Jackson sparkles in Ulster win

first_img Jackson put a disappointing first 40 minutes behind him as he converted his own 57th-minute try and kicked two penalties to decide this first Irish interprovincial derby of the season. The sides scored a try apiece in the opening quarter hour, Ulster winger Michael Allen replying to a try from Dan Parks whose conversion separated them at the break – 7-5. Jackson pulled his conversion attempt across the posts and the youngster looked slightly unsettled as he kicked out on the full. From the resulting lineout, Connacht probed and won a penalty outside the 22 which Parks narrowly missed to the right. Henderson barrelled forward to get Ulster back on track and they teed up a penalty in a similar range to Parks’. However, Jackson, who only had a 56% kicking success rate from the past two rounds, slid his effort wide. The stinging early pace took its toll as further mistakes crept into the game approaching half-time, with a late knock-on in contact from Henderson ruining a promising attack for the Ulstermen. Ulster resumed with a changed back-line which included Paul Marshall and Craig Gilroy, back from a groin injury for his seasonal debut, and they almost struck for an early try – Payne slithered through only for Kieran Marmion and Gavin Duffy to hold him up past the line. Connacht needed even more bodies on the line to prevent an Ulster maul from getting over in the left corner, with a subsequent lineout steal ending a period of sustained pressure from the visitors. But Connacht’s penalty count spiralled towards double figures – Eoin Griffin the guilty party this time at a ruck – and Jackson mopped up with the three points for a 55th-minute lead. The 21-year-old then started and finished his province’s second try, sending a work-hungry Luke Marshall bursting away over halfway. Henshaw got back to bring him down but a quick recycle allowed Payne to put Jackson over to the right of the posts. With his confidence restored, Jackson added the extras and was narrowly wide with a monster penalty effort entering the final quarter. Connacht’s indiscipline at the breakdown soon gave Jackson a kickable penalty from closer in and he found the target to leave the hosts 11 points adrift with 16 minutes remaining. It was enough to ensure last season’s beaten finalists got back to winning ways, with Connacht’s frustrating night summed up by their failure to earn a losing bonus point at the death via an effective lineout maul and series of scrums. But Connacht were held scoreless for the remainder, with man-of-the-match Iain Henderson, who saw action in the second row and back row, and replacement Paul Marshall helping Mark Anscombe’s men find an extra gear in their territorially dominant third quarter. New Zealanders Craig Clarke and Jake Heenan made their first competitive starts for the hosts, who won here against Zebre in the first round. Connacht kept the ball in hand early on but suffered a couple of turnovers, with Ulster inviting Ireland internationals Henderson and Tom Court – two of the three changes in the pack – to test the home defence. The westerners answered back with a thundering tackle by captain Michael Swift on Court near halfway, and John Muldoon followed up with a between-the-legs pass to set Matt Healy loose on the left wing. There was precious little space in a frenetically-paced first quarter, but a brief chink of light saw Willie Faloon canter away from a ruck before Jared Payne brought the flanker down. Connacht kept up the pressure in the 22 and after good carries from Robbie Henshaw and Fionn Carr, Parks stepped off his right and evaded the grasp of front rowers Rob Herring and Declan Fitzpatrick on the way to the line. Parks turned it into a seven-pointer as he became the first player to score more than 1,500 league points. Wind-backed Ulster hit back within three minutes though, as Luke Marshall bludgeoned up close to the whitewash and Payne’s soft hands put Allen in at the left corner. Paddy Jackson plundered 13 second-half points to guide Ulster to an 18-7 win over provincial rivals Connacht at a windswept Sportsground. Press Associationlast_img read more

UW play-action bewilders NIU

first_imgJames White (center) attempts to slip by two NIU defenders Saturday, something he did often in gaining 126 total yards a score.[/media-credit]CHICAGO – Opposing defenses are going to have to learn not to turn their backs on Wisconsin’s passing game.Time and time again in Wisconsin’s (3-0) 49-7 win over Northern Illinois (1-2) Saturday, quarterback Russell Wilson feigned a handoff and connected downfield to an open teammate, taking advantage of the tendency of Northern Illinois’ safeties to fill the holes against Wisconsin’s well-known run game.Midway through Wisconsin’s second drive of the game, on a handoff to running back James White, wide receiver Jared Abbrederis was flagged for a block in the back when the Northern Illinois defender quickly turned his back on the wide receiver to cover the run.The play caught the eye of UW head coach Bret Bielema and his coaching staff, who then deduced that the play-action should leave targets open downfield.“That first penalty on Abby, the safeties were turning their shoulders right away to fill on the run game and we can’t put our hands on them – Abby did,” Bielema said. “But as soon as they do that, the counter-action to that is, they can’t see what our receivers are doing. Once they started doing that, that’s why I went to the play action.”Easily the best example of that strategy’s success came in the third quarter with the Badgers on the Huskies’ 9-yard line. Wilson faked the hand-off to running back Montee Ball, turned around and tossed a touchdown pass to Jacob Pedersen, who was standing upright and alone in the endzone.Nobody was within five yards of the redshirt sophomore by the time the ball landed in his hands.“That was nice,” Pedersen said. “We’ve been working on that all week. We saw teams bringing that safety down hard and everything and it popped and worked just the way we hoped it would.”Two of Wilson’s three touchdown passes stemmed from the play-action while several other chain-moving throws – including a 38-yard pass to Abbrederis and a 55-yard pass to Pedersen – did, as well.The long passes to Abbrederis and Pedersen were two other examples of the play-action’s effectiveness, as both plays saw the two Badgers slip by all three levels of NIU’s defense before making the grab.In completing 23-of-32 passes for 347 yards (and one interception) Wilson was able to hit seven targets – four of which gained at least 50 yards receiving.Abbrederis led the team in that category, with six catches for 83 yards, while Nick Toon scored two touchdowns on top of his five catches for 75 yards.Pedersen and fullback Bradie Ewing, meanwhile, combined for 115 yards on six receptions.“It’s a positive thing for our football team, that a lot of guys can make a lot of great plays,” Wilson said. “Just giving the ball to the right guy, that’s my job, to just facilitate the ball to the right guy at the right time and make plays when I need to. So that’s a positive thing and we’re doing a great job of doing that right now.”Wilson also combined the play-action with rolling out of the pocket – sometimes appearing by design and other times as improvisation.With Northern Illinois determined to stop Wisconsin’s running backs, Wilson’s ability to expand the game outside of the pocket – to throw or tuck and run – went a long way in helping UW gain a season-best 621 yards of total offense.Wilson gained an additional 37 yards on the ground on five attempts and avoided getting sacked on the day, leading his head coach to come away from Saturday’s win with the highest of praise.“Russell Wilson, he’s a guy that he knows the plan, he knows how to stick to it, but he can adapt very well,” Bielema said. “Very creative. Some of those plays that he got us out of with his feet were extraordinary.“He’s playing at a high, high level, if there’s somebody that’s better out there right now I’d like to see him compete.”last_img read more