Saturday, December 04, 2010

Scarlets-17 Leinster-17

Click here for my pre-match HarpinBoo recording “Scarlets, Scars & Scarves”



Rugby Union can be quite the complicated game, but for this result, there’s no need for any in-depth analysis, no need for technical critique, no need to (at least try to) show off a superior knowledge of the sport.

Let me put it this way – if Dublin slang didn’t provide me with the perfect word for my headline, my second choice was “Jonny Rotten”.

And that name-related pun would have been the perfect finale to a trilogy of titles for match-writeups involving Leinster this calendar year which were decided by poor outings from a kicker.  Back in January we had “Folly Malone”, yet another away draw this time at Twickers, when we booked a home Heineken Cup quarterfinal thanks to Chris Malone’s bungled bootery.

Then came Act 2, that very same RDS quarterfinal in March, when I summed it up with the heading “Crock James”.  This time it was the turn of Clermont’s Aussie outhalf  to provide the wayward welly, as we fluked our way over another hurdle only for our luck to run out against eventual winners Toulouse.

In many ways it was both fitting and fortunate that the bad karma we had stockpiled chose to look for payback now, a week before a crucial pair of clashes with that same Clermont, this time with Joe Schmidt on our side, yet once more suffering the thin end of the wedge.

The “kicker”, for the want of a better phrase, to last night’s match is that right down to the final play of the game we STILL could have come out on top, only for Sexton to take his eye off the ball and deny himself even the chance to miss the winning drop-goal (pic).

So don’t believe the media spin that somehow we “clawed our way back” to a draw.  This was two points DROPPED. Literally.  But it wasn’t all bad.

Let’s face it…apart from a few misplaced Strauss darts and some rare Nacewa uncertainty under the high ball, it was overall an extremely satisfying performance from Leinster.  For the second week in a row on Welsh soil, we out-scored our opponents in the try column, we only let them cross our line when a man down, we looked impressive going forward.  Even the last-gasp howler needn’t have cost us had Sexton slotted over just one of the four chances he missed from the tee, most of them well within his comfort zone.

But given the talent on our treatment table, we also needed some strong outings from their potential replacements, and we got them, especially from Eoin O’Malley and Fergus McFadden, who both did enough to enter Joe’s thoughts for selection in France next Sunday.

Personally I was hoping for five Magners League points from these two trips across the Irish Sea and we ended up with three, so it’s not exactly a catastrophe.  We now have 7 of 12 remaining matches at home, plus a trip to Aironi we’ll hope to get something from, so there’s plenty of time to get into the playoff zone.

Now our focus has to be the home-and-away series with our coach’s former employers.  And with a 9-day turnaround to help our outhalf find his mojo, this Leinster fan is quietly confident we can at least give a good account of ourselves.

As you can see, I’m all about the positivity when it comes to rugby these days!  Between bailing out my house from snow and the IMF bailing out my country, I have to be!

PS – Did you say the word “scarleh!” out loud when you read it? Don’t lie to me now!

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