ULSTER BEAT CONNACHT 13-10 on St. Stephen’s Day in a match that Pat Lam’s westerners might have felt they should have taken more from.
Certain periods of the encounter were low on quality as errors came from both teams, but Craig Gilroy’s first-half try was a major highlight.
Following a strong maul from the Ulster forwards, Gilroy took an excellent inside pass from Paddy Jackson to dart outside Connacht hooker Tom McCartney. From there, Gilroy’s footwork showed up strongly as he pirouetted out of the tackle attempts of Matt Healy and Darragh Leader.
Keep an eye out for the ‘decoy’ line of Stuart Olding ahead of the ball for Ulster. It’s the centre’s involvement that removes Connacht out-half Jack Carty from the defensive line and opens up space for Gilroy to burst into.
A clever line to lure in a potential tackler or a blatant bit of blocking off the ball? We’ll leave it up to you to decide that, but either way it’s something that is currently tolerated in the game, and in that sense it’s a job superbly done by Olding.
Thereafter, Gilroy’s finish is excellent, rewarding the strong mauling effort from this forwards, Jackson’s deft pass and Olding’s work off the ball. While the final tackle attempts are admittedly weak, Gilroy’s pirouettes remain impressive.
It’s a skill the Ireland international wing has always possessed, and an important part of his attacking armoury. Rare is the match where we don’t see Gilroy spinning out of a tackle or at least making it a more favourable collision with a pirouette.
Munster wing Ian Dowling was a former master of the skill, but what exactly goes into improving it? We asked Gilroy around this time last year, when he told us the pirouette is simply a technique that comes to him instinctively.
Gilroy dives over at Ravenhill on Friday night. Source: Presseye/Darren Kidd/INPHO
“I haven’t worked on it at all,” said Gilroy. “It’s just something that happens, it comes naturally. I don’t think I’ve ever been on the training paddock and said, ‘Right, I’m gonna do a few spins here.’ It just seems to happen.
“I played a lot of soccer and GAA when I was younger, and just those sort of different movements help.
The lesson for us all? A varied sporting background can only be a good thing. Connacht have reason to curse Gilroy’s GAA days.
Half-term report: Ulster must escape Champions Cup cloudHoward learning quickly after de Villiers and Smal set up Munster switch