Tag Archives: Freddie Burns

Saxons Set-Piece Provides Platform For Win

Match Report

England Saxons 23-17 Ireland Wolfhounds

Saturday 28th January @ Sandy Park, Exeter

(Video highlights at bottom of piece)

David Kearney, pictured playing for Leinster, was the stand-out Irish player as the Wolfhounds outscored the Saxons 3 tries to 2, but still lost. (c) Martin Dobey.

In a match that failed to truly ignite, the strength of the Saxons set-piece proved crucial to their win. There were intermittent glimpses of quality from the Wolfhounds backline but they understandably failed to click. Indeed, as could be expected after only a week together, both sides lacked cohesion in a largely scrappy affair. The watching Declan Kidney won’t have any fresh selection headaches ahead of the Six Nations based on this game. Still, it was a worthwhile exercise with many players getting their first taste of senior international rugby.

The Saxons enjoyed a dominant opening ten minutes to establish a 10-0 lead. Outhalf Freddie Burns opened the scoring with a penalty after Ugo Monye’s intelligent defensive work at the breakdown. A patient Saxons maul then laid the platform for scrumhalf Ben Spencer to snipe over from a metre out.

The Wolfhounds will be aggrieved with the manner in which the try was conceded as George Robson blocked Isaac Boss at the fringe of the ruck. There were clear echoes of Nathan Hines’ involvement in Clermont’s try against Ulster last weekend. Referee Mathieu Raynal somehow missed the block and Burns added the conversion.

The Wolfhounds should have got themselves on the scoreboard four minutes later as Ian Keatley glided through the Saxons defence and released Simon Zebo down the left wing. But as is his wont, the Munster wing ignored the three supporting runners inside and backed himself. This time, the decision was wrong as Matt Banahan battered the 21-year-old into touch. A real chance wasted.

Strong carries from Chris Henry, Nevin Spence and Rhys Ruddock put the Wolfhounds back in position to close the deficit. Following the big men’s contributions, Keatley’s pass sent Eoin O’Malley on a wide line with the Saxons defence stretched. The Leinster centre straightened off his left foot and slipped a pass inside to the trailing David Kearney. Kearney had enough pace to glide through Andy Saull’s tackle and touch down. Keatley was off target with the straightforward conversion.

That was the last scoring action of the first-half as neither side managed to gain control of the game. However, the Saxons scrum did completely dominate, as it would continue to do after the interval. Just before the break, a scrum penalty gave Burns the chance to extend the lead but he dragged his 35m effort wide to the left.

Gloucester outhalf Burns kicked 13 points for the Saxons. (c) Pierre-Selim.

Saxons No.8 Thomas Waldrom was the beneficiary of a lucky bounce as the English side scored their second try on the 54 minute mark. After another strong Saxons scrum 5m from the Wolfhounds’ line, Burns attempted a grubber, intended for the in-goal area. But when the ball bounced up off Spence’s feet, Waldrom was in the right place to gather and stride over untouched. Burns tacked on the easy conversion for a 17-5 lead.

A positive response from the Wolfhounds ended with replacement scrumhalf Tomas O’Leary getting over for a try. Another powerful Ruddock carry from the base of a scrum was followed by Dan Tuohy and Stephen Archer getting their hands on the ball. O’Leary sniped from the resulting ruck and had the power to take Paul Doran-Jones’ tackle and stretch out for the score. Substitute outhalf Ian Madigan converted.

The Irish side couldn’t build on that score as the Saxons scrum continued to dominate. Burns again failed to reward that dominance as he missed with a poor penalty effort. He made amends soon after when the Wolfhounds were caught offside. With the Irish side attempting to play out of their own 22, the Gloucester outhalf wrapped the game up with another straightforward three-pointer after aggressive work at the breakdown from the English forwards.

The Wolfhounds managed a consolation score with the last action of the match. Ruddock’s strength in contact again set the platform. O’Leary hit Zebo, one-on-one with Matt Mullan. The wing used his pace to get outside the Worcester prop and dive over. As the Saxons second-row George Robson was named Man of the Match, Madigan was wide with his conversion effort.

The performances of Leinster tyros Rhys Ruddock and David Kearney were hugely promising. The No.8 carried strongly throughout while Kearney’s threat on the ball was complemented by his defensive awareness. O’Malley showed flashes of his attacking ability and defended strongly. Ulster’s Dan Tuohy also offered several examples of his mixture of brawn and skills while Mike McCarthy was reliable in the lineout.

No.8 Ruddock put in a muscular performance. (c) Art Widak.

Stephen Archer and Brett Wilkinson will have learned plenty from their losing battle with the Saxons front-row. Archer is still only 23, very young in propping terms. Days like today are all part of the steep learning curve for novice props. Gavin Duffy at fullback had a day to forget, looking jittery whenever the ball came near him.

Overall, Declan Kidney may be slightly disappointed that no one made themselves impossible to ignore ahead of the clash with Wales next weekend. There will almost certainly be no surprises in the selection for that game, certainly not on the basis of what was offered in Exeter today. From this point, all the focus is on 3 o’clock next Sunday afternoon, when Ireland begin their Six Nations campaign looking for revenge.


Photos courtesy:   Pierre-Selim, Art Widak, Martin Dobey.


Here’s the three Irish tries from Dave Kearney, Tomas O’Leary and Simon Zebo:


Wolfhounds vs. English Saxons Preview

England Saxons vs. Ireland Wolfhounds @ Sandy Park, Exeter

Saturday 28th January (17.00) Sky Sports 1

Simon Zebo will be hoping to touch down for the Wolfhounds tomorrow. (c) Ivan O'Riordan.

The first international action of the year sees the Irish Wolfhounds take on the English Saxons in Exeter on Saturday. According to Declan Kidney, these Wolfhounds still have a chance of being selected for Ireland’s Six Nations opener with Wales in two weekend’s time. That should ensure a high-quality performance from this Irish side. Connacht coach Eric Elwood takes charge of the Wolfhounds this season and he has gone for a blend of youth and experience for the clash with the Saxons.

Munster hooker Damian Varley is joined in the front-row by his 23-year-old teammate Stephen Archer, who has only had nine PRO12 starts so far in his career. Connacht’s Brett Wilkinson is at loosehead. The second-row is made up of two players who are having superb seasons, Ulster’s Dan Tuohy and Mike McCarthy of Connacht. Both players will have realistic hopes of impressing enough here to break into the senior squad.

Ulster’s Chris Henry captains the team from openside. John Muldoon’s gritty performances for Connacht are rewarded with a spot on the blindside. Muldoon has ten caps at this level so adds some valuable experience. 21-year-old Rhys Ruddock completes the back-row at No.8. At 16 and a half stone, the youngster is not likely to shy away from the expected physical aspect to this game.

Munster's Keatley starts at outhalf. (c) Martin Dobey.

It’s a Leinster-Munster pairing in the halfbacks with Isaac Boss at scrumhalf and Ian Keatley at 10. With 12 and 7 caps appearances, both players are well accustomed to this level and should direct play with confidence. There’s an exciting-looking centre partnership for Elwood’s side with Ulster man Nevin Spence inside Leinster’s Eoin O’Malley. The power of Spence should nicely complement O’Malley’s evasiveness. Their battle with the Saxons partnership of Billy Twelvetrees and Matt Hopper promises to be one of the highlights of the game.

In the back-three, Gavin Duffy’s experience at fullback is qualified by the youthful talent of Simon Zebo and David Kearney on the wings. Zebo is the man of the moment and the Wolfhounds will look to deliver him ball in space. This trio will have their hands full defensively against the experienced Saxons back-three of Ugo Monye, Matt Banahan and Delon Armitage.

Elwood has some relative experience to call on from the bench, including Tomas O’Leary, Kevin McLaughlin, Denis Hurley and Devin Toner. Leinster’s talented outhalf Ian Madigan will hope for a chance to display his sharp attacking game while Munster hooker Mike Sherry is included despite only recently returning from an ankle injury. Connacht tighthead Ronan Loughney completes the match day 22.

Harlequins' Ugo Monye is on the wing for the Saxons. (c) cormac70.

The Saxons side has an overall youthful look to it. Scrumhalf Ben Spencer is still only 19. He has been vying with Peter Stringer for the number 9 jersey at Saracens this season. Outhalf Freddie Burns, of Gloucester is 21. Outside him is a backline that Saxons coach Jon Callard will expect to deliver tries. Twelvetrees is a combination of creativity and strength at 12, while Hopper offers a natural flair at outside centre. Banahan, Armitage and Monye have 55 England senior caps between them. Their blend of size, inventiveness and pace makes them a threatening unit.

Up front, Leicester No.8 Thomas Waldrom’s strong carrying will need to be stopped at source. He is flanked by Saracens’ Andy Saull, an intelligent natural openside, and James Gaskell. Sale’s Gaskell captains the team despite being only 21. Wasps’ Matt Garvey partners George Robson of Harlequins in the second-row. Paul-Doran Jones, once contracted to Leinster starts at tighthead. ‘Quins hooker Joe Gray and Worcester loosehead Matt Mullan complete the front-row.

One man to watch off the bench is Gloucester’s Jonny May. The speedy outside back showed his talent with a brilliant display in Gloucester’s shock win over Toulouse last weekend. Northampton outhalf Ryan Lamb is also on the bench, hoping to forget about last weekend.

The fact that Declan Kidney has said that the door to the senior squad remains open for these Wolfhounds should make this a game well worth watching. While their English counterparts would appear to have less of a chance of promotion, it’s impossible to guess how many of these players might have a role to play in the Six Nations. The addition of so many young talents on both sides means this clash offers us a glimpse of the future. It may not be a full international, but any game between Ireland and England is likely to be fiercely competitive.


England Saxons: 15 D Armitage (London Irish), 14 U Monye (Harlequins), 13 M Hopper (Harlequins), 12 B Twelvetrees (Leicester), 11 M Banahan (Bath), 10 F Burns (Gloucester), 9 B Spencer (Saracens), 1 M Mullan (Worcester), 2 J Gray (Harlequins), 3 P Doran-Jones (Northampton), 4 M Garvey (London Irish), 5 G Robson (Harlequins), 6 J Gaskell (Sale, capt.), 7 A Saull (Saracens), 8 T Waldrom (Leicester).                                                                                                                                      Subs: 16 C Brooker (Harlequins), 17 R Harden (Gloucester), 18 K Myall (Sale), 19 T Johnson (Exeter), 20 P Hodgson (London Irish), 21 R Lamb (Northampton), 22 J May (Gloucester).

Ireland Wolfhounds: 15 Gavin Duffy (Connacht), 14  David Kearney (Leinster), 13 Eoin O’Malley (Leinster), 12 Nevin Spence (Ulster), 11 Simon Zebo (Munster), 10 Ian Keatley (Munster), 9 Isaac Boss (Leinster), 1 Brett Wilkinson (Connacht), 2 Damien Varley (Munster), 3 Stephen Archer (Munster), 4 Dan Tuohy (Ulster), 5 Mike McCarthy (Connacht), 6 John Muldoon (Connacht), 7 Chris Henry (Ulster, capt.), 8 Rhys Ruddock (Leinster).                                         Subs: 16 Mike Sherry (Munster), 17 Ronan Loughney (Connacht), 18 Devin Toner (Leinster), 19 Kevin McLaughlin (Leinster), 20 Tomas O’Leary (Munster), 21 Ian Madigan (Leinster), 22 Denis Hurley (Munster).


Photos courtesy:  Martin Dobey, cormac70, Ivan O’Riordan.

Connacht Miss Opportunity to End Losing-Streak

Match Report – Heineken Cup

Connacht 10-14 Gloucester

10th December @ The Sportsground

Burns kicked three penalties in Gloucester's win. Photo via Pierre-Selim

Muldoon won another turnover penalty as Gloucester ran the clock down. O’Connor produced a long touch-finder up to the half-way line. With the clock ticking past the 80 minute mark, could Connacht come up with the last-gasp try that would end their torrid losing-streak? As Flavin set himself to throw, the rain suddenly started to fall, heavily. The black clouds had rolled in over the Sportsground as Freddie Burns put Gloucester 14-10 up with eight minutes left. Now, they burst all over Connacht as they tried in vain to pierce the Cherry and Whites’ defence. This nine match losing-streak is a black cloud over Connacht rugby at the moment and is threatening to break their season.

Connacht made a promising start as they looked for their first ever Heineken Cup win. An early turnover by Ethienne Reynecke led to Mark McCrea’s kick up the right being collected by Frank Murphy. With an overlap out to the left, Connacht butchered the opportunity when Niall O’Connor and a forward runner collided. Soon after, Dave McSharry bounced off Burns’ tackle and Connacht threatened out wide, but Kyle Tonetti’s offload to Gavin Duffy was knocked-on. Still, it was an encouraging start from Eric Elwood’s charges.

Burns was on target with his first penalty effort, from 45 metres out after Connacht were caught offside. The former England U20 outhalf had a strong wind behind him and easily cleared the posts. O’Connor had a chance to respond for Connacht when Dario Chistolini dropped his bind at a scrum. However, the Irish Wolfhounds international connected poorly with his strike and pushed the kickable penalty wide.

Burns’ next effort was from inside his own half and despite having the distance again, he was narrowly wide with the penalty. He made amends for that miss when Connacht were pinged for slowing the ball down after Burns had burst into their 22. Five minutes later, Burns had another chance from long distance after Ray Ofisa was pinged for hands in the ruck. The Gloucester outhalf hit the post to let Connacht off the hook as their penalty count continued to rise.

A lack of accuracy affected Connacht all afternoon and that was summed up in one passage of play on the 25 minute mark. Jim Hamilton gave away a penalty for a shove on Mike McCarthy and O’Connor opted to go for the corner. However, the outhalf’s kick failed to find the safety of touch and Olly Morgan kicked out of his 22. At the ensuing lineout, Connacht knocked on under no pressure, allowing Gloucester to come back downfield, eventually coming away with a try.

Captain Luke Narraway, Charlie Sharples and James Simpson-Daniel all made ground for the Cherry and Whites before scrumhalf Rory Lawson switched play back to the blindside and Samoan centre Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu offloaded intelligently in the tackle for Simpson-Daniel to finish from just a metre out on the left-hand touchline. Burns pulled his conversion to the left of the posts to leave the score 11-0 in the away team’s favour.

Connacht bounced back within minutes as O’Connor launched a huge garryowen. Lawson’s attempted catch went loose and captain Duffy was on to the bouncing ball in a flash. He stepped the tackle of fullback Morgan to dive over just to the left of the uprights. O’Connor added the simple conversion and Connacht were back to 11-7.

That score gave Connacht a visible lift as Muldoon broke from the restart and then McSharry made big yards with a bustling carry. McCrea then measured a beautiful kick into touch inside Gloucester’s 22 and suddenly it was Connacht taking the game to the visitors. McCarthy pinched Scott Lawson’s throw to the lineout and Connacht shifted the ball wide. The move broke down as McSharry knocked on but at least Connacht were showing the ability to threaten the Gloucester defence.

The half almost finished with a second Gloucester try as Henry Trinder dinked a kick over the Connacht defence. Sharples got to the bouncing ball behind Connacht’s try line, but the TMO ruled that he had touched the ball down on the dead ball line. Connacht went in at the break trailing by four points but with a strong wind behind them in the second half they could expect to put pressure on Gloucester.

The Gloucester pack, pictured in action against Toulouse, got on top in the second-half. Photo via Pierre-Selim

A positive start by Connacht after half-time led to O’Connor reducing the deficit with a penalty on the 22, slightly to the right of the posts. But the western province failed to build on that score as Gloucester got firmly on top in a low-scoring second-half. Gloucester enjoyed a period of sustained territory as they repeatedly went to their maul in an effort to grind down the Connacht resistance. With John Muldoon to the fore, Connacht repelled the Gloucester efforts but each time they got themselves into good positions, their lack of accuracy in basic skills let them down.

First, neat interplay between Tonetti and replacement Fetu’u Vainikolo was spoiled by a spilled ball. Then a Vainikolo knock-on from a Gloucester clearance allowed the Aviva Premiership side back into the Connacht half. Muldoon won a fantastic turnover to end that Gloucester attack and O’Connor gave Connacht good field position. Substitute hooker Adrian Flavin hit his man from the lineout and the Connacht maul went forward. But Eoin McKeon took the ball on and was turned over as he became isolated. Once again, a promising position wasted for Connacht.

When referee Neil Paterson caught Connacht offside under their own posts, Burns gave Gloucester a four-point lead with his third successful penalty. With the score out to 14-10, it meant Connacht would have to come up with a try to avoid their ninth defeat in a row. Muldoon’s turnover gave them one last chance but in truth it never looked likely.

Connacht now have to travel to Gloucester for the return leg of this double-header next weekend. They simply have to cut down on the amount of errors they are making, both individual and collective, if they are to end this awful streak before it comes to double figures. Unsuccessful lineouts, knock-ons, missed kicks and lack of composure in promising positions are killing Connacht. Apart from the 36-10 loss to Toulouse, Connacht are not losing these matches by big margins. If they can cut out even some of the errors then these margins will start to turn in their favour. That didn’t happen here and Connacht missed out on a good chance to finally record a win.