Sunday, September 27, 2009

Edinburgh-22 19 Leinster-21


I don't have a whole lot of time for blogging and vidcasting and what-not this weekend so you'll see what I have to say about this performance in Episode 5 Part 2 of the Vidcast which you'll find here if it's not there in the top corner of this page anymore.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Ospreys-11 Leinster-18

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Not often does one picture perfectly sum up how a sporting contest went, so take in the one above from rte.ie because it does just that.

In it you see one of the Ospreys’ several Lions on display, James Hook, trying to break through the Leinster line, only to be thwarted by Messrs D’Arcy & Jennings.

One thing you don’t see in the picture is bums on seats in the stadium. And this was taken before the home “faithful” headed towards the exit with their team only seven points down and plenty of time to score a try.

This performance by the Welsh region, who don’t forget have won this league twice not to mention the Anglo-Welsh Cup once in the past, was so poor, so one-dimensional, that I had to check the internet afterwards to make sure Eddie O’Sullivan hadn’t been drafted onto their coaching staff.

In fact it can safely be said that if Leinster had made even half the mistakes they did on the night (eg Sexton, O’Kelly knockons, Kearney offside ahead of the kicker to name but a few) then I’d be reporting on a cricket score right now and we’d have come away from the Liberty Stadium with a bonus point victory no question.

But I’m not writing this post to rue missed chances. I’d have taken your arm off if you had offered me this scoreline before kickoff in Swansea, so overall I’m more than happy.

Setanta’s so-called “experts” gave the man-of-the-match award to Sexton, but this was an extremely lazy decision if you ask me. Sure, he nailed five kicks, some of them from tough angles and all of them under pressure from the very low yet very unsportingly vocal Osprey crowd.

The TV panel also decried our taking of a drop goal when we did. Were they not watching the same match as I was? We'd been on their line several times to no avail - and that was the one time we needed points on the board. Nacewa was absolutely spot-on in both decision and execution in my book.

But the key to this victory was defence. There wasn’t a single point racked up by the home side that we didn’t gift them, and when we focused on getting men behind the ball, it was the first time this season I was reminded of the stingy defensive Leinster which did so well towards the end of the last one.

In case you don’t recall I call it “The Gandalf defence” as it sends out the clear message : “You shall not pass!!!”

It appears that despite the conspicuous absence of Elsom and Heaslip, we had a 6,7,8 combo on the field who were more than capable of competing in this league’s standard and higher, and it would be from here that I’d take our man-of-the-match, with perhaps Jennings getting the nod even if there were question marks over his captaincy towards the end.

It got to the stage where although I was afraid to say it out loud for fear of cursing the lads, with fifteen minutes to go I was pretty much certain there was no way they were crossing our line.

And considering they finished up with such names as Wyn-Jones, Phillips, Byrne and Williams on the park, all we Leinster fans can hope for is that our own stars aren’t as slow kicking off their season when they (surely!!!) return to the side for the big clash with 100% Edinburgh next weekend.

Meanwhile, having seen similar swathes of empty seats at the Dragons and Scarlets this season, it has to be said something is seriously wrong with Welsh rugby right now. JLP

Monday, September 14, 2009

Leinster-23 NG Dragons-14

nacewa v dragons

AMATEUR HOUR

I had a great time on Saturday night at Leinster’s competitive home opener, that’s for sure, but in my book the only thing about the occasion which could be considered “top flight” was the attendance, which was the largest of the 10 Magners League games so far this season.

The officiating, for starters, was abysmal.  Forward passes missed, the ref getting buried by a lineout, a clearance kick claimed not to have been taken from inside 22 when it clearly was, and finally the Dragons try being scored after a blatant obstruction of Gordon D’Arcy.

Then there was the poor judgement of the visiting side.  Down by six and with the clock having run down, they had a penalty in their own 22 and merely had to put the ball out of play to secure a bonus point at the home of the European Champions, yet they seemed to think they were somehow capable of scoring a try against one of the continent’s stingiest defences and it ending up sending them home with nothing thanks to Berne’s drop goal.

Even Setanta were screwing up, as I discovered on re-watching the game the following day.  Their clock said only 78 minutes had elapsed when the referee blew for full time, and their commentator was getting player’s names wrong all over the place.

Add to all that the absence of most of Leinster’s vast Lions contingent and you’d be forgiven for thinking this was nothing more than a glorified AIB League matchup.

The one touch of class on the night came immediately after D’Arcy’s introduction, and that really says it all.  First play after he came on, he joined the line from the left wing and his quick pass to Nacewa allowed him to crash over for the score.

Not to say that there weren’t impressive displays about the park by the Leinster men.  It is quite clear that we have an abundance of riches in our squad, particularly in the key positions from 6 through 10.  Sean O’Brien earned his man-of-the-match accolade in the number 8 jersey, while Chris Keane had another impressive outing at scrum half.

One or two concerns I have in the backs…though both Nacewa and McFadden did well I’m concerned that their crash style is a bit too one-dimensional and could be easily thwarted by top Heineken Cup opposition.

And although he’s a cult hero and seems to give his best, I have to be honest and say I’m not a Shaggy fan anymore, at least not as a winger – he’s built more like a flanker if you ask me and I can’t help feeling we’d fare better with someone younger and pacier out there.

But a win is a win I suppose, though there’s little doubt in my mind that if we’d had our best team out in both our matches so far we’d have 10 points in the standings going into two tricky trips to Swansea and Edinburgh.

I just hope that when the Oct3 clash with the Munsters comes around, I’ll be treated to an evening of professional rugby which the price of my season ticket demands.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Scarlets-18 Leinster-16

Kevin-Scarlets

ONE POINT CLEAR OF THE MUNSTERS ALREADY!!!

I think this weekend has woken Irish rugby fans to a new reality…our provinces AREN’T going to win every game they play after all.

Last season, I tended to criticise Leinster even when they had won a game so I think it’s high time I found a silver lining in a defeat, and this match gives me the perfect opportunity.

And I don’t need to “harp on” about the fact that our Lions players were missing either.

There were 3 keys to this defeat. One was the sending off of Thomas that never was. Another was Stan Wright’s inexcusable yellow card when we had a two-man advantage. Finally we had Fogarty’s dire lineout throwing in the second half.

Even with all of that, given a different rub of the green both Nacewa and Jennings would have had tries and I’d be writing about a victory and who knows even a bonus point in this column.

So how about I focus on the many positives to be taken from this display?

In the forwards, Kevin McLaughlin was clearly pumped up by wearing the Leinster number 6 jersey, and from the very first minute made you wonder if Rocky had left some his mojo behind as a parting gift.

Cian Healy seems to have toned down his disciplinary issues and was a powerhouse in the front row which surely must attract Declan Kidney’s attention.

But it was in the backline where I was most impressed.

Chris Keane barely put a foot wrong at 9, and showed that we have an embarrassment of riches there since with Reddan out I personally would have handed the start to Paul O’Donoghue.

Johnny Sexton was the man I was looking for to lead the line, and with 4 kicks outta 4, kicking in play that needs fine tuning but was stilll good and can only get better, and good aggression in the tackle, he didn’t disappoint me at all.

Shaune Berne was solid at 12, but what about Fergus McFadden alongside him? How many times did he carry the ball into a tackle only to pump his legs for another 2-3 meters? You have to ask yourself if there’s a way you can drop him when Messrs O’Driscoll and D’Arcy come back!!!

And finally Isa Nacewa was mercurial under the high ball, so much so you’d swear he had a 15 on his back.

Altogether the backs looked like they had a few early season cobwebs, but you could tell that once they’re gone they’ll raise hell for opposing defences in the weeks to come.

So as you can see, I’m not too put out by this result. We need the Magners League to be competitive, so at the start of a new season you can’t expect to go on the road for your opener and take easy points.

I didn’t see a single thing in this match that told me we won’t be more than capable of stuffing this lot in both our clashes in December.

Roll-on the RDS next Saturday!!!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Glasgow-22 Munster-9

dan parks v munster

With my Leinster still to play their season opener also on the road, it would be silly of me to gloat too much over this result.

Besides, as you will see from my rant in Episode 2 of the vidcast, it’s hard to pass too much judgement over games like this when teams are missing so many star players.  Let’s face it…Irish provinces lost a lot more players to the Lions squad than the Scottish ones…

Still, this match was disappointing for several reasons.  First and foremost was the attendance.  Home opener and the Warriors, one of only two professional clubs in Scotland, can’t even fill the main grandstand?  Whatever the reason, that’s a poor show in my view.

The team, on the other hand, were impressive, particularly when it came to goal-line defence, and they were tested from the very first minute, and did well to keep the visiting Champions scoreless throughout.

For their part, the Munsters were strangely off their game, because surely when your opposition has a kicker of the calibre of Dan Parks the last thing you want to do is concede senseless penalties, but that’s what they did.

The one try was a combined effort between Messrs Ronan and Murphy not to tackle Morrison which afforded him a linebreak which led to Jackson crossing.  But overall it was no more than the home side deserved.  At least have a dozen times the vistors brought their Liverpool-style kit into the Glasgow 22 and each time they were prevented from touching down.

I think this Leinster fan needs to be gracious and mark this down as a blip.

Roll on 6:30pm tonight.

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