Thursday 20 June 2019

Billy Keane: 'Holland's Heist enters folklore as 'baste' Billy saves season'

 

Billy Holland had plenty to smile about after his late line-out steal helped close out a narrow Munster victory against Exeter. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Billy Holland had plenty to smile about after his late line-out steal helped close out a narrow Munster victory against Exeter. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

Exeter Chiefs, leaders of the English Premiership, are famed for their clinical execution in the red zone. Late on, the Chiefs were awarded a lineout close to the Munster line.

Exeter had scored their try from such a position in the first half. They had also scored in the first game, over in Sandy Park, from a close-in maul.

The colourful Chiefs supporters were singing their supposedly Native American war chant, which I greatly suspect was specially adapted for a cowboy picture by a man who never set foot on the Great Plains.

The hopelessly out-numbered Exeter fans were seldom out-cheered and never out-sung.

The Munster fans were silent, with nerves. If Exeter had scored a converted try at that point, well then Munster might end the game outside bonus-point territory and the Chiefs would go through to the quarter-finals.

Billy Holland is a student of lineout play. He was a replacement but plays in nearly every game. Holland ran on at full speed. Usually second-rows lumber on to limber up. It takes big men that bit longer to pick out the bench splinters. Holland rushed in to make sure he was in time to help set up the defensive lineout.

Maul

Billy took up a spot in the middle. To get the ball to the back Exeter would have to go through the middle. Exeter knew that if they threw long, they could steer the subsequent driving maul away from the touchline and out in to open field, nearer the posts.

There has been much debate lately about spying in sport. Do you remember a few years ago when a Donegal man was found up a tree overlooking a Kerry training session in Fitzgerald Stadium?

And then there was the finding of the Gloucester playbook in the back seat of a Limerick taxi on the eve of the Miracle Match in 2003, even though there is no evidence the notes were seen by Munster.

A bug was found in the All Blacks' dressing-room in Sydney in 2016. Last week Eddie Jones admitted spying, yet he is still at large.

Just the other day Leeds United sent agents to a Derby training session. There are more spies working out of Elland Road than the Kremlin.

The English are noted for spying. Bookie Eric Browne turns on the taps while whispering tips at Cheltenham, in case of bugging by the spy masters in the nearby MI5 HQ.

But our Billy is no spy. He is a lineout student who gives hours over to studying throws. His dad before him was a lineout man.

Jerry Holland played with Munster, managed Munster and was capped by Ireland. Billy didn't lick it up off the stones. I can imagine the young Billy studying away up in his room when Jerry comes in and says "Son, the dinner is ready."

"I'll be down in a minute, Dad. I'm just finishing the chapter on Keith Wood."

Billy cracked the code, but the intercept needed perfect synchrony from the lifter and the jumper. Exeter had been perfect all day in the lineout.

The throw was near-perfect, but Holland jumped so high a passing pilot en route to Shannon might well have asked his sidekick, "is it a man or is it a bird?" This was a fingertip catch.

The man sitting immediately behind the press box shouted out "Holland you baste", which has nothing to do with the moistening of the turkey in her own juices.

'Baste', or more accurately 'bayshte', is Munster for beast and there is no higher compliment.

Munster cleared their lines and Exeter didn't get another big chance for the rest of the game against a defence that was as forbidding as the Berlin Wall before they knocked it down.

The high catch was a planned miracle and will now find a place in the folklore of final group games. I would respectfully suggest the catch should henceforth be known as Holland's Heist.

This was the turning point and the beginning of a series of events that won the game.

Just a few minutes after Holland's Heist the same man forced a turnover when he knocked the ball from a rushing Exeter player. Holland lost his bearings such was the ferocity of the big hit, and he spun around like a dog looking for his tail. But the ball ended up in Munster hands.

Young Joey Carbery wiped away the mistakes of the day when he nailed the winning kick.

Forcefulness

Munster had found a way and barely won against an Exeter team that was never short of courage or forcefulness but lacked guile.

Holland was lucky and unlucky enough to play with some of the greatest locks in the history of the game.

For a while he was fourth choice at Munster. There were big-money offers to go to England but Billy's answer was "I love Munster and love Irish rugby and everything it represents."

Billy went on to play for Ireland, just like his dad, and on Saturday night his loyalty and study were again rewarded.

Billy Holland, the lineout nerd, turned a walk-on part into a starring role and saved Munster's season.

Irish Independent

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