Sunday, May 27, 2012

Leinster-30 Ospreys-31

Hey you know what, this result was actually a good thing for Leinster Rugby.

I've been telling myself that since the final whistle blew. Of course my heart doesn't ACTUALLY believe it, as I was pretty much as gutted as any other fan. But my head has been making a decent case for it ever since, and I'll get to that later in the piece.

As it's the end of the season I've decided not to watch the TV replay of the match before writing this, choosing instead to convey my views from my seat in the Grandstand for once. So perhaps some plays will be missed and some individual performances not mentioned but that's generally the way it goes for a spectator and I will look at the replays later and post any extra thoughts I may have on the Facebook page.

First and foremost, I have to say well done to the Ospreys. We at Leinster have been using the number three over and over for the past week, well this was their fourth Celtic League title, and wearing a neutral's hat you have to admit they had an impressive second half of the season.

The way this match progressed was very much a fairytale ending to the glittering career of Shane Williams, and also for the second time in a matter of weeks, Dan Biggar showed he has the stones to make the pressure kick to win a match at the RDS.

Now - here's the bit about the ref just to get it over with...I don't blame the Ospreys for “getting” our props has always been in the nature of the sport that you take credit for whatever you get away with. But for one referee's interpretation to be so critical in the result of a big match proves the powers that be need to make the rules more clear around the setting of the scrum. Surely the vast amount of rugby fans of all allegiances beating their drums about it can't be wrong?

I was reminded of our last match down in Thomond Park. A similar situation was happening at scrum time where the front rows just would not stay up. Nigel Owens decided the best way to go was to bin BOTH offending props. This course of action wasn't even on Poite's radar, and as a result the fifteen-headed blue monster I spoke of last week was decapitated for two of the Osprey tries.

But of course that's not to suggest Leinster didn't have a hand in their own undoing...the visitors were a stubborn defence to break down, and our being a man short for almost an entire quarter didn't help that either. Still, Jonathan Sexton's boot into touch on the full came at absolutely the wrong time and there's no amount of treachery or referee's incompetence that can be blamed for that.

And for the first seventy minutes overall it was a classic display by the European champions that epitomised their 2011/12 campaign. As on several occasions throughout the season they were at their most dangerous immediately after they conceded a score and one look at the timeline shows it happened again on Sunday... Ospreys scored first on 8m, then Leinster on 11, then Ospreys again on 22, Leinster on 26, and so on 34-35, 42-44 & 59-61, until Nathan White was sent to the bin to prematurely end his Leinster career and after that we had nothing left in the tank.

Included in those fightbacks was of course that amazing try from Isa Nacewa straight off the restart from a Dan Biggar penalty. It was worthy of winning a championship all on its own, and going into the final ten minutes the stage seemed to be set more for him to complete his hat-trick than it was for what actually transpired.

But instead it was to be the Welshmen emerging on top and no doubt fans of the league as a whole will have been happy with the outcome, and I for one am certainly not going to begrudge them their success. Wonder how I'd be feeling if Wesley Fofana hadn't fluffed that touchdown in Bordeaux though? my original assertion. How can I possibly spin this result as a positive for Leinster? Let me have a go.

Joe Schmidt has one year left on his contract. Many are tipping him as the next Ireland coach, though there are conflicting reports that he may be keen to return to his native New Zealand. Either way, going by recent history at Irish provinces, the chances are that not only will he be likely to move on at the end of next season, we will all know of his plans early in 2013 so the province will no doubt have the “winding down” air about it that both Munster & Ulster had this season.

And of course let's not forget the last time the Ospreys pinched a Celtic League title from us in Ballsbridge in 2010. Michael Cheika was the end of his successful spell where he had already gotten his “job” done of breaking Leinster's Heineken Cup duck.

Say the double had been done yesterday. What would there be left for Joe Schmidt to achieve? Another double, I hear you say. Sure, that would be the aim, but with it already having been chalked up and daily speculation going on about his future, would that really be on the cards?

The way this season has panned out, not only does Schmidt still have a double to chase, he also has a worthy nemesis on his radar, and if he is half the competitor I think he is, he'll already have plans in mind for taming those pesky birds next season.

You know what would be ideal? You may not agree if you're a Leinster fan, but I'd love to see us play the Ospreys in the Heineken Cup, be it in a pool or a knockout contest. Then we'd see who was really the better of the two great squads. It wouldn't be the first match of the season, it wouldn't be played with one team having half a mind on another competition, nor would it be played with one side having had an extra week's rest.

But enough about next season. This one has drawn to a close, and despite the disappointment from yesterday, I have to thank everyone involved in Leinster rugby for raising the standard of the European game even further, and going by what the players are saying, they only intend to get better. I certainly got every penny's worth on my season-ticket this time round, and I'm more than happy with parting with the cash for the next one, austerity or no.

It is certainly a wonderful time to be a Leinster fan, and if my twitter timeline is to be believed, we're already counting down the days till the next campaign. Thank you for following my writeups throughout; they get more enjoyable for me to do each week whatever the result. JLP

Also this weekend
Friday May 25
Saturday May 26


Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019