie and grey suit for Tuesday’s training session and media day as player punishment for wearing the wrong shoes, suit and tie at Northampton last Friday, also candidly admitted: “As much as I’m delighted for Gilly I’d rather it was me, but it puts you in a position where it can bring the best out of you. It’s not that fun at the time but it could be the best thing for me.”
Towards his peak
“I’m going to get older and Gilly is going to get towards his peak and that is the way it’s going to be,” he acknowledges with a smile, given Gilroy is 21.
“I want to prove that I can bring a lot to this game and produce big performances that lead to big team performances and results. The Heineken Cup is a big shop window and a big opportunity to show what I can do and hopefully I can keep doing that.
“I’m good mates with Gilly. We get on great and he is getting plaudits at the minute and I’m delighted for him. We’re competing for the same spot so I have to work on my game.
“I don’t need commentators or RTÉ pundits to tell me how good he is because I see it every day. There is nothing I can do about that. It’s important I just work on my game and hopefully it will get better.”
Like Bowe, Trimble is highly adept at pushing up hard on the outside to negate overlaps and, à la Bowe also, the occasional reward is an intercept try, such as the match-winner away to the Scarlets.
“It’s not something I’ve been working on in training, I’ve talked about Rory (Best), Chris (Henry) and guys coming in and slowing the ball down which is giving us a bit more width. If you slow down the ball it gives you more of a chance to get organised. If you get more width you can get more line speed and then get into position where you make ball-carriers make difficult decisions and sometimes they make mistakes and then you can get on the right end of that. I’ve got a bit fortunate in the last few weeks, but hopefully it will continue.”
A nice feeling? “It’s an unusual position to find yourself in, knowing you’re going to score with 50 metres more to run, but yeah, it’s a nice feeling.”