sporting clichés annoy me because by their very nature they get used
way too often by commentators lacking in imagination.
one in particular would always get my goat for a different reason : “A
great team always finds a way to win even when they're playing
soccer through the 80s this would often be said about Liverpool FC.
Then through the 90s and 2000s it was Manchester United. You will
have heard it used in rugby once or twice as well, about Munster
during their successful Heineken Cup spell for example.
so THAT'S why it got my goat! Because it was being applied to teams
I don't support (come on you Spurs)! That must be the reason, because
I'm more than happy to use it for Leinster's display at the Rec
to say what would've happened if Francois Louw hadn't lost all sense
of reason at the breakdown under his own posts with the clock running
down. The reigning champions were piling on the pressure and could
very well have scored anyway. But there's no denying that the South
African cost his team their chance at an upset and pretty much
cancelled out what had been an excellent personal display up to then.
no doubting that Joe Schmidt's Leinster can be described as a “great
team”, but on yesterday's evidence they're still not the finished
article. All that is needed, it seems, is for his players to realise
that now and again it's ok to do the simple thing.
mean, more often than not you'd back Sean O'Brien to beat two men
from five metres anyway, but when there's three unmarked team-mates
outside him there is only one option – and if he didn't know they
were there, he should have done.
if ever there's a “good” way to have a bad day at the office,
Leinster found it. And it's not the first time their problems have come
from turning quality possession into points.
was, that quality possession wasn't available until the second half, and
that is of immense credit to the home side. I'd say they threw the
“kitchen sink” at us for the first forty minutes, except given who we were
playing, it was more like a tub (apologies...but you surely didn't expect me to avoid a bath pun, did you?).
what was the score going into the break? Just 6-3. And why was
that? Because we tackled like demons for the duration, led in the
most part by man-of-the-match Jonathan Sexton.
think by the mainstream media headlines that his award came from
booting six out of seven placekicks. But when Bath had the ball his
channel was closed for business and he clearly demonstrated how an
outhalf can be an asset to his team for the entire 80 minutes, not
just the final five.
despite the failures on the offensive front there were more
impressive displays around the park. Our back three were unlucky to
get on the scoresheet and came within a bounce of a ball (or a turn
of Rob Kearney's head the other way) of producing several YouTube
moments. Gordon D'Arcy has come in for a lot of stick of late
(mostly deserved) yet I felt he earned himself a thumbs up on the day
with some powerful running.
front we never really dominated but that being said the forwards
deserve much credit for keeping the first half penalty count down.
Truth be told, the score at the break could easily have been anything
up to 21-0 to the home side on a different day.
only real blip in Leinster's defensive display, I'm afraid to say,
came when Sean Cronin took to the field. After his heroics in
Montpellier I'm loathe to single him out plus it was super work by
Louw to strip the ball off him – but such are the standards at the
province these days that when you cough up possession like that and
it leads to a try, the spotlight must fall on you. He didn't help his
cause with a wayward dart moments later either.
although the Sky commentary team were doing all they could to jinx
the visitors, I have to credit Leinster for their composure en route to regaining the lead. There was definitely no
panic to be seen, and when you look at the displays going all the way
back to the quarterfinal with Leicester last season I'd almost say
they're a better team when they fall behind!
not a description Joe Schmidt will enjoy reading, however. What he
needs to do it teach his players to take the “x-factor” rugby and
find a way to bottle it until they can establish a decent lead. If
there's always six or seven points in the bag, I'd much rather have
them on the board instead.
remember – this is a team that's being considered one of the
favourites to win this competition, and going by those standards,
just take a look at what Toulouse did on Friday night. They also won
away from home, but did so much more comfortably against a club
that's having a slightly better season than Bath are.
to summarise, I'll take the four points until the cows come home, and
three points clear with two out of three games left at home is a
position any team would be delighted with. Plus the tries aren't
exactly flying in elsewhere in the competition – despite the fact
we've drawn a match we're just one point behind the pace across the
pools so it's all to play for in the return next Saturday.
hoping I can use another cliché in my writeup for that match : “A
truly great team makes winning look easy”. JLP
three out of three for Munster but my God were they given an early
Christmas present at Parc y Scarlets. The home side had shown good
form in the opening rounds and were clear favourites here but somehow
could not manage to get their act together, and it's not as though
they didn't have the chances. The difference was Rhys Priestland who
was a shadow of his World Cup self. Having said that, you can only
play the opposition that faces you and Tony McGahan's men were solid
on defence and should comfortably see themselves into the
quarterfinals from here.
for Ulster, well I'd love to know how many of their fans would have
been willing to watch their match with Aironi on the telly, but
apparently Sky didn't think it was enough to send a camera team to
Ravenhill. Still, they got the job done, and if they can manage a
repeat performance in Italy next weekend and somehow Leicester can
reverse their defeat to Clermont, they'll be right in the mix come
there's poor, poor, Connacht. I'm absolutely gutted for them, but
more so for their fans. There is just no way of putting a positive
spin on four defeats in four home matches in four successive weeks.
Can't be done. I mean – you can only stretch the whole “we're
happy to be in the Heineken Cup at all” adage so far...I can't
imagine that's any consolation for Eric Elwood at this rate. Tiniest
crumb of a silver lining could be the display of Dave McSharry at 12
– having penned a deal to stay at the province during the week he
could well make some headlines for the province – before being
snapped up by a different one, of course!
the Leinster 1st's score in Bath was bettered by the A team by just a
point as they ran out 19-13 winners in Llanelli to put them on the
verge of the quarter-finals of the British & Irish Cup. Leo
Auv'a just can't stop scoring tries this weather and Noel Reid had a
great day with the boot – a solid outing at Donnybrook against
London Welsh next week should see them through.