Friday, January 21, 2011

Racing Métro-11 Leinster-36


[update January 8, 2014] In this week’s archive slot we go back to the last time Leinster had a January away-date in France.  Pretty sure Matt O’Connor wouldn’t say no to a similar result on Sunday though I wouldn’t bank on it!

RM92 v Leinster 2011


For the second week in a row, Leinster made several mistakes yet still managed to make a team that is lying second in one of Europe’s top professional leagues look very ordinary.

If I were a fan of any team that’s still in with a shout of winning this year’s Heineken Cup, I’d be terrified by that opening sentence.

And also much like last week, one of the tries was a highlight-reel keeper, though this time it was as good a display of 15-man rugby as you’re ever likely to see.

What made the visitors look so impressive was quite simple…every time they had possession you got the feeling they’d score.  And Racing Metro were more aware of that than anyone else.

So when Sean O’Brien dropped a howler under the posts on 20 minutes when a try looked certain, you’d have expected the Parisians to take the scrum to slow things down.  Yet they had just been so rattled by the razzle-dazzle of the Shaggy/Isa/Drico combo out wide that they were happy to clear their lines any which way, and Benjamin Fall hacked it into touch as soon as he could.

More attacking ball for Leinster, and this time the forwards were keen to play their part.  A textbook Strauss to Leo lineout set up an equally perfect maul which brought us back to the tryline, then a Boss to Sexton to Darce exchange led to this week’s Pass Of the Match, an exquisite rainbow chuck by Gordon D’Arcy to Luke Fitzgerald, and from there the trademark quick offloading in the tackle ensued; Luke back to Isa back to Darce back to Jonny10 (pic) who went under the posts to make it all look like a training exercise.

Say what you want about Racing resting their stars, that was their choice.  This could still have been a banana skin, and the boys had a job to do out there to get us our home quarterfinal and it has to be said they did so in style.

Sadly the players who would have been most keen to impress fell short…Luke was better than last week but still seems to be trying too hard to come up with the YouTube specials without quite being zoned in on the Schmidt brand of rugby yet, while Rhys Ruddock didn’t do his prospects any favours by dropping the opening kickoff.  He did have some good carries & tackles on the night but I’d still have Dominic Ryan ahead of him in our pecking order right now.

And although the Man of the Match award deservedly went to Sean O’Brien (or as one witty observer calls him, the Tullow Tank), special mention has to go to Sexton, who said during the week he was “frustrated” with his contract negotiations.  Well you sure wouldn’t know it from his performance, he ran the show perfectly.

But not be outdone was birthday boy BOD.  As if a script had been written he rounded off the try-scoring by running a deadly line straight through the weary home defence towards the end.

It even looks as though coach Schmidt is getting the hang of this whole “talking to the press” malarky as well, rightly dedicating the eye-catching scoreline to the legions of travelling blue-clad fans, including fellow tweeter @rhubarbsticks, who took some impressive snaps of the atmosphere at the Stade Olympique Yves-du-Manoir for me (thanks Dom!).

I haven’t properly scanned the history books to confirm this, but I THINK this result was Leinster’s biggest ever Heineken Cup win in France? We beat Brive 36-13 last year.  If that’s true, it’s worthy of note.

As for now, we must wait.  The other pools must finish so we see who we get in the quarters.  The draw must be made to see can we get a home semi as well (though considering the pool we came out of, we should get it by default!). But crucially, we must wait for the “pesky” Six Nations to come and go with hopefully little or no injury to our key players.

Can the Gods from 2009 come back to smile on us once more between now and April?  We definitely have the squad ready to meet the challenge if they do. 

Also well done to Leinster A for their comprehensive 30-7 bonus point win over Currie at Donnybrook in the British & Irish Cup on Sunday.  Andrew Conway was MotM in my book with a brace of excellent tries.  They now look good for a quarterfinal spot but have no more games in pool and must wait for others to complete their matches.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Leinster-43 Saracens-20

Click here for my pre-match HarpinBoo recording “Sean O’Brien, O’Brien”

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Sean-Saracens-11

BEST SOB STORY EVER

One of my mates who usually sits with me at the RDS couldn’t make it so he gave his ticket to another one.

As we took our seats in the Grandstand, I told him about an elderly gentleman who was seated further along our row.

“See that guy?” I said. “He’s hilarious. When we beat Connacht on New Year’s Day and conceded a try in the dying minutes to make the score 30-8, he was furious!”

And as if to put on a show to prove me right, as Saracens’ Nils Mordt touched down for a consolation five-pointer right at the death on Saturday, the very same gent let out a roar of “FOR FECK’S SAKE WILL YA BLOODY WELL PUT IN A TACKLE!!!”

By the way no, it wasn’t the Great Curmudgeon Himself George Hook either.  It was like his even grumpier Dublin cousin.

But you know what the scary thing was?  In a way, the geezer had a point. We actually COULD have done a bit better.

To the neutral, this was a comprehensive victory over a team 2nd in the Aviva Premiership who clearly didn’t come to make up the numbers.

Yet to any Leinster fan who has watched this team consistently over the season, we would have spotted the missed tackles that led to the visitor’s tries, the horrible day at the office from Luke Fitzgerald & the room for improvement in the scrum. 

And on the more positive side, we’d be scratching our heads wondering how the hell could Messrs D’Arcy, Heaslip & Kearney possibly get back into the starting XV when they’re available???

I can’t remember exactly what happened, but there was an incident right in front of us where man-of-the-match-for-the-gazillionth-time Sean O’Brien was furious at the assistant ref for not making a call.  The intense look on his face was priceless.  He was a man possessed on the day – we got a close up of it then, but throughout the 80 minutes it was clear to see whenever he got the ball he was on a mission, and his stats of a whopping 120 total metres gained bear that out.

I’ll tell you just how good O’Brien was…after the match he had George Hook suggesting he should start for Ireland at 6 ahead of Ferris.  Need I say more?  And it’s hard to argue against him.

As for the six tries we racked up in our own column, I could wax lyrical about each and every one, but one in particular stood out head and shoulders above the rest so I’ll focus on that so I can have something to look back over in the years to come.

We had three tries in the bag, and naturally we were all anxious for us to get that fourth one to wrap up Pool Two.  Sarries were determined to do all they could to stay in it, however, and their dangerman winger David Strettle was charging down the wing towards our tryline.

He was confronted by Isa Nacewa, who managed to strip him of the ball in the tackle and boot it downfield.  It was an excellent clearance, and it was down to none other than Mr Strictly Orange, who had little more than a bit part in the overall drama on the day it has to be said, to chase it down in his own 22.

His kick wasn’t anywhere near as good, but it still went over Reddan’s head and he had to retrieve it going in the wrong direction back in our 22.  A quick pass to Shaggy, followed by another to Sexton, then the Blue Magic began, literally before our very eyes.

Jonny Ten could have launched yet another mighty torpedo into the corner, but he wasn’t having any of it.  The ping-pong kicks that had just taken place had the 30 players scattered everywhere, and he saw a chance so there was only one thing on his mind.  Much like the lyrics of a certain ditty, he dropped his shoulder and charged ahead with purpose, firing a bullet to O’Driscoll on the run.  Not quite Dorce outside, but just as bloody good!

BOD knew exactly what was on, and that he didn’t need to be the centre of it.  He immediately flung it to Strauss, who had the perfect line, and after a burst which took out another few defenders, the hooker let fly the Pass of the Day right into McFadden’s path who made crossing & touching down look way, way too easy.

No other words for that sequence than champagne rugby at its finest.

In his post-match interview, Joe Schmidt was at pains to deflect credit onto his assistant coaches, so allow me to deflect it right back at him.  This is totally his squad of players, totally playing his style of rugby, and Leinster are totally reaping the rewards when it matters most.  Having clinched a quarterfinal berth in the “Pool of Death” after round five, they now go to Paris hoping to get us a home quarterfinal.

Remember how we felt after the defeat to Edinburgh back in September?  How many limbs would you have offered in exchange for the way things stand right now?

Here’s hoping the boys can stay focused over the coming week because further down the competition they’ll need to crank things up even more if they’re going to face their biggest challenge of all. 

What – you think I mean beating Toulouse or winning the cup itself? No, I actually mean making Old Mr Grumpy smile before the season’s out Winking smile

CLICK HERE FOR MY THOUGHTS ON THE OTHER IRISH PROVINCE’S EUROPEAN PERFORMANCES AT THE WEEKEND

And click here for a report of Leinster A’s equally impressive thrashing of Worcester to move them closer to the B&I Cup Quarterfinals

Friday, January 07, 2011

Leinster-15 Ospreys-10

THE BIGGAR THEY COME…
 
Time has a meaning of its own down the OarDeeEsh.
 
The stadium clock may count up, it may count down. It may even stand still while a match is progressing. The players may sometimes be fooled by the swirling wind that the half-time whistle has blown when in fact it hasn’t.
 
But last night, when the announcer declared the final score before Nigel Owens had actually blown the full-time whistle, it was more out of a relief that was shared by the 14,876 soaking wet home fans.
 
And it wasn’t just the rain that led to the relief. It was the fact that not for the first time, we had won in Ballsbridge mostly thanks to the ineptitude of the opposing placekicker.
 
If Saracens want to know how to beat us next Saturday, their best bet would be to watch not only DVDs of last May’s Magners League Grand Final, but also Friday night’s rematch. The Ospreys may have left many of their leading lights at home, but they showed that they have their own answers to our Fergus McFaddens and Kevin McLaughlins waiting in the wings, and their efforts in denying us even a single try deserved more than a mere losing bonus point.
 
Their own try was a tad fortunate, coming as it did from a way-too-telegraphed box kick from Eoin Reddan which was easily blocked and could’ve gone anywhere, but it was fitting that young 1st time skipper Jason Tipuric got the touchdown as he led the line well on the night.
 
But sadly for the visitors, the conversion which followed from Dan Biggar on 17 minutes was to be their last time troubling the scorekeeper. And BOY did he miss some clangers, not least of which was one from directly under the posts. Sure, the ball may have dipped just before he struck it, but that’s still on him for how he placed it. And the multiple further misses that followed only made matters worse.
 
Luckily our own Jonny 10 only missed the one on the night and fifteen points was enough to mark the 50th match at the “Royal Showgrounds” in style.
 
I wouldn’t say the Leinster display was particularly “bad”, it just didn’t match the quality lineup we put on the park. If I had to single someone out it for negative mention it would be Devin Toner…there seemed to be a policy to get him more of the ball in the loose and I didn’t feel like he attacked the ball with as much aggression as he could have done, and though that will surely come in time, I think we’ll all be a lot happier with Nathan Hines starting next Saturday lunchtime.
 
And as for the back three, Luke’s able return definitely gives coach Schmidt a selection headache as surely he must bring Isa back into the starting XV, and neither Shaggy nor McFadden did anything to warrant exclusion either.
 
Jamie picked up a knock right in front of where we were sitting so will be a worry over the next few days…he got up and bravely played on when he noticed the TG4 cameraman was almost literally in his face, but he came off shortly afterwards and hopefully his later tweet of “Ouch” was more tongue in cheek than anything and he’ll have enough time to recover.
 
All in all it was four fortunate Magners League points for Leinster, but we’ll take ‘em as they further cement our top four status, and now the lads can knuckle down and prepare to face a Saracens side which will no doubt be every bit as motivated as the Ospreys’ next generation were.
 
Let’s hope we have what it takes to make their Heineken Cup clock run down to zero.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Dorce Outside by Ruggerbandits

The name "Ruggerbandits" courtesy of Cian Ó'Muilleoir

Click here for the "snakebite remix" published before Magners final in May 2011


I play in blue for Leinster, they call me Jonny Ten
I'm lookin for a chance to beat those Munster boys again
I know it won't be easy, it won’t come as a gift
The loikes of Isa, Drico, Luke & Shags will hafta shift
But they aint getting nowhere without lineout scrum & maul
The loikes of Leo, Jamie, Cian & Sean to win the ball
And when I get that pass from Reds, and see what’s in my way
I’ll drop my shoulder, chorge ahead and this is what I’ll say

I’ll say…

Fock your Strings & Warwick
I’ve got Dorce outsoide
Fock your Tuitupou
I’ve got Dorce outsoide
Fock your Earls & Mafi
I’ve got Dorce outsoide
When I’m lookin for a try
I’ve got the Dorce outsoide


He went to school in Clongowes, then at Lansdowne he was great
He stepped up to the interpros in 1998
Tackles like a demon, blessed with blinding pace
When he got that try at Croker I slagged Ronan to his face!
We’ve got world class backs, down the OarDeeEsh
And our droive for foive showed em all who’s best!
So when we get to Thomond, and I’m facing Wian du Preez
I’ll look that loose-head up and down and give ‘im one of these

I’ll say…

Fock your Bull & Quinny
I’ve got Dorce outsoide
Fock your Paul O’Connell
I’ve got Dorce outsoide
Fock your Fla & Leamy
I’ve got Dorce outsoide
When I’m lookin for a try
I’ve got the Dorce outsoide


C’mon Gordon D’Arcy, cross that loine
Let’s play those fockers off the pork for yet another toime
And if you think my taunting makes me sound a cruel bloke
Don’t worry; when we all wear green we’ll laugh and have a joke
Cos if rugby had no banter, it wouldn’t be the same
Its fans know how to keep control unlike some other games!
And if Munster think they own this tune, they don’t and here is why -
I’ve just got these four words for them - “The Fields of ATHENRY”???!!!

EVERYBODY…

Fock your Strings & Warwick
I’ve got Dorce outsoide
Fock your Tuitupou
I’ve got Dorce outsoide
Fock your Earls & Mafi
I’ve got Dorce outsoide
When I’m lookin for a try
I’ve got the Dorce outsoide


He's gonna move inside...
He's gonna cross that line...
He's gonna beat yiz down in Thomond Pearrrrrk (Limerick accent)

lyrics © JL Pagano 2011

tune by Rubberbandits

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Leinster-30 Connacht-8

Click here for my pre-match HarpinBoo recording “Auld Lang Hines”

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Dave-Kearney-try-Connacht

THE NEXT GENERATION

Connacht scored both first and last in this game, but what happened in between illustrated perfectly the mountain Eric Elwood has to climb to get the province further up the Magners League table.

We Leinster fans love to have a good old moan about the IRFU’s “player-protection” scheme…but when you consider that we clinched a New Years’ Day bonus point with four tries ALL from players who won’t get near that scheme before the World Cup, there are blessings to be counted for sure.

It was a cold, misty night down the OarDeeEsh, and despite the impressive 17k+ crowd in attendance, the only carnival atmosphere to be had in Ballsbridge was across the Simmonscourt Road at Funderland…even with an evening kickoff the New Year’s revelry was clearly still fresh in people’s minds…we could barely muster the odd chant of “LEEEEEEHN-STER”!

And truth be told, a few boys clad in blue started out as though they may have toasted the arrival of 2011 a bit too well themselves, a fact summed up perfectly in the 9th minute when an all-too-predictable box kick from Paul O’Donoghue was charged down only to fall perfectly to Shaun Berne on his own try-line, only for him to drop it.

The shaky 9/10 combo made amends to an extent when they both were involved in the opening try.  After Isa missed his first place kick, he caught the clearance outside his own 22 and charged back up the field, then after a further surge by Devin Toner it took quick hands from POD to Hines to Berne to McFadden and finally the younger Kearney brother finished well to put us in front for good.

But with no disrespect meant to O’Donoghue, even if he helped get the win, it was his replacement Reddan that energised our offence enough to secure the bonus point.  The decisions were now the right ones, the ball was coming quicker and it was being delivered to the right places.  On 53 minutes, Dave Kearney was touching down in the corner furthest away from his first try (pic), and from there the pressure was relentless from the home side.

It was by no means a flawless display from Leinster, but it was more than enough to send the fans home happy.  Eoin Reddan couldn’t have done what he did without the efforts of the back row, with Kevin McLaughlin playing like he’d never been away, Shane Jennings putting in a MotM display and Stephen Keogh ably filling in for what is hopefully a fixable Sean O’Brien wound.

To be honest the evening will be best remembered for the pantomime moment just before the interval (It’s half time! Oh, no it isn’t!!), plus the ever-malfunctioning RDS clock, which now counts backwards but it just as inaccurate as before.

So it’s five more points in the bag, up to third, and ready for a re-enactment of the 2010 Magners League final next Friday.  It’s all good.  Just hope things eventually get better for the Western cousins!

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