Manu Tuilagi smashes Tom Williams

Top14 player imposter!

JDV smashed by Benoit August

The Northampton Saints 30m scrum!

Bastareaud huge hit on Rory Lamont

All Blacks skills - Pt 2 In the backyard

Trinh-Duc sets up Harinordoquy try

Wales vs England 1999

Greg Holmes great hit on Francois Louw

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Ross Skeate Diary - So close, yet so far

Following the epic Top 14 semi final against Clermont, Toulon's Ross Skeate gives us a report-back on what it was like to come up second in such an incredibly close game of rugby. The Challenge Cup final against Cardiff Blues is next though.

We've come so far, only to stumble at the final hurdle! What a magic season, only to run out of fairy dust when we needed it most. How close was it, running into extra time and nearly coming away with the victory via Gabi Lovobalvu's try attempt at the death? How amazing would it have been to come from behind fighting a 10-point deficit? How amazing would it be to be preparing for a Top 14 final?

Sadly it was not to be though, and admittedly it was our own errors that let us down on the day. Some people may highlight the refereeing decisions or a few turns of luck that went against us (that freakish drop kick of Brock James comes to mind). But for me it was our own mistakes, our own lack of execution of our first phase that let us down and a few decision-making errors. But mainly our first phase problems.

To win championships, a team needs to have certain facets to their game. Somewhat bland to be sure but extremely important. Winning things like the World Cup for example, needs a completely watertight first phase, backed up by an excellent defence and kicking game. Some of these things are not what we excelled at during our semi clash.

That’s why sides such as the Boks and the Bulls have done so well in recent times, namely because of a powerful pack guaranteeing their backline quality ball on the front foot and the boot of the flyhalves taking control of the game afterwards.

Even the successful 2003 World Cup Winning English team had these very qualities in spades. Often it is the side that plays the least but controls the game the best through their clinical execution that translates into success, even though they do cop a little criticism in the process. If you win though, who honestly cares?

Fighting back to 22-all at fulltime was a huge achievement in the context of the game. Jonny’s penalty to get us there was amazing and just the reason that we signed him. Extra time though was gut-wrenching and we just couldn’t take our chance at the end.

But although it was our own mistakes, it was also our fiery ambition that nearly meant the game was ours despite the mistakes we made. Had we been bested soundly by a better side, I would have more reservations about the experience. Had we been completely out of our depth and been easily beaten by the Clermont side, which has not only been together for a number of years but made it to numerous semi-finals together, I would be scratching my head now.

But happily that was not the case, our mistakes and our failings on the day are the type that can be rectified and polished with enough experience together and enough maturity as a team. And because we are so fresh to each other, these things will follow quicker than I expect.

Certainly we didn't play semi-final rugby, or at least not the type of semi-final rugby that catapults teams into finals. But we did fight tooth and nail for every inch on that field. I think Clermont can count themselves lucky in some ways.

There was a noticeable sigh of relief breathed by all there players after the encounter, but they can also feel that they deserved the victory in the way that they used their experience and attention to details to do what they needed to. At the end of the day they are the ones heading to the final.

I am proud of the season we have put together up until this point but it’s not over yet with the Final of the Challenge Cup this Sunday against the Cardiff Blues.

But what we have achieved as a team after assembling as a unit for our first season, is so encouraging for what lies ahead for this group! The bond that the team shows off the field, meals together and other social high-jinks the norm, is so evident on it. It showed up at every turn as we fought the deficit and tackled and played for one another and glory.

So onwards and upwards and we’ve been given another chance as towards greater things we strive. Every player in our squad is focused on winning this weekend's final, using what lessons we learnt last weekend to our benefit.

After getting that close last week – we’re craving a little silverware on the Var.

See you all soon.

Having played for Western Province, the Stormers, the Emerging Springboks, the Barbarians, and Toulon in the Top 14, Ross has gathered a wealth of experience both on and off the pitch. Step inside his world by visiting his excellent website, RossSkeate.com, and following him on Twitter @RossSkeate.



  • Cheers Skeato!!!

    By Blogger Alexander, at May 20, 2010 2:17 pm  

  • Second!

    By Blogger Alexander, at May 20, 2010 2:17 pm  

  • great read, really felt for you guys in what looked like an epic match. good luck against cardiff!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at May 20, 2010 6:52 pm  

  • Good one Ross. That game was nuts. Against Cardiff will be interesting. Toulon probably looking like favourites at this stage I guess?

    By Anonymous FrankyH, at May 20, 2010 7:23 pm  

  • the R.D thought police strike again...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at May 20, 2010 8:43 pm  

  • ^^^^ what do you mean?

    By Anonymous Phil, at May 20, 2010 9:49 pm  

  • they keep deleting comments where people are just expressing an opinion. they might as well get rid of comments if they are going to keep doing this its a sham.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at May 20, 2010 9:54 pm  

  • Haha.. go to bed please troll. Read the guidelines again, then decide if what you're saying (while hiding behind an anonymous nick) is respectful enough to stay up.

    Good read.

    By Anonymous Shaft, at May 20, 2010 10:05 pm  

  • No one's fault or anything (it was a great try-saving tackle from Canale - like Parra's in the 65th minute), but I wondered if Lovobalavu could've got the offload to Skeate in the 99th minute, he would've crossed over for a try for sure.

    No matter - it's a feat in of itself to get to the semis. And an awesome match, to boot.

    It's weird, but I think what I like about these posts how well Skeate can write - it makes the article interesting, especially when compared to, say, an interview with tight-lipped Sebastien Chabal.

    By Anonymous miner, at May 20, 2010 10:08 pm  

  • If that's true, anonymous, then I'm glad RD is actually deleting stupid comments; I hope they can keep it up.

    By Anonymous Rick, at May 20, 2010 10:13 pm  

  • Anonymous - maybe RD would be more inclined to leave your comments in if you used a name? You could just make one up if you don't want to use your real name, but it makes it easier to interact with comments.
    With respect to this particular blog, I'm guessing that RD is keen to keep Ross on board with his regular posts, and given that he may well read the comments anything too negative might make the big man just decide to stop submitting diary entries. Just relax and enjoy the site.

    By Anonymous Phil, at May 20, 2010 11:51 pm  

  • I was in Saint Etienne last saturday and I'll be at VélMayol :) on sunday, shouting and pushing behind you.

    Go, go and get the silverware, for you and your fantastic season and also because it'll be Tana's last game with us. As a gift to thank him for all he did for our club.

    By Blogger Unebrindille, at May 21, 2010 12:01 am  

  • I for one am glad RD are deleting all the comments from ignorant fools who love spread negativity. Keep your prejudices to yourselves and leave the rugby sites to true fans who enjoy rugby from all countries and from all nationalities!!!!

    By Blogger Jason, at May 21, 2010 9:28 am  

  • The best game of the year by far! I will be there for Le Pilou-Pilou tomorrow!

    By Anonymous Rob, at May 22, 2010 11:16 pm  

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