Saturday, May 28, 2011
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Friday, May 13, 2011
“So, after I was able to predict six out of six Magners League winners in my article last week, how will I fare this time round? Well, I feel I should pick at least one away victory, so I’ll plump for Montpellier to do that, with Leinster, Munster, Leicester, Saracens, Clermont & the Reds all making their home fans happy.”
Friday, May 06, 2011
No matter how hard you try, there’s just no ignoring James Jones, is there? He even finds a way of getting his mug into my lead picture of man-of-the-match Fergus McFadden.
Despite the fact referees are meant to be seen and not heard, you can always count on the Welshman to offer a soundbite or two whether he be holding whistle or flag, and this occasion was no exception.
For although the visiting “Warriors” held the lead for more than half of the first period, I’m pretty sure there wasn’t even a die-hard Scotsman who thought things were going to remain that way. And after awarding the home side a penalty in the second half, Jones let us all know that he could also see the writing on the wall when he called the Glasgow skipper Graeme Morrison over and said :
“If one yellow card doesn’t get the message across, another one just might. And you lot don’t really need that, do you?”
Indeed they didn’t. The one yellow they did get, to fullback Peter Murchie for tackling Nacewa about an hour before the ball was out of a ruck, yielded 15 points to the opposition and turned the air of inevitability into one of reality.
So that leaves me with 3 things to discuss in my writeup…the scoring of the four tries, the almost embarrassing domination of the Irish provinces in this season’s Magners League and the brilliance of Fergus McFadden.
Ian Madigan didn’t have a great night in the 10 jersey, and I still rate him behind McKinley in Leinster’s pecking order, but he did show one flash of brilliance with his crossfield kick straight to Shaggy who somehow managed to evade the tackle of van der Merwe to spin over the line, find himself still with the ball, and touch down. Perhaps he deserved the similar happening rejected by the TMO in the first half more, but the Leinster faithful weren’t complaining.
It’s not so much that the floodgates were open at that point, in many ways they already were and Leinster chose not to rush through them. Glasgow had possession in their own half but didn’t seem to want it, and simply left the ball on the ground for Jamie Heaslip to pick up and charge forward before flinging a bullet of an offload right to the supporting Gordon D’Arcy who gratefully finished off try number two.
And things went from bad to worse for the visiting defence when Dominic Ryan dived over a group of white jerseys who seemed to be hypnotised by the ball over their own try line to make it three.
The icing was applied to the cake when a super surge that capped David Kearney’s impressive cameo got us close before the quality of support by Heaslip, McKinley and McFadden were just too good as Kevin McLaughlin crashed over for the bonus point.
It would be unfair to judge the Scottish teams on this performance, or even the one by Edinburgh in Treviso the same night for that matter, as it is widely known that national coach Andy Robinson has ordered that key players be rested as they have nothing to play for. It still merits discussion, however, that they were in that situation in the first place. As happy as Irish fans will be to see three out of four provinces in the semifinals, you’d feel all the better about it if you knew it came with decent opposition from the league’s other nations.
Italy of course can be forgiven with this being their maiden voyage in Celtic waters, but although the Welsh regions finished fourth through seventh, the league ladder disguises the nature of the final weeks of the regular season campaign when the Ospreys, Blues & Scarlets seemed to pass fourth spot around like it was a hot potato before only a late score in Viadana sealed it for the reigning League champions.
It has to be said…this league is extremely lopsided at the moment, and if something isn’t done about the Scottish & Welsh regions soon, be it in talent or marketing or whatever, I don’t see that status quo changing any time soon.
Now…to Fergus McFadden. You would’ve thought Leinster’s remit on the night was to just get in and out, secure the home semifinal, and ensure there were no injuries. And indeed the cotton wool was whipped out at all the right moments throughout to key men like Strauss, Nacewa & D’Arcy, with the exception of course being Heaslip who seems to think he’s invincible, which very well could be the case.
But the man from the Curragh was truly playing out of his skin at the RDS. A chip & catch here, a crucial tackle there, but most of all the way he puts his head down and barrels into contact pumping his legs, gaining an extra five to ten metres almost every time. Oh, yeah, and I almost forgot the seven out eight kicks from the tee.
There’s no other way I can put this…with 11 other teams in the Magners League, 12 in the Aviva Premiership, plus the Top14 in France, you’d be hard pressed to find 3 of those 37 professional franchises who wouldn’t gladly start him in a cup final.
And given we practically have two if not three cup finals left in our season, I think the events of Friday night should force coach Schmidt to plump for form over faith and leave the still-struggling Luke Fitzgerald on the bench for the rest of the campaign.
I feel like I’m doing Eoin O’Malley a disservice with my praise, because he had some excellent carries & tackles himself and clearly has a bright future as well once he stays healthy, but McFadden for me made a statement that cannot be ignored.
But whatever happens from here on in this season, I have to take this opportunity to thank Leinster rugby for yet another perfect regular Magners League season at the RDS. Like last year, I will hold on to my now-expired season ticket as a momento of a purchase that was worth very single cent.