It seems like an eternity since the full-time whistle blew in the rugby match this post is meant to be written about. But I think I can be excused, since I’m not being paid to write it and what’s more I had the small matter of my son’s first birthday party to organise over the weekend.
But looking back, it also seemed an eternity between the time Setanta’s clock hit 80 minutes and when James Jones decided to blow his whistle for the last time. At very least it was long enough for the home side to get a third try which in all fairness they didn’t deserve, a statement which says as much about their own performance as it does about the bravery of the Leinster Cubs they were facing.
As it turned out, reports from within Firhill suggest that Jones was in fact in perfect sync with the stadium clock and it was Setanta who got it wrong, which leads me to ask: just how hard is it to check your clock on the telly is showing the same time as the one that matters? Surely that’s something they teach you on the first day of Showing Sports On Telly School?
Not that the Welsh ref was without blame. Normally I don’t like singling out the man in the middle because of all the team sports out there, rugby union must certainly be the hardest to police what with the numerous interpretations that can be made over the breakdown.
But what we as spectators CAN insist on is consistency, and all I have to do is cast my mind back to Leinster’s Heineken Cup trip to Brive when we were chasing a bonus point victory to make up for our defeat to the LettinOn Irish the week before. As you can see from my detailed account, Jones was extremely reluctant to brandish his yellow card that day, while in Glasgow it seemed he was suffering from yellow fever.
Maybe Jones can argue that he IS consistent…whenever faced with a 50/50 call he always goes against Leinster? I’d be interested to hear what fans from other clubs have to say on the matter.
I’m not suggesting that Leinster did not deserve ANY yellow cards on Friday evening, but I do wonder if their overall performance deserved as many as four and if it did, then I’ve seen numerous other matches (Brive v Leinster notwithstanding) that merited a similar tally if not more.
If we can put the cards aside and look at Leinster’s display, we did see some impressive outings despite the result. Ian Madigan and Stephen Keogh in particular caught my eye. Keogh played like Jamie Heaslip and Sean O’Brien rolled into one, while Madigan had an assurance that belied his lack of experience.
It didn’t surprise me to hear people take the easy route afterwards and question Michael Cheika’s decision to name his teams for both the Wednesday and Friday fixtures at the same time. Personally, given the fact that we had two games in three days, I’m not sure what else he could have done. Sure, he may have expected the XV he sent to Galway to do better, but should he then have changed things when they went pear-shaped?
For me a measure of Cheika’s success has been his ability to adapt to the ludicrous European calendar. I’m sure he must yearn a little bit for the “luxury” enjoyed by the Super14 coaches who actually have their squad of players together for the entire tournament without interruption. I think he has done the best he can given the restrictions imposed on him, and this could have been a key factor in a Top14 side (even more beset by fixture congestion) wanting his services.
So all in all it was a bad week results-wise but guess what…we’re STILL top of the league, we’re STILL just a point away from a home semi and we’re STILL in the Heineken Cup semi next weekend. Of course it could all come crashing down but this time last year we were bemoaning two defeats out of three before a massive semifinal and I seem to recall that turning out ok.
Which reminds me…I need to find some time myself to make one clarification…I mentioned some Munster tweets in my last piece. I’d like to clarify that in 99.999% of cases, the banter I have enjoyed with them this season has been phenomenal. To name but a few, @22dropout, @Grayzie, @DIBayliss and @ovalball all know exactly how to sledge the way it was meant to be done and I certainly wouldn’t want them doing any differently. As for the identity of the culprit who inspired my rant, well, why should I give them blog space? I simply unfollowed them. Job done.
And back to the rugby matters on the pitch, it seems that it all comes down to the Cardiff v Munster clash to see who joins us, Ospreys and Glasgow in the final four. As for poor Connacht, have you ever seen one team’s campaign go so sour in just the space of four hours? The XV they sent to Kthlanthli highlighted their lack of resources alright but surely they weren’t accounting for Embra’s inability to hold onto the ball when it mattered?
Sure, Ulster put in a fine display but (a) they shouldn’t have had to given all the points they’ve dropped all year and (b) I counted at least half a dozen unforced errors by the Scots which led to points for their opponents.
I started this post with the words “it seems like an eternity”…well NOW it seems like an eternity since I wrote those words and I don’t seem to be writing about the match in question any more so I’d better sign off and say roll on next Saturday!