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Monday Morning Quarterback View

The worst defensive performance of the Booth era a week ago was followed up by one of the best on Saturday. In his press conference, Booth seemed to suggest the problem did not lie with the defensive system and the improvement was essentially down to an improvement in attitude and personnel.

The Ulster onslaught in the opening twenty-five minutes was even more intense than we faced in Galway, but this time there were no easy avenues through our outside channels, as communication, line speed and tackling technique were transformed.

Only once were we broken when a harsh but justifiable penalty try was awarded. Yellow cards and penalty tries are happening too often for Luke Morgan. He has to learn to trust his inside defence more and keep his arms under control, because the way the game is now officiated, however harsh it appears, if an arm is left out and the ball hits it, you are going to be in trouble. Despite that lapse, Morgan redeemed himself in the final minutes by making a very difficult catch and mark under huge pressure; when we had made heavy weather of closing the game out by failing to clear our lines with a soft charge down followed by a soft turnover, both in our own 22.

The defensive efforts in the first parts of both halves were outstanding. The scrum and driving line out then iced the victory as the pack and replacements got on top of their counterparts in the set piece and gradually took away their breakdown dominance, which had been impressive during their opening onslaught.

The attack remains limited, and we don't look like a side that can score many tries, but we can play with physicality and force the opposition into mistakes and that has been good enough to go five from seven, which at the start of the season with several key players out with long term injuries, we would gladly have taken.

The loss of Max Nagy to a dislocated elbow could be keenly felt over the next few fixtures, as he has looked by far the best solution to one of our biggest problem positions. Selection for the European games against two of the thoroughbred sides of the competition will be interesting. It is essential to remember the lessons of the Sharks defeat, when the energy is not always there if you ask too much of the same group of players over consecutive weeks. Keeping the group fresh across a long block of fixtures with critical Christmas derbies, which are likely to be vital to our finishing position, will be a big challenge for the coaching group. The balanced integration of explosive, athletic, returning players like Protheroe, Giles, Lake, and Morgan in the lead up to Christmas could certainly give our attack more potency and will be very important to the squad being able to kick on from here.

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