With just a couple of weeks to go until the US presidential election, the media will naturally play a major part in how the two campaigns get their message across.
And in many ways, the rugby media is no different. Four years ago, had Leinster won their first two Heineken Cup games of the season in any way, shape or form they would certainly have been given the benefit of the doubt by the press both home and abroad for a good start.
Three out of four trophies later, however, standards are a tad higher, and now even an away win at a ground where we had been thumped just a short while earlier gets greeted with headlines like “Off-colour Leinster ride their luck” and “Leinster need to pack more punch”.
If this great tournament were run over successive weeks just as Super Rugby mostly is, those headlines would have some merit. Taking the form from the first two matches would definitely benefit Clérmont in the head-to-head battle that is to come were it happening next weekend. But that's not how things work.
Instead, the matches come two at a time – so your job is merely to get your results, and move on. Plenty can happen between now and December 9 when arguably the tie of this season's pool stages kicks off in the Stade Marcel-Michelin.
So given all the negativity towards the champions that has been spewed out over the weekend, I kind of see it as my duty (for the second week running I might add) to focus mostly on the positive for the boys in blue.
In round one against Exeter, we needed a nigh-on perfect defensive display to secure the win. Things just weren't happening going forward, as we couldn't quite get the simple things right and even the flashes of sheer brilliance that are now expected of us were nowhere to be seen.
Well, it seems the brilliance is starting to come back. With the penalty already awarded it was an inch-perfect crossfield kick from Sexton to Nacewa, but the winger didn't just have catching the ball to worry about, as he was kind of up against a certain George North.
I thought it interesting that people were doubting Brian O'Driscoll's Lions credentials when he was (literally) given the runaround by Gareth Maule for the Scarlets try, yet I doubt many would drop North from contention despite being smoked by Isa (main pic) for what turned out to be the decisive score.
And then we had the Sexton drop-goal, which brought back memories of the Murrayfield Heineken Cup final. Again it was one of those that would have you going “what the hell did he try that for?” if he missed, and instead going “sheer genius!” when he didn't. It was the perfect sucker-punch considering the home side had missed a penalty moments earlier and gave us the crucial opening score of the half.
In the forwards, we weren't just relying on our back row as we were last week. This time our front row actually got better the more we went to the bench – Alan Quinlan gave man of the match to Mike Ross but it was more of a joint effort from him, Richardt & Heinke...if I had to single one player out for an award I'd go for Jamie Heaslip, for his fine composure keeping the ball in the scrum during those crucial final stages.
Mention must be also made of Gordon D'Arcy, Leinster's most-capped player of all time, who's form has flatlined somewhat in recent times. He played the full eighty minutes with a spring in his step and contributed both with and without the ball, and anyone who has been bemoaning the problems Ireland are having finding a decent 12 of late needs to acknowledge this.
Of course I won't go this entire writeup pretending Leinster were perfect by any means. The flashes of brilliance I mentioned earlier were needed because we still weren't doing the simple things well enough, especially when we got into the opposition 22. The decision-making with possession still needs work – for example, already 11-0 up on foreign soil, Isa's quick lineout toss to Madigan wasn't the wisest option – no shame in taking the set-piece to eat up some time.
Plus it wasn't the best day at the office for our out-half, and he was fortunate in that his opposite number was playing a game of “anything you can do badly, I can do worse”. We can be sure Sexton will be hard on himself for the poor kicks out of hand instead of admiring the good ones...such is his personality.
If I had to single out a forward for negative attention it would be Kevin McLaughlin, though in many ways his knock-ons and penalties stand out all the more considering the top-notch work being done by Jennings and Heaslip alongside him.
And it has to be said the Scarlets themselves played a large part in Leinster's ability to keep the lead from the first minute. Rhys Priestland is having a nightmare time of it lately; not even a top American political operative could put a positive spin on his form. Leinster may have a strong defence but given it had been reduced to 14 men for the last few minutes, for him to fail to find touch and deny his team a last-gasp assault on their try-line was unforgivable, and that was just one in long line of mistakes on the day for him.
He wasn't helped by poor discipline around him, especially from his back-row who coughed up more than their share of penalties. There could be an argument for Leinster getting the rub of the green from referee Greg Garner, though I'd say perhaps the yellow on Madigan was a bit harsh as I really believe his intention was to catch the ball rather than take out the advancing Liam Williams. Overall I thought Mads did well at 15 all things considered, though it still clearly not his ideal position.
Also I feel Simon Easterby was found wanting in the tactics stakes. He seems to have put all his eggs in the Pro12 basket, and having definitely out-witted his brother on the opening day of the season, didn't have much to add the second time around.
So all in all, I have to be happy with two wins to open the campaign...as are no doubt the other 6 teams who managed it. One of those is Clérmont, who of course tacked on bonus points to both of their victories.
But for now we must put our Heineken Cup opinions on pause while the Autumn Internationals take centre stage. We'll see how our squad's injury count looks afterwards...with a bit of luck our stars will remain unscathed while names like Kearney, O'Brien, O'Malley and Fitzgerald could be welcomed back to the fold.
If anything was to concern me about the Clérmont series, it's not the performances of the past two weeks but rather the fact that they have a trip to Toulouse in the Top14 a week before we face them, while we have a home game against Zebre; no disrespect to the Italians, but surely it will be Vern Cotter's side that will have the sterner test before his former backs coach brings his champion squad into town.
Still, though, I am determined to focus on the positives for Leinster. We haven't been at our best this season by any means, yet still we are in the top four of the Pro12 and retain our long unbeaten streak in the Heineken. That tells me we are a side that knows how to get the right result when it matters. JLP
Also this weekend