You’d be forgiven for thinking that the best team in a rugby tournament was the one that scored the most tries, wouldn’t you?
Not so in the Magners League so far this year. After 13 rounds, Leinster top the pile with only one other team having scored fewer tries, and that’s Connacht.
And even though we have two games in hand on some of the other teams, if you had followed our progress all year you wouldn’t bat an eyelid if we won both games without adding too many 5-pointers to our total.
Take yesterday’s match in Cardiff. We started brightly, with Fergus McFadden crossing for an all-too-easy score after 8 minutes. It looked like it would be the first of many.
But the home side came back into it with three tries of their own, and it appeared that the cornerstone of our recent success, our tenacious defence, had deserted us.
But after Czekaj crossed just after halftime to force reporters to double-check the spelling of his name, it seemed like our forwards were able to turn it around in the loose and added domination there to that which they already enjoyed in both scrums and lineouts.
Our front row was phenomenal, and were rewarded with a Jackman try following an excellent linebreak by the young Eoin O’Malley. But props Wright, Van der Linde and Ross acquitted themselves very well in support taking the ball into contact for yardage gains time after time after time.
The backline blew hot and cold, mainly from the halfback pairing. Eoin Reddan was man of the match in my book despite McFadden’s Sexton-esque goal kicking – although the ball was coming slowly from the rucks, he made up for it with quick, well-executed decisions…sadly his teammate in the 10 jersey wasn’t able to do much when those decisions included him…Berne was also found wanting in the tackling department more than once.
But as happened in most of our eight Magners League victories this season, we did enough in the 80 minutes to stay ahead, and I guess that’s what counts! And McFadden’s last gasp penalty from halfway was icing on the cake, if a bit unfair on the hosts denying them a bonus point.
And taking the weekend’s action as a whole, the only argument against Reddan and Sexton starting against Wales that would make any sense to me would be that the scrum half would have a 6-day turnaround.
We’ll see what Kidney goes for…it will be a very interesting announcement.