Monday, December 26, 2011

Leinster-42 Ulster-13

 

Given that I went on such a rant when Cardiff sent an inexperienced team to the RDS a few weeks ago, you'd be forgiven for thinking I was going to do similar for this match.

But while I wasn't averse to a mischievous tweet or two before kickoff, I don't hold Ulster's selection against them this time round – in fact, I think there may have been multiple methods in their madness.

The party line was that they were prioritizing the clash with Munster, coming as it did with a tight four-day turnaround. That's a decent excuse on its own, but when Simon Danielli pulled out at the last minute and it left Bryan McLaughlin's starting XV completely with home-grown players, I wondered if it was also a wee statement about the recently-announced IRFU province-strangling player-managing initiative?

Most likely we’ll never know. But I have to say, even if referee Peter Fitzgibbon did appear to be helping the youngsters out whenever he could, they certainly made a good fist of it for the first three quarters, and but for a crucial steal by Shane Jennings close to his own line, could have gotten to within a point going into the closing stages and after then who knows what may have happened.

The Ulsterman who stood up most in my book was Paul Marshall, who surely must be knocking on the door of the national squad despite the lengthy queue for the position. It was also an impressive line & finish from Chris Cochrane for their try early in the second half which made things interesting.

But it wasn't to be and although Leinster's World Cup prop pairing had their perceived troubles in the first half, it was fitting that their superior technique helped secure the bonus point at the 67th min via a penalty try.

A lot of fans noted the absence of our furry mascot on the night...was he visiting relatives in the Serengeti for Christmas or perhaps the IRFU have also placed a cap on the amount of Leo's who can be on display for a given match?

If the latter, then I'm more than happy that Mr Auva'a got the nod Monday evening as he really is right at home at this level. He gives plenty of bang for the buck and thoroughly deserved his try at the end of the first period.

And although Ian Madigan had the odd slip up I have to draw attention to a vital weapon in his arsenal...the quick long sizzling pass, which helped set up both Leinster's first two tries on the night.

I'd also like to give a thumbs up to Shane Jennings for his captaincy having been a critic in the past...it was the right decision to kick for territory in the first half and it eventually led to our opening score plus he rightly got in Peter Fitzgibbon's face about his interpretation of Mike Ross' scrummaging.

Honourable mention must also go to two stars hoping to stay on the radar for Six Nations selection...Gordon D'Arcy was once again solid and although I still don't feel he's right at full-back, had Luke been wearing a longer stud he could have helped himself to a try or two.

All in all yet another satisfying result for the Leinster faithful. Back at the beginning of September after we lost 27-3 to the Ospreys to open the season I ended my write-up with this :

“I reckon we have the right man at the helm to turn things around even more quickly than he did last year”

Leinster ended 2010 in charge of their Heineken Cup pool yet behind Munster in the Celtic League. This year they lead both with a six-point cushion. 'Nuff said. Here's to an even better 2012 - Happy New Year to you all. JLP

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