Due to unforeseen circumstances I was back at Ravenhill sooner than I had imagined, I mean, I was back this season for the Zebre game.

The Terrace was sold out, (Crusaders supporters I’m reliably informed are responsible….apparently) and with another night watching on the box beckoning, a season ticket appeared like a star in the east.

With narry a flag protester in sight, I wandered in from Mount Merrion and sensed things had changed. Like coming home from holiday and finding the house slightly re-arranged there was something unsettling me. Rather like finding a cushion had been moved on the sofa.

I noticed the beer tent had rails up and down it like those pens you see in the cattle market in Forkhill. Thankfully I didn’t have to behave like a pantomime cow to get a drink, as I wasn’t drinking.

In the URSC tent I thought I had gained some new found but dubious celebrity as two pint sized schoolgirls virtually ran over me. Recovering my equi and librium all at once I glimpsed the urbane figure of Mr. Tommy Bowe standing in the background was directly responsible for the headlong charge and potential car crash .

At this point I bumped into the ubiquitous Mr. Fisher, formerly of Dromore, now domiciled in Greenisland, so he informed me. Greenisland is definitely not on my 1000 places to see before I die list. I do though have a semi emotional attachment to it, I was born there!

My memories of it are as minimal as my stature was then. I do recall it was where I made my first attempt to escape the confines of Northern Ireland, hazily remembering a lane alongside a railway track and an irate mother.

On the Terrace with the original Kimble I remarked it was difficult to get decent scoops for the blog these days, the URSC president averring and simultaneously declining to offer a scoop of any sort save a few observations on the match.

Captain Grumpy when he wasn’t singing in toneless fashion was dispensing mulled wine, which given the semi chill of the evening, was very acceptable.

As for the match there are a few serious reviews around so there is little point in me fulminating on the technicalities of where we went right in beating the Zebre.

Suffice to say we aren’t firing on all cylinders, even allowing for injuries and 6N disruption. I watched a recording of the match when I got home and as usual, television made it look a better than it was, standing amongst the terrace cognoscenti.

Later in the week the down south press were in full flight and valiantly talking up the ageing veteran Ronan O’Gara, despite evidence of a crisis of confidence. He was dispatched to the boondocks to play the Scarlets and prove his form which he conspicuosly failed to do. .

As word seeped out that the sainted Ronan might after all suffer the ignominy of a demotion from saint to pine warmer, the press corps almost as one did a 180 degree turn mid flight, to take on board the news that the unheralded Paddy Jackson might actually start against Scotland.

All that is except one man …

Conor George of the Irish Independent, evoked an image of O’Gara adopting a Tolkein posture as he would stoically take his place on the bench for the Scottish match.

It was hilarious stuff and out of sync with the general mood which recognised the normally austere Kidney pulling selectorial rabbits from a hat in the manner of a slightly unhinged Tommy Cooper.

Back at the Branch, combined injuries, Ireland call-ups and a stuttering confidence ensured that Ulster would struggle away to the form team of the moment Glasgow.

The 6N can’t finish soon enough for Ulster.

I am just returned from watching Ireland in a near deserted pub and playing like that will ensure near desertion from the pub when Ireland are playing.

There are many reasons Ireland lost on Sunday and not all of them can be laid at the door of Ulster players although undoubtedly elements in the Southern press will endeavour to do so.

First of all Paddy Jackson failed to take his kicks and Ireland lost momentum and points as a result. More critically they failed to capitalise on early gilt edged chances through the deity O’D not passing to Earls and then Earls ran away from the deity.

Luke Marshall conspired to muck up a chance to put Gilroy in at the corner whilst Rory Best’s lineout throwing wasn’t good first half, denying Ireland further chances to score.

Somehow Best failed to miss his man in the second half so one must assume that whatever was amiss in the first was corrected in the second. Meanwhile the usual 55 minute subs came on and one was left scratching the head as to their purpose.

Tolkien devotee ROG was brought on to take kicks and did indeed take one which went awry and resulted in a Scottish turnover rather than a 3 pointer at the posts down the other end.

On another day Ireland could have been out of sight by half time.

I can’t get too excited about Ireland losing, Ulster’s form is more worrying but I can blame some of that on the Declan effect.

Ultimately I’ll be glad to get the 6N out of the way and focus on the Heineken and domestic rugby.

At least the Irish weemin are showing how it’s done.

Since the Ireland match I have been observing the Irish press in how they deal with Ireland’s weekend horribilus. They are like a wave machine and create waves one way and then another depending on what the prevailing mood amongst the Southern population is and how it will sell papers.

Thus Paddy Jackson, Rory Best and Tom Court have chiefly received much of the flak ranging from Paddy, not his fault he was picked but … to Tom Court being abject in the scrums.

The truth lies somewhere in between and with green mist clearing off the goggles there has been a sea change as wiser council has prevailed. Doubtless there are more turns than finding your way round a Cluedo board still to go before a sensible consensus is arrived at.

The latest thoughts are Jackson didn’t play all that badly despite missing the kicks. Rory Best had a few missed throws but the calling of the lineouts leave something to be desired. Was Tom Court really responsible for all those creaking Irish scrums, yes if you are to believe some Irish fans and journos.

Personally I have almost lost the will to live regarding it all and it’s only Wednesday. The nadir was a brief visit to Munsterfans where there was detailed analysis of whether Keith Earls should have passed to BOD.

If that was the ‘Z’ part of the equation, the ‘X’ factor was whether his deity had the legs to outrun Scottish defenders who were so fast they could eat a Macdonalds before gobbling BOD himself.

Personally I left the raging debate quietly slipping out from whence I had come unnoticed and still with my marbles intact.


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