Jonny May went through a roller-coaster of emotions during England’s win over Ireland last Saturday. A first home cap at Twickenham and just missing out on a maiden international try were at opposite ends of the spectrum, but the twenty-three year old’s overriding emotion was one of delight at being on the winning side at the final whistle.
“I gave it everything and I wanted to win at all costs,” he said. “I know you want to win every game but those games mean so much when the scoreline is so close. The atmosphere was amazing, especially in the last twenty minutes when we were hanging on for the win.”
It does not take me too long to ask about the “try that never was”. Had the ball been grounded it would have been the perfect start for England, after just a few minutes of what was always going to be a close encounter. Initially May was unaware that the ball had been knocked from his hand in the process of crossing the line and was surprised that he had not scored.
“I hadn’t seen him [Connor Murray] and that’s why I thought I had scored it but obviously on the replay he arrives in the last second and knocks it out of my hand.
“I did all the hard work. I beat the last defender, got over the line and was just putting it down. I didn’t drop it, I was in the clear, but lesson learned – I have to look after the ball better. It would have been great to score at Twickenham but hopefully I’ll get another opportunity.”
Several pundits and commentators were critical of May for not scoring the try, but luckily the man himself was not overly critical of what happened and he was pleased with the way he reacted.
“It could have easily got in my head and affected my game but I was really pleased with the way I performed. It was still good initial work to get over the line and I just wanted to give everything for the team for the rest of the match.”
It has taken May, who in 2007 spent time at the academy of Super Rugby side the Brumbies in Australia, a couple of years to become an England regular. He toured South Africa in 2012 but was not picked for any of the three test matches and had to wait another twelve months before finally winning his first cap in Argentina last summer.
Still, it is a meteoric rise for a player who was part of Hartpury College’s team that won the RFU Intermediate Cup and climbed the south west leagues of English rugby a few years back. What does he make of the experience of being part of the national squad?
“I’m really enjoying it. I’ve definitely proved to myself that I can handle it. It’s a huge test and you’ve got to believe in yourself and play the way you want to play. I haven’t gone into my shell in any game.”
England’s backline are improving, with the likes of Danny Care and Mike Brown, who seems to have a stranglehold on England man of the match awards at the moment, in particular leading the side with their attacking play. But May is adamant that they will need to work even harder if they are to score more tries.
“We’re playing against international defences and it’s not easy to score tries. The stat before the Scotland game was that only one try had been scored in Murrayfield in England – Scotland ties in the last ten years. At international level your attack needs to be firing to break down defences.”
May talks impressively and despite the competition he will face when Marland Yarde, Christian Wade and Ben Foden return from injury, and Chris Ashton rediscovers his international form from a few years ago, we will undoubtedly see a great deal more of him on the international stage in the next few years. Likely with a few tries to his name.
By Alastair Pickering (founder of @FollowRugbySite)
Get behind-the-scenes news from Jonny May and his England team-mates with Inside Line, the weekly show from O2 in partnership with England Rugby, at www.O2InsideLine.com
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images