Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Heineken launches Social Tracker

Jonny Wilkinson and Munster’s Red Army dominate the Heineken Cup semi-final twitter frenzy…

Heineken

The Heineken Cup semi-final weekend produced some incredible match moments. From Munster’s last ditch effort to overcome mighty Clermont Auvergne, to a world class performance from a certain Jonny Wilkinson, Twitter was alive with the emotional highs and lows of Heineken Cup rugby. The Twitter frenzy paints a fascinating picture about the role of social media for Heineken Cup fans. Looking ahead to the Heineken Cup final in Dublin, Heineken has set out with an ambitious project to measure the mood of rugby fans across Twitter. Heineken Social Tracker will use this information to project dramatic visual animations in Dublin city centre over the Heineken Cup final weekend, 16-18 May.

Last weekend Heineken measured the positive and negative sentiment of tweets along with volume and trends to reflect the vibrant activity on Twitter around the two crunch games in Montpellier and London. The data collected paints a colourful picture of how fans reacted to the highs and lows of both matches. Munster fans accounted for the largest volume of tweets – 27,919 – with Saracens supporters the least active with 17,914 tweets.

Despite being knocked out of the competition, the Red Army were the most positive set of fans. Although losing to Clermont, 82% of tweets referencing Munster were positive compared to 70% positivity of Clermont fans. Overall all four teams enjoyed positive sentiment across Twitter. However, Saracens, who lost to Toulon, faced negative sentiment of almost 40%.

Without doubt the star of the weekend was Toulon’s Jonny Wilkinson. The Englishman’s Twitter handle (@JonnyWilkinson) was used 10,734 times and a tweet in which he was photographed alongside team-mate Matt Giteau (@matt_giteau) was retweeted 385 times.

As anticipation builds ahead of the Heineken Cup final on 18 May, Heineken is calling out for Irish fans to welcome the French and get behind a team. The Heineken Social Tracker will listen to Twitter and use this data to drive large-scale visual animations projected onto a purpose built set in Dublin city centre on Heineken Cup final weekend. Fans will have an opportunity to influence the visual projections by tweeting their support for one of the Heineken Cup finalists using #GETINTHEGAME. Those lucky enough to be in Dublin for the Heineken Cup final weekend will be able to interact directly with the large scale set by stepping up to kick virtual conversions. Each successful kick will convert into a tweet of support for a chosen team.

Karl Donnelly, Heineken’s Sponsorship Brand Manager, said: “Today, so much of the conversation around sports events takes place across social media. Heineken recognises how important this space is. We are utilising this rich conversation and harnessing it with visual animations and projections over the weekend of the Heineken Cup final. A custom built structure for this visual display will also provide an interactive virtual kicking game; fans can literally kick conversions which will, in turn, send tweets in support of various teams. A social sentiment project like this has never been seen before in Ireland.’

Fans can Get in the Game via www.heineken.ie/game or by stepping up to challenges featured in pubs throughout Ireland. Arcade-style games such as Conversion Challenge and Catch will be available to online players who will also have their Heineken Cup knowledge tested with quizzes and Match Predictor. It is all linked in one exciting system where the overall winner will receive a once in a lifetime VIP and back stadium experience at the Heineken Cup Final.


Is this Lions squad for the Best?

Warren Gatland certainly didn’t do much to stand up for the Ulstermen, writes Kristian Ross…

Kristian Ross avatar

And so it twas the day of April 30th 2013 that Warren Gatland’s squad for the British and Irish Lions tour to Australia was announced. But keeping an eye on proceedings as an Ulster Rugby fan there was little to cheer about as just a single player from the province was included. Huge congratulations to Tommy Bowe who will participate in his second Lions tour. But whilst Bowe has got a seat guaranteed on the plane, others missed out.

RTE were favouring a possible surprise inclusion for Iain Henderson. Hopeful maybe but the young man has shown his potential over the last twelve months. Could it be said that Craig Gilroy may have been worthy of a place on the tour, after all, isn’t he as good as Sean Maitland ? However the biggest surprise came in the form of Ulster’s formidable hooker. Rory Best missed out on the Lions yet again and will feel incredibly hard done by. Rory has made mistakes in international matches over the course of the season, but it has to be said, that sixty seven appearances as Ireland’s most capped hooker, Rory would have brought his tremendous experience to the squad. With Dylan Hartley and Tom Youngs also included, Ulster fans and I myself are incredibly disappointed that someone of Best’s calibre was not looked at.

Aside from this, we must give huge applause to the rest of the Irish contingent who have made it in the plane for this summer’s adventure. A well earned place for Jonny Sexton, easily now one of the most capable kickers in Europe. Cian Healy was also included, as well as scrum half Conor Murray from Munster. Again we will see Rob Kearney don a red shirt, and despite injury over the last year, Rob as always be keen to show just how much of a great full back he really is. Irish captain Jamie Heaslip has been awarded a place, as another of Leinster’s players will make the trip to Oz. The ever present Paul O’Connell makes the cut as well as Sean O’Brien. And then who could forget Mr Irish Rugby himself, rumours have persisted over Brian O’Driscoll ‘s retirement but he certainly isn’t finished yet, although it has upset many that he hasn’t been picked to captain the tour, that accolade fell to Sam Warburton instead.

With the tour slowly but surely getting closer, many will feel that the Irish strength within the team will certainly contribute in huge ways. But as for Ulster fans and some others around Ireland, Mr Gatland’s selections have been controversial to say the least and have left a very bitter taste in the mouth indeed.

I'm Kristian. 18. And my mind is filled with rugby shaped thoughts. Supporting Ulster Rugby, Newcastle Falcons and of course the mighty Ireland. Tommy Bowe is the MAN !!!! SUFTUM.

O’Donoghue try snatches late draw

As Leinster & Munster fought their European battles, Connacht were fighting their way to a creditable draw, writes Jon O’Sullivan…

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We were long enough waiting for it, so there was a hope that the Connacht-Treviso game would be worth the wait-and, with a late try securing Connacht a 23-23 all draw, it certainly was, at least in the eyes of the neutral observer. The premier Italian side in this seasons competition, the away trip to Treviso is never easy, thus Connacht can be pleased with the character they showed in securing a highly credible draw.

For much of the season, Paul O’Donoghue has watched on as young Kieran Marmion has tightened his Vulcan like grip on Connacht’s number nine jersey-not deterred, though, O’Donoghue has been an experienced option off the bench for Connacht all season and this was the case again on Friday evening.

Quite like the Westerners last fixture against Ulster, Connacht started the game well and, after sixteen minutes, had a try through Fetu’u Vainikolo. The Tongan has an innate ability to tear defences to shreds with his elusive running and superb ambition. Sometimes, Vainikolo is too ambitious in his approach, often taking the ‘Hollywood’ option as opposed to the conservative option, but, on this occasion, like so many others this season, it paid dividends. Off the tail of a Connacht line out, the ball fell to Kieran Marmion who exquisitely supplied Vainikolo with a deft disguise pass. Vainikolo collected the ball and showed his rugby sevens like broken field running in leaving the trailing Treviso defence for dead. The near nonchalant way in which Marmion executed the defence splitting pass is indicative of a player bursting at the seams with confidence. Surely, with the injury to Eoin Reddan and Conor Murray likely to be with the Lions, the Welsh born scrum half must tour with Ireland on this coming summers tour of North America. Dan Parks, as he invariably does, slotted the resultant conversion.

Parks had ample chance to stretch Connacht’s lead, but he skewed two of his three penalty attempts, leaving the score 10-3 to the visitors at half time-the Italians got on the score board via an Alberto Di Bernardo penalty.

In the battle of the place kickers, Di Bernardo was beginning to gain the ascendancy over Parks in the second half, slotting a penalty-and, after Parks was charged down by Italian International Alessandro Zanni- and adding a conversion. After his attempted relieving kick was charged down, the former Scotland international dove on the ball, but Treviso arrived en masse turning the ball over and supplying quick ball to Eduardo Gori who had the simplest of finishes.

Parks’ soon made amends and levelled the game at 13 all, converting a penalty after Treviso infringed. Once again, Parks and Di Bernardo compared kicking notes by each slotting a penalty, once again deadlocking the game at 16-16.

When people think about Italian rugby, one facet of their game stands out: their scrum. And it was from a scrum that Zebre secured the lead eight minutes from time. Connacht were coming under extreme scrutiny in the scrum, and it came as no surprise that the hooped wearing Italians were awarded a penalty try. Referees in this season’s competition seem far more inclined to award penalty tries than in previous seasons. Di Bernardo continued his unblemished kicking record by caressing the conversion through the posts for a 23-17 lead to the Italians.

Connacht, to their credit, never gave in and right at the death of the game were rewarded for their determined attitude. Connacht peppered the Treviso line, phase after phase brought the Irishmen closer to the holy grail of the try line; and, after his dummy was bought by the Treviso defence, O’Donoghue scuttled over the line from close distance. His first ever league try was converted by Parks, ending the game 23-23.

Considering Treviso’s form, five consecutive wins in all competitions, Connacht returning from Italy with a draw is far from a bad result.

It would be wrong to assume Connacht’s interest in the weekends rugby ended on Friday evening, as every set of Connacht associated eyes were watching the proceedings from Dublin and Montpellier respectively. My worst fears were confirmed in Montpellier; despite a gallant effort, Munster succumbed to defeat to an excellent Clermont side. After the emotional and physical toll of the Quins game, I felt it would be difficult for Munster to replicate such a performance again and, unfortunately, I was proved right. The fight and drive shown by Munster was absolutely fantastic, it would rekindle anyone’s love for the game of rugby. So, once again, it looks like Connacht’s hope of Heineken Cup rugby rest firmly on the shoulders of their eastern neighbours, Leinster.

In a performance matching the glorious RDS sunshine, Leinster ran riot, crushing Biarritz 44-16. With many of the players looking to impress the on looking Lions entourage, Leinster were near flawless in their performance. After losing to Connacht in December, Biarritz will be delighted to see the back of Ireland. After signing Mike McCarthy, Leinster received bad press in the Western quart of the country for what some fans felt was their poaching of Connacht players, but should Leinster, as expected, beat Stade Francais on home turf in the Amlin final on May 17th, all will be forgiven.

Finally, newly confirmed Irish coach Joe Schmidt was fond of plundering Connacht during his tenure as Leinster coach, signing Fionn Carr, Jamie Hagan and Mike McCarthy, hopefully his affinity towards Connacht players continues in his role as Irish head coach. There are several young Connacht players who should on merit at least be involved in Irish training squads, and hopefully Schmidt recognizes this.

I’m John O’Sullivan, 20. Part time student, full time sports nut. Love rugby and am currently the PRO of Connemara RFC as well as admin for the Rugby Banter Facebook page. I also do some radio work for my local station. One day, I would love to be a Sports Journalist/Broadcaster.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Leinster-44 Biarritz-16

ONE MORE YEAR

I started this blog back in 2008 to chronicle my experiences as a Leinster season ticket holder.  I mention this because never before have I been more proud to be one.

Although I’m fully aware that writers are known for stretching their descriptions of events to extreme proportions for the sake of good copy, I can’t write up this occasion without pointing out that there seemed to be a “perfect storm” of good things for Leinster fans to savour in Ballsbridge on Saturday afternoon.  So the best way to describe them would be to list the key elements one by one.

THE WEATHER

It’s approaching May yet we had freakin’ hailstones in Dublin on the Friday afternoon. HAILSTONES, I tells ya!  Yet by match time on the Saturday the skies over D4 were clear…not quite summer-esque conditions temperature-wise, but certainly tropical compared to what we have gotten used to in the past while.

THE TENSION

I mention this because of its absence.  Our 3-in-a-row dreams died way back in January and have been both buried and mourned by Leinster fans since then…also the up (just one) and downs of Ireland’s Six Nations campaign did much to aid the “moving-on” process.  

Even though we won our European semi last season, I most certainly did not enjoy watching it…the butterflies were wreaking havoc on my insides from the moment I woke that morning right up to the final whistle.  For this match, however, while I was certainly up for a battle, it was without so much of the nerves, and the atmosphere around the RDS seemed to reflect that as well.

THE LEINSTERTAINMENT

Can we please, please put the term “champagne rugby” to bed?  That implies that Leinster’s style is somehow attempting to mimic the French flair that has graced the game for decades.

The approach of Joe Schmidt’s Leinster is one that has been forged on the pitches & DVD rooms at their training base in UCD.  It is one that has been designed not only to entertain but also to acknowledge the full transition of the sport to professionalism by pushing the boundaries of what a 15-man team in perfect sync can achieve.

Take your pick from Leinster’s 5 tries and look back on the recording to around a minute before they are scored…invariably the play is way down the other end of the pitch.  Did everything we attempt come off? No. But when at first we did not succeed, the collective mindset endured to make sure we scored try and try again.

It has to be noted that the score in this match was a mere 10-9 to the home side as Sexton restarted after Yachvili converted his third penalty, with the clock ticking into the 38th minute of the first half, no less.  Yet Leinster weren’t for letting up and by the time I was retiring to the South Stand bar for my half time pint, the scoreboard read an incredible 24-9.

To be able to achieve that level of precision, penetration and (in most cases) execution so often against a squad of players who were hardly pushovers is certainly a unique ability in the modern game, and fully deserving of its own word – major kudos to the original coiner of “Leinstertainment”, whomever that may be.

THE DEFENCE

The biggest testament to another nigh-on flawless Leinster display without the ball was the fact that the speedy Biarritz winger Taku Ngwenya could only get involved in the action by tackling our players (though some of them were fine tackles even if his shenanigans after one got him binned).

You had straightforward tackles at the waist that I prefer to see more often than not, you had poaching at the breakdown like Cian Healy wrestling one free at the start of the second half, and you had crunching open-field tackles that directly led to tries like BOD’s on Aled Brew before the Sexton/Nacewa double act that put the result even further beyond doubt.

I was a bit surprised in many cases by Biarritz’ approach, like sending so many restarts towards Devin Toner for example, but for the most part whatever their offensive strategy may have been it was thoroughly devoured by the 15-headed blue monster.

THE INDIVIDUAL BRILLIANCE

Leinster succeeded mostly thanks to a team effort, but for all the grief he gets from certain sections of Irish rugby fans, Jamie Heaslip’s man-of-the-match display deserves a mention.

He earned his spot on the 2009 Lions tour thanks to his marauding runs planting defences on the back foot to stay.  Since then though, he has had to accommodate the rise to the top of Sean O’Brien by taking on the role of an openside flanker more often than not for province and country.

But although the accusations of his detractors normally point to him being “invisible”, I’m not so sure that is the motivation behind them.  Well whatever the reasons may be, if anyone gives them now after this performance, they are showing themselves up, not him. 

103 metres gained with the ball. 9 tackles made, none missed. Oh, and two tries.

Also there was evidence of something he has shown this season but noone anywhere seems to be mentioning…sterling work in his actual No8 role in the scrums, keeping the ball in when it comes through clean, tidying it up if it doesn’t. 

As worthy a recipient of the MotM as you’ll see, and considering all he has been through in the past few months, it must surely stand to him to be able to step up the way he did in O’Brien’s absence.

THE VISITORS’ VILLIANY

During the week I watched a recording of Biarritz dismantling Gloucester in Kingsholm…whatever about their position in the Top14, they had all the ability and motivation to get something out of this one if we were willing to let them.

But Heaslip’s opening try in the 3rd minute clearly shook them…not just because of the way they were torn apart at the lineout, but also Ian Madigan’s clever little run to block off a would-be tackler or two was hardly appreciated.

This led to Damien Traille giving Madigan a bit of “shin-to-head” treatment shortly after the resulting kickoff, something BOD rightly reacted to. 

Then later we had the massive Eric “the Viking” Lund stepping into a ruck blocking the ball with his foot while at the same time smacking the prone Kevin McLaughlin to the chops with his fist.  It was Richardt Strauss’ turn to react, not caring a jot he was about as tall as Lund’s beard.

When your opposition is doing things like that, you know you’re doing something right.  And the pièce de résistance came in the 75th minute when Imanol Harinordiquy, the game’s ACTUAL invisible number 8 (so much so he was actually wearing 25 for most of the match!), furiously kicked the halfway-line marker in frustration after yet another Biarritz attack went nowhere.

Some of their fans were sitting alongside us and we had some good craic with them…but the only thing their heroes did to perfection on the day was play the villian’s role.

THE RDS CROWD

I have been a vocal critic of the Leinster crowd in the past.  Hearing the rallying cries of “Fields of Athenry” and “Stand Up For The Ulstermen” at other grounds was never quite matched at the RDS to my liking.

But while I never quite took to the singing of “Come On You Boys In Blue”, there was a chorus of it in the 61st minute that certainly did give me goosebumps…sure, it could be argued that the crowd was only singing in unison because the victory was beyond doubt, but it was a stirring rendition nonetheless.  However it was nothing compared to what happened a couple of minutes later.

Sean Cronin was barely on the pitch when he pinned his ears back for one of his trademark sprints down the field before popping up a lovely pass in the tackle that allowed Nacewa to send in O’Driscoll for the fifth try.  It was fitting for the contender for Lions skipper to register on the scoresheet, but the tour was furthest away from the minds of the Leinster faithful that day.

The Man of the Match award may have gone to Heaslip, but if there was one for Person of the Event, it would have to go to whoever started the chant of “One More Year!” in what seemed to be the North Stand.  The sight of BOD grinning on the big screen was a joy to behold, and what’s more the chanting didn’t even deter Ian Madigan from slotting the extra two points from out wide.

Certainly a moment for Leinster fans to remember, not to mention the man himself, and as a side note it also made one blogger’s choice of writeup headline very, very easy.

***

Over the coming weeks the thoughts of Leinster fans and indeed the wider rugby world will rightly shift to things like Lions tours, new head coaches for Ireland and Leinster, and of course the destination of silverware. 

But just for today my thoughts are on my Saturday afternoon in Ballsbridge.  The video highlights give you an idea, but you definitely had to be there, and I hope my words have done it some justice.

It certainly makes me feel good about signing up for one more year of Leinster rugby. JLP

Click here for some excellent snaps from the RDS by @kensutz on the day

UPDATE….minutes after publication of this post, the IRFU go and announce Joe Schmidt as the new Ireland coach.  Thoroughly deserved, many congratulations to him, and certainly fitting after masterminding a perfect display such as this one.  Mahoosive shoes to fill at Leinster.

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Also this weekend…

Amlin Cup semifinal

Perpignan 22 - 25 Stade Français

Heineken Cup semifinals

Clermont Auvergne 16 - 10 Munster

Saracens 12 - 24 Toulon

British & Irish Cup semifinals

Munster A 15 - 17 Leinster A

Bedford 15 - 18 Newcastle Falcons

Friday, April 26, 2013

Keego on…10s and 12s

Schmidt’s selection headaches only makes Leinster stronger, writes Keego…

Keego logo

Its business….its business time….

We are getting to the important end of the season and it is really hotting up. Leinster has been keeping the foot on the pedal and if you take out the match against Ulster in the RDS, they have been putting the points on the board. More importantly the game is evolving. It is not the same tricks that had been used all season.

Why is this?

It’s the mad-dog. Ian Madigan has been a revelation this year. He has upped his kicking and surely has planted his arse firmly as the backup Irish 10 to Johnny Sexton. That may upset readers from other provinces, but surely you cannot argue that point? He has played under pressure in big games and has not buckled, unlike every other 10 in Ireland.

Sexto made his return last week and was impressive against Zebre. He had 100% of his kicks on the day, and showed zero rustiness. The question coming into this weekend against Biarritz was, would it be Sexton starting or would king Joe show faith in Madigan? The permutations and combinations where flying around twitter all week. I thought he should have shown faith in the staying player and started Madigan, assuming everyone was fit. Whilst it is always a huge negative to lose Gordon Darcy (been playing a blinder all year), his injury kind of made it easy on Joe. We start with Sexton at 10 and Madigan at 12. What a stroke of luck that is. Biarritz probably didn’t think too much about that. Leinster has 2 hard runners and two great kickers. Biarritz will have no idea where to look.

McLaughlin had a return to form last week too after being patchy in the last few games. The team looks to be firing on all cylinders. The only issue the blues have, and it has been an issue for years, is the second row. Toner has been far better in the second half of this season, but we still need some world class. McCarthy may help improve that next year, though he is not quite world class.

Andrew Goodman has also been fierce (not like beyonce fierce) this year.

Obviously I am picking Leinster. I think the blue army will overwhelm any opposition in the stands and they always do. But I think the team is confident and playing some great rugby. Also with Madigan and Sexton on the pitch it adds a huge amount of ammunition to the team. Is it too late to do a whip round and let us pay the extra money to keep Sexton next year?

Also this weekend we have our friends in red playing against our enemies in blue. Munster takes on the mighty Clérmont away in France. This should be another belter of a game. I want Munster to win. I hope none of you are cheering against them because they are Munster! If you are then I am saying that you are not a real supporter. We have no horse in the Heineken cup race, and I think they deserve our support. In saying that, it will be tough for them. I would say that the fickle French might buckle, but there are barely any French in the Clérmont team. If Munster gets into their faces, play the ref right and can start fights by getting under Clérmont’s skin, and then they have a chance. It is time for old Munster. Stone age Munster need to make an appearance. Put the ball up the jumper and strangle Clérmont. I can’t call this one. I think the pressure on the Clérmont team is immense. They have not really been tested in the French league this year, so is their lack of tough matches going to cost them? If it gets to 60 minutes and there is only 3 points in it, they will be rattled.

To close this week, a quick well done to the blue army. Voted the most loyal fans in the Rabo this year. Attendance was impeccable all year. Well done. You will be needed on Saturday. I will be watching from the lucky pub, unless one of you wants to bring me as your +1 ;)

Until next week…..

Keego (@nkeegan): 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.

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Lions Selector Panel–The Finale

British-Irish-Lions-logo-20131

Friday, August 3 seems an age ago now to rugby fans.  Declan Kidney was Ireland coach. The All Blacks’ unbeaten record was still going. Danny Cipriani hadn’t been attacked by public transport (he’s out of hospital now so it’s ok to make with the jokes).

On that day, here on the HoR2 blog we introduced the “Lions Selector Panel”.  Since then, every Friday morning the four panellists (one blogger from each Lions nation) would select their Test XV and I would put the four together to produce a starting team by committee.  Not exactly the most ideal way of picking a team I’ll grant you, but then again it’s not like we had a final say or anything! 

The point of the project was for bloggers who live outside the “Irish goldfish bowl” to give their take on the selection.  Sure, here in Ireland we all know which of our stars we feel should be on the plane, but that may not always be how others see it.  Also, just naming a team can get a debate going, and for the most part the response to their selections has been, shall we say, “robust”.

And so we come ever closer to next Tuesday, April 30, the day Warren Gatland will formally announce his touring party.  Since each of our panellists have made nine contributions to date, I thought I’d take today’s post and get their final judgements. 

So here we have the latest selections of the four panellists, followed by the final “Composite XV” when you put them all together.

ENGLAND – Rich Church-Keen

15 Halfpenny 14 Cuthbert 13 O’Driscoll 12 Roberts 11 North 10 Sexton 9 Phillips

1 Healy 2 Hibbard 3 Adam Jones 4 AW Jones 5 Hamilton 6 O’Brien 7 Warburton 8 Beattie

My name is Richard Church-Keen, born in Coventry, live in Dudley, yet by God's grace, I'm a diehard Gloucester Rugby and also an England rugby fan (and yes, in that order). I'm a rugby mad husband to a rugby mad wife with a rugby mad stepson and indeed, rugby has taken over every facet of my life. I am a chef by day, and #RugbyUnited’s charity director and blogger in chief by night. Oh. And a twitter addict (@RichC_K)!!!

WALES – Hywel Davies

15 Halfpenny 14 Liam Williams 13 Tuilagi 12 Davies 11 North 10 Madigan 9 Phillips

1 Grant 2 Hibbard 3 Adam Jones 4 AW Jones 5 Evans 6 Wood 7 Tipuric 8 O’Brien

Hywel (@HywelV2) is head Rugby writer on the v2 Journal. A bundle of contradictions, he is a Solicitor and Farmer, a Scarlets supporter and a "conservative, forward orientated typical blydi prop".

SCOTLAND – Kirsten Bruce

15 Halfpenny 14 Cuthbert 13 Tuilagi 12 O’Driscoll 11 Visser 10 Sexton 9 Murray

1 Healy 2 Ford 3 Adam Jones 4 AW Jones 5 Hamilton 6 Warburton 7 Tipuric 8 Beattie

I’m Kirsten. Some who read this may follow me on twitter (@kirstenbruce_02). I’m a big Scotland supporter, so apologies if I am a little bit biased. Also, big thanks to Jeff (@HarpinOnRugby) for allowing me to be involved – it’s sure to be challenging but a great experience!

IRELAND – Mark Jackson

15 Halfpenny 14 Bowe 13 O’Driscoll 12 Roberts 11 North 10 Sexton 9 Phillips

1 Healy 2 Hibbard 3 Adam Jones 4 Evans 5 O’Connell 6 Warburton 7 Tipuric 8 O’Brien

Mark Jackson (@markusjacksonus) is an Irishman living in London, a lover of this game we call Rugby along with Gaelic Football and NFL (All Hail The New York Giants), having played it for fun and money in many countries around the globe, am now earning a crust coaching, hopefully inspiring and passing along some knowledge gained to the next generation of players.

PANEL CHAIRMAN – JL Pagano

My only role as “chairman” has been to put the four panellists’ selections together to form the “composite” side, and the only time I have a say in decision-making is when there is a tie for a particular position.

So here you have it, right before Mr Gatland tells us who he is bringing to Australia, the final HoR Lions Selector Panel Composite XV :

15 LEIGH HALFPENNY (WALES)

14 ALEX CUTHBERT (WALES)

13 BRIAN O’DRISCOLL (IRELAND)

12 JAMIE ROBERTS (WALES)

11 GEORGE NORTH (WALES)

10 JONATHAN SEXTON (IRELAND)

9 MIKE PHILLIPS (WALES)

1 CIAN HEALY (IRELAND)

2 RICHARD HIBBARD (WALES)

3 ADAM JONES (WALES)

4 ALUN-WYN JONES (WALES)

5 JIM HAMILTON (SCOTLAND)

6 SAM WARBURTON (WALES)

7 JUSTIN TIPURIC (WALES)

8 SEAN O’BRIEN (IRELAND)

As you can see, not a single Englishman!  Manu Tuilagi came the closest, tying with BOD on 2 votes for the 13 position but the Irishman also got a vote at 12 so gets the nod.  Personally I very much doubt there won’t be a red-rose wearer in the test XV but then again there’s a decent case to be made for all the fifteen named above so we’ll have to see how Warren sorts it all out!

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the panellists for getting their posts in when their turns came up, it has been interesting to see their selections evolve over the course of the season.  For example, here is the composite XV based on the panellists’ selections last August before the season began :  Halfpenny, Bowe, O’Driscoll, Davies, North, Sexton, Phillips.  Jenkins, Ford, Adam Jones, Gray, Evans, Lydiate, Warburton, Heaslip.

Now we can formally hand over the real responsibility to Warren G.  Bring it on!

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Richards Revolution

Dean Richards’ influence has the Newcastle Falcons on the verge of a unique double, writes Kristian Ross

A year ago as a Falcons fan things weren't looking too good. Bottom of the league. No stability. The following months could only be described as a nightmare. Relegated due to an appeal via London Welsh. Premiership status gone. A bitter taste left in the mouth.

A year on what can you say. Well first of all, happiness is a word you could use. Twenty two games in the RFU Championship for the Falcons And twenty one of them won, a perfect season snatched away after a four point defeat on the final day of the regular season. The playoffs await.

Dean Richards has turned the Falcons into a well driven winning machine. Albeit in the second tier of English rugby, but nonetheless a team that were impossible to beat up until this month. New signings arriving. Smiles on faces. And despite the fact that the fans at Kingston Park will be sad to see star player Jimmy Gopperth ply his trade in Dublin as opposed to Newcastle next season, no one seems to disheartened.

With a British and Irish Cup semi final against Bedford yet to be played as well, the Falcons have had a fantastic year indeed. With the news that London Welsh are now guaranteed to finish bottom of the Aviva Premiership, the Falcons know that if they win the playoffs they'll return back to the big time. All that stands in there way, a two legged semi vs Leeds Carnegie and if that test is passed, a two legged final vs Bedford or Nottingham.

In all things are rosy. However season ticket prices are looking fair expensive for next season, one major downfall that may keep some away from Kingston Park. It's back to Sunday kick offs though, which will mean better attendances. Some in the media have questioned will the Falcons be strong enough for the Premiership, but people must remember, they aren't quite there yet.

When it all looked bleak a year ago and that nothing was going right, a year on things are very different indeed. The question on everybody's lips, promotion for the Falcons ? Well, if I was a betting man.... I wouldn't say no.

I'm Kristian. 18. And my mind is filled with rugby shaped thoughts. Supporting Ulster Rugby, Newcastle Falcons and of course the mighty Ireland. Tommy Bowe is the MAN !!!! SUFTUM.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

First things first for Ulster

Ulster’s display in Galway showed just how determined they are for silverware, writes Kristian Ross…

Kristian Ross avatar

Ulster Rugby are in prime position to take the RaboPRO12 top spot with just one more game remaining in the regular season after a thoroughly entertaining try fest win at The Sportsground on Friday night.

The Ulstermen knew a win over neighbours Connacht in Galway would see them just a single win away from getting the all important first place for the playoffs.

However they didn't get off to a perfect start. Just three minutes in and Ruan Pienaar found himself isolated and Connacht got the ball out to George Naoupu who grounded the first of an intriguing encounter. Dan Parks was unable to convert.

Pienaar had the chance to redeem himself via a penalty but pulled his kick as Connacht remained in the lead. But the defence from the West didn't hold firm, and a great move saw Trimble, who found Payne, who found Cave and then young Stuart Olding who yet again added another to the collection for the season. And Ruan added the extra's to give Ulster the advantage.

Next came another contender for try of the season. The ball was in Andrew Trimble's hands out wide, who passed inside to Pienaar, and then the Springbok produced one of the offloads of the season, out the back of hands right back in to Trimble and the man from Coleraine continued his great form for the season. However once more Pienaar was unable to have success from the boot as the kick was pushed wide.

But Connacht's slogan of Front Up, Rise Up certainly was just that, rise up they did, and some more good passing and loose defending by Ulster saw Connacht again go over the line, this time in the shape of Fetu'u Vaonikolo and veteran Dan Parks converted to level the scores.

With the game firmly in the balance the Ulstermen knew they needed to score again, especially as a Dan Parks penalty gave Connacht a small advantage, Ruan Pienaar levelled proceedings via the boot, and then came try number three, this time from a set piece, a Rory Best lineout, into the maul he went himself, and he finish off the move he started, and Pienaar made it 22-15 and that's how it stayed until half time.

With the second half underway, Mark Anscombe must have been thinking that his team would have to put Connacht to the sword, Ulster having lacked the killer blow in previous matches this season.

The third quarter of Ulster matches this season have been a talking point, with not many points being scored, and as Connacht got three points via the boot, Ulster knew a score was needed.

With just over fifteen minutes remaining Jared Payne was denied a try via the TMO as the ball was adjudged to have been held up. The positive was Ulster remained on the Connacht five metre line for a substantial period, but again the pressure didn't tell.

At last though the bonus point score arrived, a superb run from Iain Henderson through numerous defenders saw Tommy Bowe receive the ball and become the first player to reach 50 tries in the Celtic League. Connacht knew the match had slipped away as Ruan Pienaar made it 29-18, and the final nail in the coffin was administered when Jared Payne scintillating run down the touchline make it a five try night for the Ulstermen. The conversion was missed, but it need not have mattered, Ulster running out 34-18 winners.

Ulster have now taken a massive step towards a home semi final with the bonus point win. Mark Anscombe will be feeling very positive, however there is pressure, Ulster will need to win on the final day to ensure top spot. Cardiff Blues are the opponents, and having destroyed them earlier on in the season, Ulster couldn't have a better platform going into the game.

With just 80 minutes left of the regular season, Ulster Rugby know what they need to do, that home semi final will be crucial. But for now, it's top of the league, and it's another win for Mark and his men, and in the back of their minds they know.... The playoffs beckon.

Stand Up For The Ulstermen.

I'm Kristian. 18. And my mind is filled with rugby shaped thoughts. Supporting Ulster Rugby, Newcastle Falcons and of course the mighty Ireland. Tommy Bowe is the MAN !!!! SUFTUM.

Claremorris RFC–Update #17

Roots & All is a project where we pick a few teams that don’t normally make the spotlight week in week out and feature them regularly throughout an entire campaign.

R&A CLAREMORRIS

So they think it’s all over, well it is now as another Claremorris RFC season draws to a close.

The 13’s season finished a few weeks back while the 14’s have a Connacht plate final scheduled for Thursday night against Sligo RFC. A win here would complete a dream league and plate double for this excellent young team.

The 17’s season finished in disappointment as they lost out to Creggs in the Connacht league semi-final last weekend. Creggs were well in command and led 15-0 at the half time break. The second half was a much tighter affair but Creggs still ran out comfortable winners 22-5. It has been an unusual season for the 17’s were a glut of games before Christmas was followed by three game in four months. This meant it was hard to keep players together. The fixture imbalance is definitely something that needs to be looked at by the Connacht branch.

All in all it has been a successful season with the U14’s claiming league glory earlier in the season and so winning the club’s first ever youth rugby trophy. Hopefully other age groups will do something similar next year.

The mini rugby season finished with a bang as we finished up winning two trophies over the final week of the season. Firstly the U10’s claimed the Connemara cup which is hosted by An Ghaeltacht RFC in Carraroe. This is the second year in a row an U10 team from Claremorris has brought the trophy back to Mayo. After league wins against Galwegians and An Ghaeltacht Claremorris were in the final where they beat a tough An Ghaeltacht side to claim glory. This team is a credit to their coaches, Pearse Hahessy, Micheal Gleeson and Joe Gilmore. Also a huge well done to the Parents and supporters who travelled to Carraroe to cheer on the team.

The U11’s were not to be outdone as they also had some silverware to keep them company on the long journey home as the won the Joe Moran National U11 title held in Naas RFC. The winners of this tournament were decided not on victories but on sportsmanship, attitude, skill and behaviour. Traits that the Claremorris lads displayed in abundance from once they got off the bus to the final whistle in their final game.

They also played some great rugby throughout the day with wins over Cobh Pirates and Naas, draws against Malone of Belfast and Suttonians and the only defeat coming against Dublin powerhouse Old Belvedere. These lads had great support not just on the day but right throughout the season .To win a tournament of this nature is a great achievement and a huge amount credit must go their coaches Eddie McLoughlin and Fergal Leonard for the work they have done with this team throughout the season.

There was also a second Connacht winner of the day in Naas as the lads from Ballina RFC were awarded the runners up spot. There were 42 teams competing from right across the country in this competition and this can go down as another great day on the national stage for Connacht rugby.

To mark another excellent mini rugby season we held an end of season awards and disco last weekend. It was great to see so many players come along to the party. There were most improved player awards in all age categories and everyone thoroughly enjoyed the day. Hopefully our end of season will be ever bigger and better with even more players playing rugby with Claremorris RFC.

Thanks for listening to me all season @p_cunnane.

Here at HoR we are very grateful to Paul and everyone at Claremorris RFC for sharing their 2012/13 campaign with us.  They are doing youth, Connacht and indeed Irish rugby proud and we wish them all the best in the future, hoping of course they come back and check in with us from time to time! 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Ulster spoil Elwood’s interpro sendoff

Connacht started brightly but couldn’t keep up with title-chasing Ulster, writes John O’Sullivan

Connacht-rugby-piece_thumb9

Eric Elwood’s final interprovincial game in charge of Connacht ended in the agony of defeat at the hands of the Stuart Olding inspired Ulster, with a scoreline of 34-18 to the visitors.

Connacht has grown massively under the tutelage of the former Ireland international fly half. From the whipping boys, butt of the joke of Irish rugby, Elwood has instrumental in turning Connacht into what we see before us today: a well respected club with an ever increasing fan base and with the potential to improve even further.

Quite obviously, the fans and players alike are only too aware of Elwood’s achievements and the raucous atmosphere they generate and the ferocious tempo at which the home side started the game were indicative of their intentions to send Eric Elwood into retirement with a Interprovincial victory under his belt.

With the screams of encouragement from the fans reverberating around their ears, Connacht started the game like the proverbial house on fire, and, within five minutes, had a try on the board. The effervescent Kieran Marmion caught World Cup winning South African Ruan Pienaar dallying on the ball just outside the Ulster twenty two and pounced, along with several of his team mates, on the scrum half turning over possession and leaving the Ulster defence at sixes and sevens. Two quick fire passes gave George Naoupu an unscathed run in for a try owing to Connacht’s determined and dogged approach. Unusually, the perpetually accurate Dan Parks’ was wide with his conversion attempt.

In what proved to be a tit for tat scoring encounter, Ulster soon scored a try of their own; the aforementioned Olding crossed after a superb flowing move by Ulster. Pienaar made amends for his earlier penalty miss by slotting the resulting conversion.

The former Sharks half back was instrumental in the visitors’ next try. The South African’s exquisitely disguised reverse pass split the home sides defence and perfectly found the on rushing Andrew Trimble, who scurried in for Ulster’s second try of the evening. Pienaar, though, couldn’t continue his majestic few minutes and dragged the conversion wide. Once again, it wasn’t long before the whitewash was crossed, this time Connacht, through Fetu’u Vainikolo, had the honours.

Gavin Duffy’s inviting pass found the Tongan winger who evaded several attempted Ulster tackles to touch down for Connacht’s second try. Parks, this time, made no mistake with conversion, levelling the scores at twelve a piece. Dan Parks and Ruan Pienaar then embarked on a personal kicking dual, both kicking successful penalties, once again tying the game up at fifteen all.

One of the players on the field with genuine British and Irish Lions aspirations, Rory Best strengthened his claims with the games next try, off the back of a rolling maul. Should Best replicate Friday night’s form in the remaining games of the season, then, surely, he will be given his boarding pass for the summer tour to Australia. Pienaar added the extra’s to give Ulster a half time lead of 22-15.

Connacht, minus Dan Parks who was replaced by Miah Nikora, started the second half with a similar vigour to which they started the first and soon eroded Ulster’s lead with a penalty from the replacement fly half. Four points was, however, the closest Connacht would come to Ulster in the second half, as Mark Anscombe’s charges went up a gear and showed exactly why they are in the shake up for this season’s title. Soon to be Irish eligible Jared Payne thought he had secured the crucial bonus point securing try, but, after consulting the TMO, it was shown that Connacht winger Danie Poolman had wonderfully denied the Kiwi a try.

The bonus point try, though, was soon to come Ulster’s way. Showing their strength in depth, Ulster introduced Irish international tyro Iain Henderson. The gargantuan lock/back row ran directly at the heart of the Connacht defence, swatting away several lackadaisical tackles before supplying the pass that saw Tommy Bowe cross for the game and bonus point securing try. Perhaps a tad late to force his way into Warren Gatland’s Lions’ plans, the Monaghan man can be, nevertheless, proud of his performance, including his try which was his fiftieth in the league.

Connacht, no doubt as a consequence of their fired up start to the game, were out on their feet and Ulster again took full advantage as Jared Payne-not to be denied twice- went half of the length of the pitch to touch down and seal Ulster’s victory on a scoreline of 34-18.

Defeat is never easy, but Eric Elwood can be proud of his player’s efforts, especially in the first hour or so of the game. The winning of the game was Ulster’s star studded bench, which Mark Anscombe, to his credit, utilised excellently, making the right changes at the right times. As much incentive as Connacht had to win, Ulster had more. The Carrot of a guaranteed home semi final was dangled in front of Ulster before the game and their comprehensive victory guarantee’s that.

All associated with Connacht rugby would like to wish Ulster the best of luck in their remaining fixtures. Connacht will settle and concentrate their efforts on the protracted away to fixture to Treviso. Initially scheduled for last month, the game was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, obviously with a different set of match officials than at the away game at Biarritz earlier in the season.

I’m John O’Sullivan, 20. Part time student, full time sports nut. Love rugby and am currently the PRO of Connemara RFC as well as admin for the Rugby Banter Facebook page. I also do some radio work for my local station. One day, I would love to be a Sports Journalist/Broadcaster.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Zebre-22 Leinster-41

LAVORNO ITALIANO FATTO

So Leinster win on the road,  have a try denied by the TMO and one of their players is involved in an incident which is missed by the officials where a seasoned international forward on the opposing side recklessly endangers the rest of his season, though thankfully he seems to be ok.

Now before you cry “would you ever let it go and move on” I should tell you I AM talking about this Zebre v Leinster match!!!

Normally I cringe at references to that Michael Caine movie by the media whenever an Irish team’s opposition hails from Italy, but when it comes to this match I figured “Italian Job Done” best described the result for Leinster so I ran it through Google translate to give it a bit of a twist for my headline.

Victory, four tries, no injuries was the remit.  We await the Monday update to confirm the final one but on appearances it seems that was achieved.  Of course it wasn’t all perfect, at some times it was far from it, but when ever is it in professional team sports?

I can only imagine what it’s like to be involved in the Zebre organisation right now.  It’s hard enough to “create” a rugby team and sell it to the local public as it is without them going and losing 27 on the bounce from it’s maiden outing.

But it’s the business end of the season and Leinster have other things on their minds.  Glasgow and Ulster both secured maximum points on the Friday so we had to match them and thus couldn’t afford to show any mercy.

When we won a kickable penalty in the opening minutes I was expecting a kick for the corner – instead the points were taken, probably to give Sexton the chance to settle after his layoff.  It was more in our approach going forward that we showed our intention to secure the bonus point, and for our first two tries at least, it was definitely Leinstertainment at its very best.

If you gave me a million goes before Sunday I’d never find a way to compare Tom Denton to Simon Zebo other than that they both play rugby.  But after crashing our way into the 22 and using the front-foot ball to it’s fullest, Andrew Goodman worked his way brilliantly into position to send a blind pass into Denton’s path to secure his first senior try for Leinster in a manner very similar to that BOD/Zebo exchange at the Millenium Stadium back in Feburary.

Not long afterwards we were in a similar position only this time the brilliance came from Sexton with a dummy to McFadden on one side then a no-look pass on the other to the same player who had crossed behind him and the Zebras were torn apart like a carcass on the Serengeti.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy for Leinster from then on, right?  Yeah, not so much…I suppose it’s understandable to take your foot off the pedal when you get such easy scores but overall it’s a good thing for the league that even it’s worst team isn’t willing to lay down and die. 

It was a long list of missed tackles that let to the tries from Sinoti and Nalangahu which levelled the scores at 17-17 by halftime…the culprits included Cooney, Ryan, Sexton, McGrath and McLaughlin.  It wasn’t all about the tackling though…the tries were well taken by the home side plus our front row had a scrum turned over which gave them the chance for the first one.

Between the two tries we had the incident with Bergamasco I mention at the start.  I understand O’Driscoll’s anger because he didn’t have the ball and the Italian didn’t let up in crashing him to the ground so there could have been serious repercussions.  It should have been seen by an official and dealt with accordingly, but it would appear that it wasn’t.  And since the Pro12 rules state a citing can only be made for a red card offence, nothing will be done.

So there we were at half time with much work still to do.  With the entire Leinster squad required for two big semifinals next weekend, it was very important that we got the fourth try before the final quarter and we did so, albeit with a bit of luck.

Ryle Nugent and Ralph Keyes in the RTE commentary box didn’t mention anything wrong with our third and fourth tries…I reckon Isa was a shade ahead of Sexton for his kick into the 22 before Carr’s try, plus Ruddock’s pass to Ryan that set up the 4th was a tad forward, and going by the replays shown by the Italian TV director he agreed with me.

But those are the breaks I suppose and we were definitely finding our way into the Zebre 22 at that stage comfortably anyway and they were frequently tempting referee Neil Paterson’s cards from his pocket at the breakdown so it could be said justice was done.

For the final quarter the two sides exchanged tries but the result was in the bag…I have to question the home side’s wisdom in leaving Tebaldi and Orquera on the bench though perhaps they felt if they could keep it tight they could bring them on to help out in the final quarter.  Thankfully for us, we kept them out.

I must also give a mention of John Cooney who I thought played a key role in our front-foot play. When you consider that in the opening Pro12 game of last season ball retention was our biggest issue in losing badly to the Ospreys, he has come on in leaps and bounds and I’d have no problem with him starting against the same opposition to end this one. Any kind of victory will do us – we all know how pesky they can be so I’m certainly happy we don’t need the four tries!

But we can’t look beyond next weekend.  Clearly Leinster’s biggest debate will be over who will wear the number 10 jumper against Biarritz.  Certainly Madigan has been outstanding but with 6/6 from the tee plus his trademark marshalling of the offence, Sexton must surely be in with more than a shout. 

Of course when you take into account all the other things Joe Schmidt has on his mind, such decisions pale by comparison.  One thing is for sure – Leinster are in a good place right now and it is mostly thanks to him. JLP

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Also this weekend

Dragons 30 - 24 Munster

Benetton Treviso 30 - 10 Edinburgh

Glasgow 35 - 17 Ospreys

Connacht 18 - 34 Ulster

Scarlets 24 - 6 Cardiff Blues

PRO12 TABLE

Friday, April 19, 2013

The worrying evolution of rugby rivalry

Rugby Opinion

by James Griffin

For players and supporters, the rivalry between our provinces can represent rugby at its best and most enjoyable. The annual competition between our provinces and the history and tradition associated with them can drive individual players and their teams, inspiring them to even higher performance levels, and bring supporters together in shared enthusiasm like few other games can. This can be seen annually in Thomond, the RDS, Ravenhill, and the Sportsground.

Rugby rivalries are dynamic relationships with many participants - opposing coaches, opposing players, opposing supporters, sponsors, the media, and others. When the rivalry at provincial level is healthy, the intense competition can engender respect, passion, superior performances, and enjoyment. Whatever antagonism exists is balanced by a shared understanding that the two opposing coaches, the teams and their supporters need each other as integral halves in the game itself and longer term to act as a driver to push on to new and even higher performance levels.

However, when supporters lose perspective on the purpose and relative importance of a game of rugby, rivalries can turn ugly. That ugliness can manifest itself in ways that threaten to undermine our sport at every level. It can infect the overall climate of our game, creating an atmosphere where sportsmanship is replaced by oneupmanship and even more sinister outcomes. It can result in demonization, name-calling, and taunting; provide enjoyment but for all the wrong reasons; and ultimately undermine support at national team level - the pinnacle of our sport.

Have we reached rugby armageddon here? Not quite yet but a substantial minority have, I fear, migrated from healthy to unhealthy rivalry.

So if that is the case, what can be done to to rebuild a rivalry that has turned somewhat ugly? Other sports have developed Codes of Conduct setting out acceptable behaviours and punishments for infringements. I'm not sure that that is necessary here or even that such a Code could be applied. I would simply ask though - "what kind of culture do we want to have in our game?" And furthermore "what are we, as rugby supporters, going to do about it?"

Apologies about the length of my comment but this is something that has concerned me for some time.

James Griffin is originally from Tipperary, lives in Dublin where he is married to a Dubliner and Leinster supporter. He supports Ireland, then Munster and after that, other Irish teams when his own is not involved.

Editor’s note – this was left as a comment on the HoR Facebook page as part of a thread on a different topic, but I felt it warranted a post of its own as it is well worth discussing.  Please share your views if you can.

Youth Rugby is flourishing at Navan RFC

Throughout the season the HoR “Roots & All” project has followed the fortunes of four clubs around Ireland, one from each province, and we are extremely grateful to Claremorris, Iveragh, Naas and Queen’s throughout the season…they will be wrapping up their contributions over the coming weeks.

For next season, which will be the third for this feature, we plan to do things a little differently, inviting posts from all clubs in Ireland throughout the year.  We will post more on that in due course, but for now we’d like to share this news of a big weekend for Navan RFC, with thanks to Gerald Williamson.

Roots&All 2013-14 logo

navan rfc

Navan RFC Youth teams compete in FIVE finals this coming weekend Saturday & Sunday 20th/21st April 2013.

They are in 2 All Ireland Club Finals, 1 Leinster Premier League Final and 2 North - East League Finals.

The schedule.

' Super' Saturday 20th April.

===========================

1. Navan U15's v Wexford U15's @ Newbridge RFC, K Off 11.30 am.

This is the Leinster Premier League ' Ciaran Conlon' Cup Final. ****

2. Navan U17's v Sligo U17's @ Naas RFC, K Off 1.30pm.

This is the All Ireland Club U17 Final.

3. Navan 19's v Bandon U19's @ Naas RFC, K Off 3.15pm..

This is the All Ireland Club U19 Final.

' Hair of the Dog' Sunday 21st April.

=============================

4. Navan U13B's v North Meath U13 @ Navan RFC, K Off 11.45am.

This is the North-East League Shield Final.

5. Navan 13A's v Skerries U13 @ Navan RFC, K Off 1.00pm.

This is the North-East League Cup Final.

**** The Ciaran Conlon Cup is named after a former NavanRFC coach who passed away 2 years ago. The cup was presented for competition by his family.

Navan won it last year (1st year) and are defending the title.

A big following of Navan RFC supporters is expected at these finals.

Click here for more news via the club website

Lions Selector Panel–8th Round (IRE)

It’s one of the hottest debate topics egg-chasing has to offer.

Given we live in something of a green goldfish bowl on these Irish shores, there’s no harm getting input from elsewhere.

And so we have the HarpinOnRugby Lions Selector Panel, made up of one fan from each nation, with even the Irish panellist, this week’s contributor Mark Jackson, based abroad.

British-Irish-Lions-logo-20131

Well its certainly been an interesting post 6 nations. Injured heroes returning, early season runners falling. With Mr.Gatland putting the finishing touches to his chosen few, some will need a big sprint finish to make the plane. Picking a starting XV is a personal thing with loads of variations so seeing as this is my last shot before Warren G names his squad I'm going to name the 37 I feel should be wearing the famous red jersey down under. I've gone for a 20-17 Split Forwards to Backs .

My Famous XXXVII

Full Backs - L Halfpenny, R Kearney, S Hogg

Wings - A Cuthbert, G North, T Bowe , S Maitland

Centres- J Roberts, J Davies, B O'Driscoll, M Tuilagi

Fly Halves - J Sexton , O Farrell, I Madigan

Scrum Halves - M Phillips , B Youngs , C Murray

Back Row - T Falatau , J Tipuric , SWarburton , T Wood , S O'Brien, P O'Mahony

2nd Rows - A Wyn Jones, I Evans , N Hines , P O'Connell

Hookers - R Hibbard , R Best , T Youngs

Props - C Healy , G Jenkins , R Grant , A Jones , D Cole , E Murray

Well I reckon there are probably 30 of those pretty nailed on for a seat , the third Fly half role will probably go to James Hook , third Scrum Half will be between Danny Care , Laidlaw and Murray , Richardt Strauss might come into the reckoning for 3rd Hooker spot ( would be my choice if pushed instead of T Youngs ) and Geoff Parling will be unlucky to lose out but still think he is underpowered for a top class lock .

Well it will be an interesting fortnight or so lets hope Gatland doesn't lose the plot too much with his selections .

Mark Jackson (@markusjacksonus) is an Irishman living in London, a lover of this game we call Rugby along with Gaelic Football and NFL (All Hail The New York Giants), having played it for fun and money in many countries around the globe, am now earning a crust coaching, hopefully inspiring and passing along some knowledge gained to the next generation of players.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Naas RFC–update #17

Roots & All is a project where we pick a few teams that don’t normally make the spotlight week in week out and feature them regularly throughout an entire campaign.

Naas RFC banner

Naas Excel in Final Round of Ulster Bank League to Set Up Promotion Opportunity

Saturday, 13th April 2013, KO 14.30 hrs

Naas senior squad completed the final round of their Ulster Bank League campaign in superb style on Saturday last (13th April) at Forenaughts when they hosted Instonians of Belfast and scored an impressive nine tries, four of which were in the first period, to secure a comprehensive bonus point win. Naas hooker Jock Toland and Samoan backrow Misioka Timoteo (Misty to his supporters and friends) lead the charge with a hatrick of tries each which was impressive but probably of more significance was the outstanding defensive performance of the entire Naas first team which denied Instonians a single score. This result means Naas have now finished third overall in the league, behind Rainey Old Boys and NUIM-Barnhall, after winning twelve of their fifteen rounds and have now set a new record in terms of their highest finish to date in senior AIL rugby. As you can see from the table Naas finished on the same number of points 56 each but were pipped to the post by Barnhall superior point score difference. Naas will now travel to Dr. Hickey Park this Saturday for a Division 2A promotion/relegation play-off against Greystones to determine whether they will be promoted to Division 2A next season for the first time.

Naas gave an outstanding display of their considerable rugby talent in this game and it was a fitting way in which to bring down the curtain on their UBL Division 2B season. This was a very successful season with the highest number of win by Naas and their highest league finish to date. All their attention will now focus on that Division 2A relegation/promotion play-off next Saturday when their league status, promotion or not, for next season will be decided.

 

Pos

Team

Pl

W

D

L

F

A

Diff

TB

LB

Pts

1

Rainey OB

15

14

1

0

457

167

290

9

0

67

2

NUIM Barnhall

15

11

0

4

532

230

302

9

3

56

3

Naas

15

12

1

2

454

220

234

5

1

56

4

Nenagh Ormond

15

11

0

4

362

211

151

6

3

53

5

Boyne

15

10

0

5

299

268

31

3

3

46

6

Armagh

15

9

1

5

342

205

137

4

3

45

7

Skerries

15

8

2

5

355

256

99

4

3

43

8

Navan RFC

15

8

2

5

310

309

1

4

3

43

9

Sligo

15

5

1

9

240

313

-73

3

3

28

10

Suttonians

15

5

0

10

285

343

-58

3

3

26

11

Instonians

15

6

0

9

220

413

-193

1

0

25

12

Thomond

15

4

1

10

256

321

-65

1

5

24

13

Ards

15

5

0

10

216

384

-168

2

1

23

14

Sundays Well

15

3

1

11

226

353

-127

1

6

21

15

Clonakilty

15

2

2

11

237

387

-150

1

5

18

16

Connemara

15

1

0

14

161

572

-411

0

0

4

The U21’s aren’t doing too bad either after securing the league for the 3 year in a row they have set their eyes on the Purcell Cup.

After a narrow 1 point victory over Dublin University in round 1 there next opponents were to be Coolmine RFC in the 2nd round but they conceded that game so it was on to the semi final which saw a home draw against Old Wesley on Tuesday evening of this week. The boys came out on top with a 35-5 victory and now are in the final this Sunday against Seapoint. So the League and cup double is still very much a realistic goal.

The J1’s after been knocked out of the Provincial Towns Cup had a good victory against Carlow away in the 2nd round of the Town Plate 31-19, and again away in the 3 round against Gorey 30-15, which then set up a local Derby against Newbridge away in the semifinal. After a very hard fought contest they were narrowly beaten 24-22 in the final mins of the game.

The J4’s had their usual short season with a run out in the Michael Dunne Cup. They came through Round 2 away to Enniscorty with a 22-15 victory and the semifinal was last Sunday in Naas where they were narrowly beaten 12- 15 by New Ross.

All the youth and minis are finishing up this week and I’ll give a full round up next time But I do have to mention our u12 who competed in the Leinster U12 blitz last weekend we were lucky to be able to enter 2 of our squads and they played 3 games each and Naas U12’s won all 6, well done boys.

This Saturday Naas U12’s will be playing Greystones U12’s  @1pm as a curtain raiser to the UBL Playoff game– this is the first time these boys will play a 15 aside game and on a full pitch so we are looking forward to it with great anticipation.

The U11’s ran the annual all Ireland “Joe Moran Rugby Festival” and yet again what a fantastic feast of rugby on show, Irish rugby is safe for many years. 42 teams 36 different clubs from the 4 provinces with over 650 enthusiastic players. Who ever believes that mini’s rugby should be run on a completive, graded, basis should come and watch one of these events!

Ballina RFC were awarded the runners up plate and it was our fellow Harpinonrugby bloggers Claremorris RFC who went home with the cup for the best overall team, not just playing but everything including respect, style, energy and more. Just a coincidence I can assure you.

Till next time have a good one and keep following us on twitter @naasrfc for all the match and league updates hopefully we will be promoted by the time we talk again!

Click here for the club website

Thanks Michael and best wishes to all at Naas RFC for the big matches ahead!!!

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