Will you agree with Jacob Whitehead’s picks of the winger’s best scores?
Jonny May’s Top Five Tries
Jonny May’s pace ignited a slow weekend of rugby, the wing scoring one of the great Twickenham tries in England’s 18-7 win over Ireland in the Autumn Nations Cup. The Gloucester flyer is no stranger to spectacular scores, as this countdown of his top five touchdowns will show.
But first, a quick round-up of the tries that narrowly missed out. Narrowing May’s best tries down to only a top five is almost like asking Picasso to paint a canvas using only primary colours, so here are a few honourable mentions.
I could have picked this try against France in 2019, in which May outruns Morgan Parra and Damian Penaud so easily that he looks like a greyhound let loose at a kindergarten sports day or an F1 car at a Renault Clio convention.
There’s also a double on England’s 2018 tour of South Africa, the series in which he really cemented his place in England’s first-choice XV – a John Bentley-esque swerving score on the Highveld in the dying moments of the first Test and the winning try from Danny Cipriani’s cross-field kick in the third clash, dotting-down a ball he had no right to reach.
Yet there are five better, so let the countdown begin…
5. 2017, v Exeter
One thing you’ll notice about these tries is that Jonny May has a habit of making very good defenders look very very silly. Jack Nowell is probably the best defensive winger in the country – watching him tackle reminds you of why Eddie Jones has spoken of playing him in the back row.
Not on this occasion. Gloucester were loitering with intent in the Exeter 22, when Cipriani spun out a typically fizzing pass to May, giving his wing a one-on-one chance against Nowell.
May has a reputation as a joker off the pitch, happy to play the circus clown, but here he more resembled a jack-in-the-box – springing out to the left to give Nowell a nasty surprise.
The Exeter man was caught on his heels, falling over like a cartoon character on a banana as May whizzed round the outside, leaving Nowell crocked on the floor, hoping that Eddie Jones has forgotten to set his TV to record that day.
It was the final try of May’s first stint at Gloucester, and what a way to sign off.
4. 2020, v France
I’m cheating here slightly by picking two, but they really are the same tries cooked two ways. On both occasions May picked the ball up wide on the right with very little on, but single-handedly dragged England back into a game they had very little business being alive in.
The first saw May take a Ben Youngs pass down the blindside, chipping the ball over Anthony Bouthier with the delicacy of a rose, before winning the race to it with the sharpness of a thorn, beating Teddy Thomas to the white line. The entire process from May first catching the ball to touching it down took only six seconds.
Five minutes later and May was in that position again. He slowed for a moment, possibly convincing Vincent Rattez he was going to kick once more, before taking the outside space left to him, burning past Romain Ntamack. With the ease of an expert skier slaloming down a red run May sidestepped Thomas and Bouthier, scoring his second to bring England back to within touching distance at 24-14.
These tries proved crucial – it was the losing bonus point eventually earned that day in Paris that secured England the Six Nations title eight months later.
3. 2014, v Worcester
With Gloucester playing out from their own line, May showed his coast-to-coast speed, performing the Gumball Rally across the Sixways turf. It was a busy game for May – he’d score two and be yellow-carded.
Faced with the rather pacey Josh Drauniniu, May’s diagonal seemed to be covered almost all the way, until it suddenly wasn’t and a yawning chasm opened up in front of him.
There was still work to do, but May made his in-and-out look as simple as picking up a burger at a drive-thru, pointing to the heavens before even crossing the line like prime Chris Ashton.
It’s quite entertaining to watch the cameraman struggle to keep up with the long-limbed flyer.
2. 2014, v New Zealand
How many of us have imagined scoring our debut Test try against New Zealand at Twickenham? Was it a screamer? Was it just me? May lived out this fantasy – and we picked this score at one of the greatest tries of the 2010s for our 60th anniversary.
Remember that thing about making great players look stupid? May goes straight in between the two Smiths, Ben and Conrad, the latter looking back with such alarm that you’d have thought May had burgled his two Rugby World Cup medals.
Israel Dagg’s positioning looked perfect, but somehow, improbably yet easily, May rounds him on the outside, making the jet-heeled full-back look more like a dolt than Usain Bolt.
1. 2020, v Ireland
We’ve just heard about May’s first England try… but his best has to be his most recent, Saturday’s tour de force against the Irish. It looks like a career highlight montage condensed into a single score – the in-and-out, the skip, the chip, the sheer grass-singeing pace.
It begins 90 metres out, with May’s sidestep on Chris Farrell. Bundee Aki makes a forlorn diving attempt to reach him, but the wing had already purred through the space like a sports car changing lanes.
A roadblock stood in front of him, but May went airborne, chipping the ball over Hugo Keenan to take the Ireland full-back out of the game. Jamison Gibson Park had the inside line to gather, but you just knew he wouldn’t get there first. The England man skipped out of the scrum-half’s clutches as if he was playing hopscotch and his fly-hack bounced up perfectly into his waiting arms.
The only moment that lacked grace was his final flop onto the ground – but with more defenders beaten than there were fans in the ground I think he can be forgiven.
All that remains is to see if May can beat Rory Underwood’s England try-scoring record of 49 – and to wonder if he will add another scorcher to this list. Who would bet against him?
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