Four on Form

RaboDirect PRO12 Round 10 Matches

With all four of the Irish provinces in action last weekend, we once again look at four Irish players who stood out in their provinces’ matches. Leinster had a big win over Cardiff, Ulster beat the Scarlets, Connacht narrowly lost at home to Treviso and Munster were beaten by the Ospreys. So who are this week’s Four on Form?

Stephen Ferris

Ferris featured in Four on Form three weeks ago after Ulster’s Heineken Cup win over Clermont and the world-class blindside is back again this week after his performance against the Scarlets last Friday night. Ferris was his usual self, making massive ground for his side and putting in his usual amounts of big hits. His two tries were the difference for Ulster as they won 24-17.

Ferris’ first try was a simple enough finish after Paul Marshall had done all the hard work. Still, the try did showcase Ferris’ pace as he beat the covering defender on the outside. It’s nigh on impossible to stop Ferris from five metres out with the amount of space he had. The Scarlets defence, with one man in the bin, had no chance.

Ferris’ pace was again on display for his superb second try. From a lineout on the left-hand side, Ian Humphreys skipped to Darren Cave who hit Ferris in the wide right-hand channel. Ferris took the ball just as he crossed the Scarlets ten metre line. Rhodri Williams looked to have Ferris covered but the young replacement made the mistake of going in high on Ferris. The Irish international slammed Williams into the ground with a huge fend, then stepped the shameful covering tackle of Viliame Iongi.

Yet another top-quality display from Ferris who is becoming more and more indispensable to this Ulster side. They will expect another big game from him this Friday in the Heineken Cup when they entertain Aironi at Ravenhill.

Check out both of Ferris’ tries over in our RaboDirect Round-Up from last weekend.

David Kearney

Kearney makes a break against Glasgow earlier in the season. Photo via M+MD

Kearney has impressed for Leinster every time he has been given an opportunity by Joe Schmidt this season. In last weekend’s 52-9 win over Cardiff Kearney went over for two tries to top off an accomplished and hugely promising performance. And while Kearney clearly has the potential to improve, it is also clear that he is already playing at a high enough level to be in competition for Leinster’s Heineken Cup squad.

In Leinster’s win over the Blues on Friday night, Kearney was easily the best winger on the pitch. He completely outshone the Welsh international wing Tom James as well as his teammate Fionn Carr. Kearney has played a good deal of his rugby at full-back and like his older brother, he is very comfortable under any ball kicked his way. Kearney is not afraid to come off his wing in search of the ball either. With these attributes allied to his pace and finishing ability, Kearney is a dangerous player.

His two tries on Friday night displayed some of Kearney’s qualities. The first came as he touched down from a Jonathan Sexton dink over the Cardiff defence, showing good awareness to get up flat for the kick. The second showcased his work-rate, pace and nose for the tryline. The Irish Wolfhounds international did brilliantly to pick from the tackled Isa Nacewa and break two tackles to dive over, especially considering the lung-busting run he had made in support of Sean Cronin’s initial break.

Kearney will now hope he can break into Leinster’s match-day squad for the Heineken Cup and pick up where he left off. Intermittent appearances in the PRO12 may not be enough for a player of Kearney’s undoubted talent. Leinster have a lot of competition in their squad for the two wing positions and Kearney will have to continue to seize every chance he gets.

You can see Kearney’s tries in the RaboDirect Round-Up too.

Paul Marshall

When Ruan Pienaar injured his hamstring against the Scarlets back on the 29th of October, Ulster fans could be forgiven for thinking that their side would be seriously weakened until the South African scrumhalf returned from injury. However, while Brian McLaughlin’s side have missed the World Cup winner’s experience, the form of his replacement Paul Marshall has heavily softened that blow.

Marshall put in another energetic display for Ulster as they beat the Scarlets on Friday. The 26-year-old was a live-wire all night for Ulster and his service was as crisp as usual. Marshall also showcased his sniping ability as he made several clean breaks around the fringes of rucks. Despite weighing in at only 79kg, Marshall never shirks his defensive responsibilities either.

His break for the first Stephen Ferris try was an obvious highlight of the entire match. Marshall is always on the look-out for holes at the edges of rucks and after spotting one down the Scarlets’ blindside he didn’t need to be asked twice. His chip over the last defender was sublime and he was unlucky to be caught from behind. The Ulster Academy graduate then showed great presence of mind to throw the ball back towards his team-mates.

With Pienaar now back from that injury, Marshall was replaced by the South African with just under a quarter of the match remaining. With Aironi visiting Ravenhill on Friday night, it would be cruel for Marshall to be dropped. However, it would be madness for McLaughlin to leave the star that is Pienaar on the bench for such an important match. Pienaar has experience at outhalf and it might be worth McLaughlin’s while considering replacing the inconsistent Ian Humphreys rather than dropping the in-form Marshall.

David McSharry

While Connacht have been on a run of defeats that now stands at eight-in-a-row, their 21-year-old centre McSharry has put in string of strong performances which bely his lack of experience. The Dublin-born McSharry joined Connacht from the Leinster Academy at the start of this season and the move has paid off handsomely as the Irish underage international has become one of Connacht’s most important players.

The 94kg centre was part of the Ireland U20 World Cup squad which travelled to Argentina in 2010, alongside his current team-mate Eoin Griffin. Last season, McSharry was playing for UCD in the Ulster Bank League where he did enough to convince Eric Elwood that he could step up a level. Elwood’s punt on McSharry has been fully rewarded with a series of confident, physical performances leading up to McSharry being named Man of the Match last Friday as Connacht lost at home to Treviso.

McSharry went over for his first try for Connacht in that game, showing his strength to burst through several defenders. The centre is one of Connacht’s only potent threats in a backline that has failed to ignite so far this season. In defense McSharry is already a leader for Connacht, always physical in the tackle and hard-working too. Even against the likes of Toulouse in the Heineken Cup, McSharry’s defensive efforts have stood out.

It’s a bad time for Connacht rugby fans right now. With the aforementioned run of defeats leading into a difficult-looking double header with Gloucester in the Heineken Cup, there are not too many positives for them to grasp at. McSharry is certainly one of them and news this week that he and Eoin Griffin have extended their contracts until 2014 will be a big boost for the western province.

Photos courtesy: Jukka Zitting, M+MD

2 responses to “Four on Form

  1. Big ferry absolutely dominating, some man!

  2. He’s just so fast for such a big man! Feel sorry for that young Williams guy who he swatted aside for the second try.

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