Buckland: London Irish team spirit saved meBy Alan Manicom
January 21, 2011
James Buckland claims the exceptional team spirit that saved him from being cast as a villain will prevent London Irish from ending the season as failures.
The Exiles hooker is confident the club are close to rediscovering their excellent early-season form after ending a 10-match losing streak with a hard-earned 24-12 win over Ospreys in the Heineken Cup at Madejski Stadium last Sunday.
But he admits that he feared the worst when he was sinbinned for a professional foul under the posts as Ospreys laid siege to the Irish line with nine minutes to go.
Exiles were 21-12 ahead and defending like tigers when Buckland stepped through a ruck and kicked the ball.
Referee George Clancy allowed play to go on until the next stoppage and then issued a yellow card, reducing Irish to 14 men.
Buckland recalled: “I was worried. I thought ‘if we don’t win this now it is P45 time’.
“I hate to say I would do the same thing again, but Ospreys were camped on our line for a long time and going through phases, building pressure. Maybe the ref just thought ‘No, this is too much’. I felt I had every right to go through the ruck and go for the ball. But the ref saw it differently, so fair enough.
“I got my yellow card because it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It could have been a number of players in that period of play. But when we cleared that phase it was a relief.”
Irish were forced to take off flanker Steffon Armitage as Brian Blaney came on to replace Buckland in the front row for the last nine minutes.
And Buckland revealed: “I said to Blanes. ‘Thanks. You got me off the hook there’.
“It is not easy for a hooker to come off the bench and go into that sort of scenario when the scrum is on your line and you need to secure lineout ball to control the rest of the game.
“I have been in his position and there is a lot of pressure being thrown into the fire like that. But he did really well.”
Replacement fly-half Ryan Lamb sent over a terrific touchline penalty to seal victory and Buckland laughed: “I did joke with Catty (assistant coach Mike Catt) that we play better with 14 men. It’s not something I would have said had we lost!”
Buckland added: “I was really pleased for all the players, management and coaches that we’d got a win.
“All the boys that weren’t in the 23 were down on the bench and the spirit has been first class during the 10 weeks we have been on the wrong end of the results.
“That is a testament to the character of the players the coaches have recruited. We have come out of it still tight as a unit and we are all pulling in the right direction.”
Irish play Munster at Thomond Park in their final Heineken Cup pool game tomorrow, knowing that their European adventure is all but over, but Buckland declared: “You want to play in the big games, regardless of what is at stake. We will try to back up our performance.”