Friday, September 12, 2008

Leinster-52 Edinburgh-6

There really isn’t a whole lot you can say about a match like this – the scoreline more or less says it all.

But it wasn’t just about the quantity of the scoreline, the near sell-out crowd was treated to a performance which especially towards the end could only be described as champagne rugby.

The visitors actually started well, with sensible tactics. With their first three or four possessions from the ruck, they ran the ball. Clearly Andy Robinson was more than aware of the dangers of putting the ball in the air towards a back three that consisted of Kearney, Fitzgerald and Dempsey.

And so thanks to a monster kick by Phil Godman, the visitors took a 3-0 lead and things did not look easy for Leinster by any means.

Then we started to get some ball for ourselves, and we proved just as capable of getting on the scoresheet ourselves and after 21 minutes, the scores were locked at 6-6 and with a quarter of the match gone it looked for all intents and purposes that the scores would remain close throughout.

Now – you see the final score above there right? So obviously things changed. In my view, what turned this match around was a substitution, and it’s one that is actually worrying for Irish rugby when you consider the result of it.

After 28 minutes, Jonny Sexton was taken off and Isa Nacewa installed at out-half.

After 29 minutes, Luke Fitzgerald was crossing the line for the first of his hat-trick of tries which was the perfect set-up for his 21st birthday celebrations the following day.

In that first half an hour, the only thing that was keeping the scores close was Sexton’s ineffectiveness at Number 10. The most telling moment for me was when he took the ball himself from the ruck and clearly intended to kick, yet didn’t realise that his teammate Brian O’Driscoll had just peeled himself out of the same ruck and was going back to his position, and was standing in Sexton’s way.

Even though he had plenty of time to adjust, the youngster still went through with his kick, slamming it into O’Driscoll and handing possession back to the opposition. I have a feeling that his collar bone injury wasn’t the only reason he was replaced, and although Nacewa did not himself trouble the scorers, the difference he made to our attacking prowess was immense.

From then on, there was simply no stopping the boys in blue, and with Felipe good for 9 kicks out of 11, the result, margin and bonus point were never really in doubt.

Definitely a performance which, on its own, justifies my investment in a season ticket. Hopefully they can continue their form next week, although surely the Ospreys will provide more of a challenge seeing as how they have won three out of three to date.

But going back to the Sexton thing, it does make you worry about the Irish team, seeing as how having also watched Ulster’s defeat in Cardiff and Niall O’Connor’s ineffectiveness. Just how screwed are we for a decent quarterback if O’Gara gets injured/retires?

Leave it to me to find something negative in a 52-6 thrashing, but there you go!!!

for an excellent account of the game plus the current state of Leinster rugby (and I don't just say excellent because he appears to agree with me), check out Brendan Fanning's article in the Indo.
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