Monday, January 26, 2009

Leinster-12 Edinburgh-3

leinster edinburgh

HOW TO CROSS THE LINE WITHOUT CROSSING IT

As the full time whistle blew at the RDS yesterday, Jamie Heaslip raised his hands in the air in jubilation.

Though of course the home fans were happy Leinster had reached the quarterfinals, it was the mother of all anti-climaxes to a pool campaign which promised so much before Christmas.

And it’s not as though we did a whole lot wrong in this game. But it has to be said, that for the entirety of our last three outings, we have failed to score a try, and when you look at our backline, that is not a record to be proud of, even if we did win two out of those three.

It was like Messrs Whittaker, Nacewa, O’Driscoll & Contepomi formed some kind of a black hole into which the ball would be sucked after every phase, and that the two men on the park who actually seemed to be capable of making something out of nothing, Kearney and Fitzgerald, had to rely on scraps falling off the grownups table.

This has to be rectified at once, for once you are into the knockout stages of this competition you can ill afford to rely on your goal-kicker’s boot for victory, however celebrated he may be.

Luke Fitzgerald is too good to be stuck out on the wing, but if you MUST play him there, then for God’s sake do whatever you can to get him the ball. And I mean into his HANDS, as he’s running at pace. Two or three times they tried to find him with cross field kicks that were just never on.

And though Rob Kearney showed some flashes of brilliance, they only came when he was given the ball by the opposition, and quick-footed though he may be there was just too much real estate for him to cover before he’d be forced to pass the ball on and it would once again get sucked into the black hole.

A word has to be given for the forwards as well, I’m not sure much more could be asked of them and they gave a plentiful supply of good ball to their backline.

To put it simply, playing like this offensively against Harlequins will put our ailing Heineken Cup campaign out of its misery.

But of course there is another factor to be considered.

Thanks to the ludicrous European rugby calendar, Michael Cheika, like the seven other remaining quarterfinal coaches, can only now sit and pray that the upcoming Six Nations tournament doesn’t decimate their squad.

So by the looks of things, I reckon Leinster will need to summon the spirit of their famous victory in Toulouse back in 2006 to get anything from the Quins, who surely will play the match at Twickenham.

We can only wait and see.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Wasps-19 Leinster-12

LeinsterVWaspsJan172009

A GOOD LOSS?

According to Sky, this was a good result for Leinster.

Seemingly, we managed to eke out a bonus point despite powerful displays from the likes of Josh Lewsey and now, “all” we have to do is win at home to Edinburgh next Saturday lunchtime and we’re in the quarterfinals.

Does it come as a shock to you that I see things a tad differently?

Did Lewsey really play well or was our tackling inept?

Is it feasible to expect a team to score four tries when for the last 160 minutes of competitive rugby they didn’t even look like scoring one?

Are we really somehow meant to feel good about a performance in a season-defining game which kicked off with three conceded penalties for hands in the ruck in the first twenty minutes???

Now in the second half, we DID show a lot of grit and determination on the defensive side of the ball, particularly from Bernard Jackman. But let’s be clear – this was a weakened Wasps team, coming up against what began as a full-strength Leinster one.

There was only one player out there who looked as though he was up for creating scoring chances, and that was Luke Fitzgerald. I doubt he was given the ball by his team-mates more than once or twice.

If it were down to me, when Drico was forced to come off, I would have done two things differently. First, I’d have stuck D’Arcy on the wing (seeing as how that’s where he has played since his return from injury) and moved Luke into the centre. Second, I would have left Drico on the bench and give the new centre partnership time to work together for the rest of the game.

But it can’t work like that, can it? How could we POSSibly sacrifice our famous number 13 so soon after his 30th birthday?

I would have LOVED to have gotten George Hook appraisal after full-time, but sadly we’re denied that by Sky’s curiously and shamefully holding the rights to coverage on these shores. When O’Driscoll came off, at least three minutes ticked by before they deigned to tell us who had actually replaced him.

Oliver Cromwell had more sympathy for Irish interests.

Going back to our performance, or lack of one, I don’t know how much longer we can go on anticipating greatness from this squad of players when they so often fail to perform within the bounds of reason, let alone their ability. Just HOW stupid was O’Kelly’s stamp on Vickery’s head? How lucky can you be not to get a red card?

Whether it’s Michael Cheika that is to blame, or the IRFU’s control over the provinces, or the players themselves…Leinster is simply a collection of individual personalities worrying more about their past glories than they are about potential future ones.

They certainly can’t be called a team.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Leinster-21 Cardiff-20



I wouldn’t blame you for expecting me to moan and groan about this performance, but for once, I’m going to look at the bright side.

For one thing, their try should never have been allowed, or at LEAST been reviewed by the TMO. If what the Cardiff guy did was legal, then they may as well call the sport American football and allow blocking, helmets and excessive shoulderpads.

So by rights, the score should have been 21-15. And also, kudos to Felipe for making the RDS announcer play that annoying horn noise as many as seven times. They were mostly relatively comfortable kicks, but they all had to be made and the Argentinian was up to the task.

Honourable mentions should also go to Messrs Elsom and Kearney on the night.

Sure, there was a lot to the display to be concerned about, not least the fact that yet again we were unable to put together a series of phases without cocking up at the vital moment.

Besides, they say the best teams find a way to win even when they’re not playing well, and you can be sure that’s been the case in all three of our wins in 2009.

Yet win we did and we’re well poised in the Meaningless League so here’s hoping our Heineken Cup campaign is still alive and kicking come full time at Twickers next Saturday.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Leinster-26 Connacht-18



That heading has a triple meaning.

First, it refers to the dilemma I had Friday evening whereby both my favourite rugby and soccer teams were playing live on the telly at exactly the same time.

In the end, I plumped to watch the Spurs match as it happened, since I receive text message updates of the scorelines so I had a better chance of watching events at the RDS unfold without knowing who had one (don’t like switching my phone off).

Second, my scream comes from frustration at the absolutely ABYSMAL standard of officiating in this Meaningless League encounter. 

I mean...who WAS that guy??? 

Awarding penalties as if for fun, continuously getting himself dragged into rucks, noticing Fogarty’s punches yet penalising Stan Wright instead, and as for the touch judge not seeing Luke Fitzgerald’s blatant forward pass which set up what proved to be the winning try…

Yes, I KNOW those last two calls helped Leinster win, but that is hardly a consolation.

There is no doubt that Connacht deserved something from this game, not so much because they were the better side, more so that they were able to hold their ground while the home side kept giving the ball back to them.

In fairness, it was only the appalling performance of the officials that gave us the four points, and even the chance of five.

And the third reason I let out an almighty shout at my television late last night? The dropped pass, by I think big Mal O’Kelly, in the dying moment which would certainly have given us a thoroughly undeserved yet vital bonus point.

With regard to our overall performance it really was a lacklustre display all round by the backline who seemed to always want to score the perfect try rather than establish a lead by doing the basics first before trying to entertain.  

If there was a silver lining it was at LEAST the lads showed respect to the fans who showed up this time by pushing for the bonus point.

But it has to be said - if we play like we have the past week in Twickenham we can kiss this season bye-bye.

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