Sunday, December 28, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
I was in denial up to now, thinking that the draw with Cardiff and defeats to Munster, Connacht and Glasgow were all blips which didn’t really matter because, as my name for it suggests, the League itself was meaningless.
Last night, however, my eyes were opened, and finally I think I can see where the problem lies.
From this kickoff, it looked like Michael Cheika had done everything right. Leinster were fired up, the backs were hitting good lines, it looked to all intents and purposes like a five-point haul was on the cards, especially when Girvan Dempsey slapped down the opening try.
And let me be the first to congratulate Jonny Sexton for his magnificent conversion from out wide. It was a kick Ronan O’Gara would be proud of.
Then for a short while after that score, we seemed to go a little flat. I was concerned.
But then I was convinced my worries were over when a series of drives, supporting and offloads led to Sexton crossing for a magnificent second score. Two tries in the first half, a poor opposition, everything was looking good.
And then it started again.
Sexton missed a conversion which was much easier than the first one.
From that moment to the final whistle, we couldn’t get phases going, we couldn’t throw into line-outs, we couldn’t scrum properly, we couldn’t catch high balls, we couldn’t kick tactically OR for points.
I’m not even sure how well our defence really played since our opponents were so average that I couldn’t be sure if they would have managed to cross our line in any circumstance.
So basically, we went into the match in the right frame of mind, yet we couldn’t sustain that level for eighty minutes. What can we put that down to?
You think I’m going to blame Sexton again, don’t you?
Well I’m not – I put our failure down to three words – LACK OF LEADERSHIP.
I suppose the obvious place to point the finger would be scrum half Chris Whittaker, since he was captain on the night, and you could hardly say he led from the front.
But it was all throughout the team, and each and every one of these players has shown this season they can do it. All the things I have listed above have been seen by Les Bleus this season, so we know they have the ability, just not the consistency it seems.
The moment that capped it all was Brian O’Driscoll’s inexplicable decision to kick the penalty himself in the dying minutes when there was plenty of time for the more polished Contepomi to find the line and give us one last chance to pinch it.
Right now, despite the fact that we creamed London Wasps back in October, I firmly believe that there is no way this Leinster squad can lift the Heineken Cup.
I guess it’s up to them to go to Twickenham in mid-January and prove me wrong.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Leinster had one goal and one goal only in this match as far as I was concerned, and that was to secure the bonus point. Therefore, they failed, and the aforementioned stat points the way to explaining the failure.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
[update added Sep 18 2013]
Archive time here on HoR…every Wednesday we look back to a Leinster/Ireland match against our upcoming opposition.
There’s a perception that the Glasgow Warriors only “got good” last season but I’d put forward an argument that they have been almost as much of a bogey team for Leinster as the Ospreys have over the years, albeit without ever beating us in a match that really “mattered”.
You can also see in this writeup from 2008 that I had about as much respect for the Celtic League as the English & French clubs do today! The difference being, I believe the league has become much more meaningful in the time period since then.
You can also see back in the early days of this blog I wasn’t so keen to write much when Leinster lost! 350 words is pretty pathetic!!!
With minutes remaining, there was yet another Leinster attacking move which progressed steadily into the Glasgow 22.
They moved through the phases until a promising passing sequence through the backline ended up with a stray pass arriving in front of Shane Horgan down around his bootlaces which he proceeded to knock-on.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
…and overall it was a mesmerising display from Sexton – he had the French at his mercy on the day, running his back line like finely-tuned machine for the entire match, and clearly was the man of the match in the 52-0 drubbing which sealed the Seven Nations Championship for Ireland.
When asked afterwards what inspired him to this level of world domination, he told reporters that it was the invaluable experience he gained playing for Leinster against Munster way back in 2008 that surely did the trick…
Friday, September 19, 2008
Anyone reading this blog is going to think I’m an awful moan before this season is out.
Friday, September 12, 2008
There really isn’t a whole lot you can say about a match like this – the scoreline more or less says it all.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
Monday, September 01, 2008
It’s a wet miserable Saturday morning here in Dublin, so there’s not much else to do but sit in and watch Southern hemisphere rugby.
As the All Blacks look to exact some retribution on the Springboks for their having the audacity to snatch the World Cup from them last year, I begin to wonder what the next European season has to offer, and only one thing springs to mind.
Since he burst onto the scene in 2000 with his famous hat-trick in Paris, we have all been waiting for Brian O’Driscoll to assume the mantle his potential demanded – the world’s greatest player. And of course, with consistent Six Nations performances (albeit with limited success), he was given the ultimate accolade when he was named captain of the touring Lions in 2005.
Captain! Of the bloody LIONS!!! It really doesn’t get better than that, does it?
Enter Tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu.
Since the infamous spear tackle in Christchurch, we have seen the odd flash of brilliance from O’Driscoll; a blistering sprint for a try here, a pinpoint crossfield pass there, and now and then what I consider his trademark, a try-stopping diving tackle out of nowhere rarely seen anywhere on the globe.
But can we say that we have seen him maximise his true potential? If we had been told back in 2000 that his achievements would amount to the Lions captaincy, a few Triple Crowns and a Meaningless League crown, would that have been enough?
I guess it challenges us to determine what we consider success. When it comes to European rugby, once you look at the success of Wales and Munster and realise that it is not all about the English and the French, the only silverware that really matters a damn is the Six Nations Championship and the Heineken Cup. Both have eluded O’Driscoll.
Not that I’m saying that it is all his own fault, and I hope the above YouTube file demonstrates that I appreciate the role injuries have played on his career.
What I’m getting at is just how important the 2008/09 European season is for the man.
In the May edition of Rugby World magazine, controversial columnist Stephen Jones picks his Lions squad for the tour next summer, and he leaves BO’D at home, favouring Shanklin, Henson, Tindall and Barkley.
Now Jones has a reputation for being a bit anti-Irish (he also excludes Paul O’Connell) but one sentence in his column hits the mark in my view...
You’d find it very hard to convince me that Brian has done enough in the past 12 months to guarantee him the Number 13 jersey for the first test in Durban on June 20, 2009.
And if that’s the case, then how would it look on his CV to be brought along as a replacement, or even worse, an also-ran on the midweek team having been skipper four short years earlier?
So I believe the upcoming season is crucial for BO’Ds legacy. He needs a string of outstanding performances, he needs his name regularly in the back page headlines, he needs to be the inspiration to meaningful silverware for his teams.
How will he do that? Well of course, he needs to stay fit, and that is in the lap of the Gods.
One thing that can help would be to take the captain’s armband away from him and allow him concentrate on his own game. If I were close to him I’d advise him to actually request this and make it publicly known.
Despite the risk of injury I’d also like to see him playing some role in every match throughout the season, at very least the first half of every Meaningless league encounter.
Although I have been a critic of his in the past, I still have no doubt that he has the ability to make the upcoming campaign a success, and hopefully my Leinster season ticket purchase will be worthwhile.
Interesting times ahead.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
When it comes to the performance on the pitch, I can hardly complain about a 48-19 drubbing, can I? Well, actually, I can.
You can only really analyse a match like this based on the opening 40 minutes, since the second is full of endless chopping and changing as the subs bench on both sides gets emptied to give everyone a run.
So with that in mind, Leinster only barely won the first half thanks to a Cian Healy try in injury time. What made things close against a decidedly average touring side was extremely dodgy defence coupled with Felipe Contepomi leaving his kicking boots back in the dressing room.
I wouldn’t worry about the kicking so much, but it has to be said the Leinster tacklers parted like the Red Sea for every try by the visitors, and this is something that has to be ironed out, and of course this is exactly what this type of match is for so there is plenty of time to put this right.
Now – going forward, things were much rosier. New boy Ica Nacewa shows a great awareness on the attacking side of the ball, though I’m not altogether sure I’d prefer him in the #15 jersey to Girvan Dempsey. In the centre, O’Driscoll and Felipe chugged away, but rarely broke the line.
I was glad to get a good look at Sexton at fly half, and if I had to find fault with his game I would say he needs to assess his options a fraction more – every time he went to kick the ball his body language telegraphed his intentions in such a way that perhaps a touring second-string Super 14 side wouldn’t pick up on it, but a first-string Heineken Cup side most definitely would.
In the pack, Jamie Heaslip was as commanding as ever, and though I had never heard of new second row Devin Toner before, he showed he is more than capable of filling in for either O’Kelly or Cullen should the need arise. Jowitt was his usual pesky self on the fringes, and overall the forwards earned themselves a few impressive pushover tries, although I wonder if the new ELV’s which allow you to drag down the maul will make this ability moot once the real season kicks off.
Best attacking move had to be Kearney’s try. The move began with Reds possession inside the home 22 and a couple of fly-hacks from O’Driscoll (the second actually taking the ball out of Contepomi’s hands) sent the ball right down the other end where our international right winger took full advantage of a couple of lucky bounces to make the score look a lot easier than it was.
So when all is said and done, Leinster played like the Meaningless League Champions they are, there are still some kinks to be ironed out, and hopefully our first four outings will get them ironed out before we travel to Murrayfield on October 11.
Now…how about the way I feel Leinster rugby treated their customers…you’d like to think, would you not, that when you buy a seat for a match or indeed any event, that it actually exists???
Well as you can see, in Donnybrook stadium, there actually is no Block E, Row N, Seat 23, so I guess I was expected to park my behind on that menacing-looking bolt sticking up out of the ground! Luckily, there was noone in seat 25, so we got to watch the match ok, and since this was the only match to be played there all season, I didn’t see any reason to complain (besides – with about 4 quick pints on me I couldn’t guarantee that my complaint would make any sense to the stewards!).
Still, whether it was the fault of Leinster rugby, Ticketmaster or the owners of the stadium, it was a bad show.
As for the atmosphere in the ground, well, there wasn’t one. I guess Leinster rugby fans aren’t pre-disposed to showing any kind of unified support for their team. There was one chorus of the awfully dull “LEHHHH-nster, LEHHHH-nster” from the opposite terraces in the first half but since then except for some individual cries of encouragement the rabble were never sufficiently roused.
For this I have to lay the blame at Leinster rugby’s door, since they pay a guy to climb into a lion suit and I presume his job is to get the crowd going. Well, he didn’t, at least not today. Perhaps much like our defence, the mascot has some pre-season kinks to be ironed out.
As an example…when Bernard Jackman touched down for his try as you can see in the leading picture, there should have been a chorus going through the crowd of the Batman theme “de-na de-na de-na de-na JACKMAN!!!”. But all that happened was a clip over the intercom of Chelsea Dagger by the Fratellis (who hail from Glasgow – wouldn’t something like U2’s Elevation be better?), and this was reeled out after every Leinster try and got a bit tedious.
And though I know he missed a lot of kicks, what happened to the Spanish-style trumpet-blast that usually follows when Contepomi does get the ball over the bar?
These are all subtle touches that would turn a match like this one into a memorable one and more importantly, turn the 10,000 season ticket holders they keep boasting about into a 16th man much like they have down in Thomond Park.
And as for the whole environmental message supposedly encouraged on the day, I really, honestly truly think it was lost on the supporters. Well think about it – trying to get all green with a crowd of people the majority of whom came to the match in their SUVs isn’t really going to make much of an inroads, is it? But I suppose their heart was in the right place.
Now I know I’ve gone with a lot of negative in this piece, but I’m still looking forward to the new campaign, and hopefully things will improve as the season goes on. JLP
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Leinster kicked off their pre-season preparations with a resounding 38-5 victory over Padova in Italy on Wednesday evening.
The province started strongly with the impressive Isa Nacewa crossing for his first try in Leinster colours after good work from Stephen Keogh and Cameron Jowitt in the 10th minute. Jonathan Sexton added the points to give the visitors a 7-0 advantage.The hosts rallied and clawed their way back into the game with a try four minutes later, but the Magners League champions held on to a slender two-point advantage at the interval.The visitors raced out of the blocks after half-time and Gary Brown gathered a delightful 46th minute cross-field kick, passed to the supporting Felix Jones, and took the return catch to score an effort which was converted by Nacewa, who assumed kicking duties.On 51 minutes, a break on halfway from Nacewa, where the former Auckland Blues star beat several defenders, concluded in an offload to prop Jamie Hagan, and the former Gormanston College man crossed over.Eight minutes later Simon Keogh gathered a bouncing ball from another clever cross-field kick, this time from Ireland international Luke Fitzgerald, to add his name to the score-chart. Nacewa, who reverted to out-half on the interval, again added the points.With ten minutes to go, former Leinster Under-20 captain and second row Conor McInerney benefited from a wonderful take by Devin Toner, and a strong maul by the pack, to cross over, though his conversion was missed by substitute Kyle Tonetti.Tonetti would later make amends by adding to a Fitzgerald effort in the closing minutes after replacement prop Stan Wright offloaded to Kevin McLaughlin who fed McInerney, who then found Enniskerry man Fitzgerald, who ran in to out-pace the defence.
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