Poor Ian Madigan.
Surely as the new season approached he saw his role in Leinster’s 2010/11 campaign as one where he would see some game time during International periods but still be able to develop in the shadow of Messrs Sexton and Byrne before him.
Friday night, having already reached the dizzy heights of clinching the good type of bonus point for his province with a super dip of the shoulder and burst against Cardiff, he found himself facing a nigh impossible kick from the corner in the last minute trying to rescue a consolation point at a practically empty Murrayfield.
Sadly, he never caught it right, but in all fairness, the youngster could have been forgiven if he missed the ball completely and sent his boot flying into the stands instead.
Over the four weekends in September, we have seen a Leinster squad clearly in transition. Not only are we coming to grips with a new coaching regime, but that same regime is itself coming to grips with restrictions imposed by the mother ship.
Also, naturally, there have been the predictable “dodgy ref” excuses, so please allow me the following paragraph to get a few from Friday off my chest before continuing.
[We were pinged a few times in the first half for defensive offside yet in the second, whenever we had the ball, Embra’s high line was ignored. For one of the tries, Scott Newlands can clearly be seen running forward and throwing a block on Isa Nacewa…a common occurrence I know, but he wasn’t even trying to hide it. And for another try, though Leinster WERE asleep when the penalty was called, it didn’t hurt the Scots’ cause that the referee acted as a perfect shield for Blair taking his tap and go.]
There. Feel a bit better now. Back to reality.
Much like the Treviso Travesty last week, those factors, even when combined, aren’t the reasons we’re just one win out of four in this league. Embra did impress on Friday, but given the amount of experience in our squad, we really should have been able to put together a better outing, particularly going forward.
On the defensive side of things, I have a feeling we have to accept the McQuilkin era is over. Our new style of play is such that we’re always going to leak tries – we just have to perfect retaining possession enough when we have it to score regularly ourselves. Once prop Geoff Cross lived up to his name when it came to our try-line after 23 minutes, you could tell it wouldn’t be the last time we were under such intense pressure.
Trouble is, we haven’t been capable of pressing the opposition’s line any time other than the first and last 10 minutes of the four matches so far this season. And of course, that form is far from good enough for the huge games to come over the next few weeks.
So what is needed? One word in my book, leadership.
Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon d’Arcy were our centres, but in reality it could’ve been anyone. I’d almost go as far to say that some of BOD’s offloads left me wondering if he was taking the piss?
Also Shane Jennings was meant to be captain, but at one stage when we earned a penalty, his charges were unsure as to who would take the kick, and that’s not the first time that has happened on his watch. That’s nowhere near good enough for this level. Different skipper till Leo comes back, please!!!
It was only when Jamie Heaslip took to the field that we played any kind of rugby that had an “x-factor” about it, and if we’re to have anything to hope for from this World-Cup-blighted club campaign, I’ll have to stop feeling the need to use the phrase “too little, too late” every week. And we certainly can’t go hiding behind injuries, rookie coaches and poor refereeing much longer, at least this blogger won’t.
The next three weeks could well define our season. As anyone who has followed the Heineken Cup knows, if you lose your first two matches, you have little or no hope of getting out of the pool. And the simple fact of the matter is, if we play in October as we did in September, not only will our impressive streak against the Auld Enemy be gone, but so will our European aspirations.
So to Kearney, Fitzgerald, Nacewa, O’Driscoll, D’Arcy, Sexton if fit (PLEASE lads, if there’s ANY uncertainty around him Saturday, list him as either/or? If he’s withdrawn at the last minute again or worse hobbles off early on, it will look like you named him just to flog tickets!), Reddan. Jamie, Jennings, O’Brien, Nathan, Healy & co I say this…you’re going to have to be much more than impressive names on a teamsheet.
Let’s just say there will be thousands upon thousands of blue-clad fans at Lansdowne next Saturday anxious to see you lead us as we know you can.