More of the same this Saturday please, Leinster! writes Keego…
So here we are. Half time in the Clermont tests. And surprisingly to most people I am extremely positive after last week. The normal grumpy Keego has been replaced by ….something else….dare I say it…positive?
I have spent far too much time writing about how undercooked Leinster has been this season, and I took zero pleasure in doing so. But finally I can say that the screw is starting to turn. We played like champions on Sunday. It was great to see.
Going in, only the sheep thought we could pull a rabbit out of the hat in the Stade Marcel Michelin. Our form was patchy at best, and we were just no firing as we should have been. But magic happened. We had a performance that usually comes much earlier in the season, usually around the first Munster match. We out fought a bigger team, out thought a very good coach in Verne Cotter and had the big bad French lads demoralized for a lot of the game. They will be rattled coming to the Aviv……LANSDOWNE!
Positives from the match are plenty. Fergalicious McFadden tackled everything in sight; I think he tackled himself at one point. Goodman was a surprising choice for such a big test, but he stepped up massively, the Darce played a blinder at 13 and the front row stood up to a huge Clermont scrum, it shows the madness of blaming Mike Ross for the Springboks scoreline doesn’t it Messrs Kindey/Thornley?. The Notorious S O’B (copyrighted by keego – you hear me score.ie ;)) blasted through 80 minutes, the Jenno put his face on the line for the blue jersey again, in 15 minutes he smashed a few people stole a few balls and split his head open! Captain Cullen probably had a top 2 performance of his career. The whole team fought hard, did the simple things right, took on Clermont at their perceived strengths (scrum/lineout) and really had a chance of humbling the French giants in their own fortress.
The only real negatives were the lost lineout’s in the 10-15 minutes in the second half when we where well inside the Clermont party area. Cronin had put in a great shift, Strauss added strength to the scrum but wasn’t as accurate as he could have been with the darts. We had at least 2 lineouts in positions that we would expect to score points from, but we overthrew or threw crooked. It is always hard for a hooker to come on and be throwing at 100%. In the NFL, the replacement kicker and quarter back warm up for 3 days before they are called on. It is just a pity that we didn’t finish it off.
There was also talk about the cross field kick from Jonny to Ferg that nearly resulted in a try. Pundits are saying that we should have kicked the points. In my humble and useless opinion, the score wasn’t the issue at the time, we were just trying to put points on the board. The same play has netted us the try this season already, and if it had come off then Sexto would have been the greatest playmaker in history. So please remember when questioning tactics that we, the spectator (whether you get paid to write about it or not) have hindsight, we have replays and we have conversations in the bar afterwards. The players only have the split second to make a decision.
Which brings us to the return leg. A few things we do know. There won’t be clapping while the kicking takes place, there won’t be a huge number of white and yellow in the stadium and if we can correct a few errors we can win! How many times have we actually thought that? The season has turned around. We know the players will fight for 80 minutes; we just have to do our bit in the stand.
I have a freshly washed jersey (retro of course) ready to be worn on Saturday. Shay and I will be taking over the West Lower stand (block 127 x 28) if you want to join us in battling the French support?
With talk of Kearney senior and the BO’D progressing nicely in their rehabs, Lukey very close to starting and the team beginning to fire, the rest of the season is something to look forward to!
Until next week….
Keego (@nkeegan): Newbie blogger, former professional wrestler, sometime attempted rugby player (@TheThirsty3rds), professional procrastinator and attempted musician with a fondness for long walks on the bar, tea and the couch. Opinionated Leinster fan and constant gardener.