Mike Tyson's style was one of the most predictable in boxing. He was perhaps the greatest proponent of the 'peek-a-boo' stance, which saw his hands relax so that the fist was at nose level. You know it was going to happen, yet you couldn't stop the inevitable knock-out that soon followed. He'd entice his opponent to commit, then deliver the goodbye blow. His ability overcame his opponents knowledge of what was about to happen; he was just that good.
Keith Earls has a similar ability. He assumes a stance, hunching down low and ball delicately balanced between two hands, and it is obvious what is about to happen. This doesn't mean defenses can stop it. They try read his step or anticipate his take-off and repeatedly fail; he is just that good.
And your Man of the Match is......@KEITHEARLS87! pic.twitter.com/tJBy6T5blx
— Munster Rugby (@Munsterrugby) January 21, 2018
Today Earls took a really nasty knock with had the commentators pondering whether he would continue at all. 30 seconds later he had crossed the try line for Munster's opening try. His pace on the outside is unmatchable and the Limerick man assumed excellent body position to glide through.
First try for Munster's Keith Earls at Thomond Park against French side Castres Olympique with a #ChampionsCup quarter-final place at stake.
Munster 13 - 3 Castres#MunsterRugby #MUNvCAS pic.twitter.com/lRVNhb6Ulb
— Rob Cross ?? ?? (@RobCross247) January 21, 2018
The best play of the game came in the second-half, in what proved to be his final act of the day. Earls caught a kick wide on the line and took stock of the mass of Castres bodies slowly drifting towards him. Away he went, the same little shuttle we are so used to sending him clear of Yannick Caballero's desperate clutches. Caballero was enticed to commit, and Earls blitzed him.
The next passage is where you see Earls true ability. Early on he spots Zebo's excellent support line. Instead of taking on the next defender, knowing he has a clear-out in the bank behind him, he fixes him with that smart shuttle. On oncoming Zebo is set loose and Earls ships a big hit but it doesn't matter, Munster are on their way to a bonus point.
The fact that Earls, who is now 30-years-old, is just back from a hamstring tear makes his last two performances all the more impressive. The man has been on fire and peaking with the Six Nations approaching.
Today he took some huge punishment yet repeatedly came back for more, firm in the knowledge his blows hurt more than his opponents. Earls' physicality has been called into question before he hits where it hurts most, the scoreboard. It's becoming a theme, he got similar praise last week.
Keith Earls... go up at get your MOTM.. different gravy#oldschoolwithnewwheels
— Ronan O Gara (@RonanOGara10) January 14, 2018
Even the lord of the dance himself was impressed.
Earls is one of the few who can step off either foot. He attacks the turf, not the tackler. He ensures that Munster always have an available play to run that is proven to be effective; get the ball to Keith Earls.
Right now, the Munster winger is in the form of his life. By no means the biggest, but certainly the baddest man in Irish rugby.