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.