Sunday, October 11, 2009

Leinster-9 LettinOn Irish-12



This match was decided by two moments of questionable interpretation right at the death.

First, the referee ruled that there was no high tackle on Jonny Sexton. Then, Eoin Reddan thought he had one arm raised instead of two and chipped a through ball assuming we’d still have the chance to kick the equalising 3-pointer, but instead he was kicking away valuable group points.

Let’s have a look at the high tackle. Of COURSE I thought it was a foul, but don't take my word for it...let’s look at the reaction of Mr Stuart Barnes in the Sky commentary box. Right after the tackle he let out a “WHOAAA!” but once it was clear the ref wasn’t giving it, he kept his gob shut and the incident wasn't even so much as mentioned until the players had left the pitch.

My interpretation of all that? They’ve thought “Lads, we’ve gotten away with one here, better say nothing though so we’re sure to get out of here alive!!!”

But once we accept that the ref had made up his mind, what then followed has to be Reddan’s bad. Hoards of Munster fans sprung to Ronan O’Gara’s defence at the end of the 2nd Lions test over the summer after his last minute howler, and in a way I’m glad it’s a Leinster boy this time so I can make my point.

Surely what separates the good from the great in ANY professional sport is how they deal with pressure in a tight game right at the death? It’s at times like these when training ground routines are forgotten, when all the chalkboards in the world can’t prepare you for the situation at hand.

ROG should have enough experience to have kept his head at a time when giving away a penalty was the last thing his team needed. By the same token, Reddan shouldn’t have chipped the ball through unless he was ABSOLUTELY certain there was a penalty coming for his team.

Of course, there was the small matter of 79 minutes of action before that last gasp drama.

At the kickoff, we charged right down to their line and got a deserved 3-point lead. Then shortly after that, we got similar good possession yet Sexton fancied himself for a Murrayfield-esque drop goal when no doubt the smarter move would have been to send it out the line again and keep the visitors on the back foot.

I feel this error of judgement by Sexton allowed the LettinOn Irish to regroup and start into their gameplan, which turned out to be both well prepared and well executed.

We’ve heard this expression several times about another province, but in this case, the Irish definitely “out-Leinstered Leinster”.

They absolutely OWNED the lineout, thanks mainly to Messrs Casey and Kennedy, and they had a lions share of the breakdown as well. Clearly their mission was to keep things tight, and as good as we are at doing that to others, we didn’t look so hot when the boot was on the other foot.

And of course you can’t fail to mention the two impressive pressure kicks from Ryan Lamb which ultimately won the contest on the scoreboard, so don’t get me wrong…I am well aware that they thoroughly deserved to go back to London-sorry, I mean Reading-with something, it’s just that in this Leinster fan’s opinion, if the ref were different or Eoin Reddan had gone to SpecSavers, the result could have been oh so different.

What now for our Heineken Cup campaign? We now need at least ten group points from our three away matches, that’s what, starting with a trip to the south of France next Saturday, which is never easy.

Still, if there was a squad of players in this tournament you’d back to pull off something like that, you wouldn’t look much further than Michael Cheika’s, so rule us out at your peril.

Elsewhere in the competition…

Talking about keeping your head in last-gasp situations…it’s the last minute and you need a try to get a result. You have a penalty under the opposition’s posts. What do you do? Oh – wait – I forgot one crucial bit of info…YOU’RE MUNSTER. What do you do? Well, I would’ve said “take the scrum” but instead they ran it and the Saints’ defence held out for a famous victory.

Our nemesis did get a Heineken Cup break this weekend, with the improbable result from Treviso where the home side overcame Perpignan 9-8.

Congrats also to both Ulster and Connacht for fine opening round European victories.

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