Friday, October 24, 2008

Glasgow-15 Leinster-12

[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!!!

DAN-5 FELIPE-4

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.

Thus was the pattern of the evening. No disrespect to the home side, but surely even the most partisan Scot would admit that the visitors lost this one more than the Warriors won it.
 
The difference was both in discipline and Dan Parks’ right peg.
 
Every time Leinster had possession, something would happen to hand it back, be it a turnover, a knock-on, a penalty; it was like we were trying to invent new ways of cocking up each time.
 
The home side, on the other hand, never threatened to cross the whitewash (legally, that is; they had one try rightfully disallowed) and with people like CJ van der Linde needlessly giving away penalties right under the posts, Dan Parks was repeatedly given the perfect opportunity to defy the blustery conditions and get another three-pointer for his team.
 
Our offensive shortcomings turned this into a battle of the boot, one which Contepomi was unable to win.
 
It brings to mind a question that has been festering for a while…if we insist on playing Jonathan Sexton because we feel the need to develop him as an out-half, why don’t we have him taking more of the place-kicks? Surely he’ll need practise under match conditions same as every other aspect of his game?
 
As for where this leaves Leinster’s season, well naturally the two bonus point Heineken Cup victories more than makes up for the three Meaningless League losses that sandwich them, but if we actually wish to retain our crown, it’s going to take a ten-game winning streak similar to the one we achieved last time around.
 
With the Dragons next up at home and Nacewa to come back from injury, it is clearly within our abilities to pull it off despite Friday night's setback. JLP

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Leinster-41 Wasps-11



Forgive me for resorting to the obvious wasp-related pun for my headline, but in this case I reckon the cap fits, don't you think?

Now, believe it or believe it not, I actually managed to find a negative spin for Leinster on the back of this performance and result, but I won't share it with you until the end of this post.

After one minute of this contest, when Paul Sackey took the kickoff and shot all the way down the wing to virtually the try line, it looked like it was going to be a long, long Saturday evening in Dublin 4.

But from that moment on, the Leinster boys turned quality on paper into class on grass.

Right throughout the team, and I include subs in that (yes, even Sexton) there were top notch performances.

Sure, I could rave all day about O'Driscolls early brace of tries, particularly the second one, which had me bowing to his greatness (woulda looked a lot better if everyone in the stand did it with me though).

But what made the difference on the day was the fact that our defence remained solid for the entire 80 minutes, just like I said it needed to do.

The visiting English champions never looked like breaching the blue wall they faced, and it took a controversial try (ironically by an Irishman) to post five points on the board and leave the home support nervously contemplating what the second half may bring.

Well, whatever Michael Cheika said to them in the dressing-room, I'd like to bottle it and sell it on ebay cos I'd be able to retire early. Even with the loss of our talismanic Number 13 to an injury which I hope won't rule him out of Ireland's crucial upcoming internationals, we came out all guns blazing and effectively killed the game as a contest from the kickoff with Luke Fitzgerald's touchdown.

And as we looked on in a mixture of delight and disbelief, we secured the bonus point shortly after and even found time to cross the line twice more, completely blanking our opponents for the second half.

So it's two wins out of two for Leinster in Pool Two, a maximum of ten points, and already a six-point lead over the rest. We now have a home-and-away pair of clashes with a Castres team which is now effectively out of the competition.

How on EARTH can I possibly find anything negative about our situation?

Well, it doesn't have to be negative, it just could be. This result, together with what will no doubt be and endless loop of re-runs on Sky News of Drico's wonder try, will surely have Leinster installed right throughout European rugby as favourites to win the Heineken Cup.

If the lads can stand up to that pressure the way stood up to their illustrious opposition yesterday, this could turn out to be a memorable season. We shall see.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Edinburgh-16 Leinster-27



Edinburgh today went from bogey team to bogus team.

There was only one thing lacking from Leinster in this contest, and that was offensive execution.

Now that may sound strange since we ran in four tries in the first half and collected an away-day bonus-point victory that will be the envy of the rest of the teams in the Heineken Cup.

But if everything Leinster tried on the day had come off, the scoreline would have been a lot closer to the drubbing they handed the same team in the Meaningless League a few weeks ago.

When it came to tactics and defence, we were a class apart from our opponents and although there were a few questionable refereeing decisions and things got a bit tighter in the second half than maybe they should have, the actual result was rarely in doubt.

Clearly Michael Cheika had done his homework and realised that even from deep in side our own 22, punting the ball straight down the field was the way to go and sure enough, when they ran it back at us more often than not we were able to turn it over.

Though it took us a while to get into our stride, it was clear that all we needed was discipline in ball-retention and the tries would come. Rocky Elsom proved that by opening the account with a surge forward from Edinburgh’s 10-metre line.

Then came arguably the defining moment, or at least that is what no doubt home coach Andy Robinson will claim. Having taken a high ball Horgan flung it clearly forward to Dempsey and after a burst from Contepomi and a neat pass, Drico touched down for a killer second.

Though the home crowd, what there was of them in the cavernous Murrayfield, have a legitimate beef, I very much doubt that this decision would have made much of a difference really.

And if things were as they should be and there was an Irish TV network covering this match, I sincerely hope they would have awarded man of the match to Brian O’Driscoll.

Instead, Sky’s so-called experts gave it to Rocky Elsom, and although he did have a good outing, it was more important to Irish rugby that the Leinster number 13 put in a full match display somewhere near his Lions-captaincy form, and with his line-breaks, his passing, his tackling and even sometimes his kicking, Drico was the man in my book.

Of course, there will be a need for improvement as the tournament progresses, particularly in Jackman’s lineout throws.

But overall, five points on the board with three home matches still to come is a perfect position going into next week’s Wasps encounter, and I wouldn’t have swapped today’s score with either the Connacht OR the Munster ones for love nor money.

By the way...it was a struggle to go this long without saying "I told you so" about the need to switch Felipe in to the number 10 slot.  

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