Granted it’s a bit of a stretch comparing this match to what went on at the Aviva at the same time, but hear me out - a club well used to success was playing at the home of a team wearing green who ended up on the losing side not for the first time but will feel like they should have won?
OK…maybe it’s more than a bit of a stretch but hopefully I can be forgiven for still having that heart-breaking-yet-epic test match on my mind!
But we’re not here to talk about that; whatever about the insanity of the scheduling, there were Pro12 points to be won at the Stadio di Monigo and Leinster got away with four of them…just. I am sure you’re in no mood for another long writeup so I have tried to cut my opinions down to some key headings.
There were four on the day, and none of them were pretty to look at especially if you’re a defensive coach.
Leinster raced into a 12-point lead after just 15 minutes - Lote Tuqiri providing the finish after some good work from Ruddock, Reid and Hudson though it has to be said Treviso full-back Brendan Williams’ attempt to stop our winger going over was flimsy at best.
The defence got worse for the second try..more good work from Ruddock and Dominic Ryan at the breakdown won us the ball in a good position and I honestly couldn’t tell you what the Italian midfield were thinking as Noel Reid literally strolled through to touch down.
Williams made up for things somewhat with a run from his own 22 to hand off to Nitoglia who scored but the Worst Attempted Tackles Of the Day award sadly must go to both John Cooney and Noel Reid as they did so.
The best try was saved until last and it was much more conventional phase play that created the space for Esposito to bring the home side level in the second half but even in this case there were question marks over Tuqiri’s coverage.
SPEAKING OF LOTE…
Word has it an extension is being mooted for Tuqiri with Leinster. Would that help Leinster? For me, the answer to that question lies in whether or not we would play him in the Heineken Cup. The Aussie made some very good runs with the ball during this match, that cannot be denied. But his coverage and tackling was well off the way I saw it. Twice in the first half he fluffed tackles after chasing down our own restart. Even with McFadden injured, Lote would not only be behind D Kearney and Luke as wing options, but also At Mary’s duo Fanning and Hudson for that 23 jumper. Fanning’s catch of a high ball shortly after having his head accidentally smashed did it for me and would provide with more value for money.
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT JIMMY
The headlines read “Gopperth penalty wins match for Leinster”. Some of the previews I read before Sunday suggested he has been “superb” for us so far this season. I disagree…he has done some superb things, and he did some more in Treviso, but on the day he was out-played by Mat Berquist and made a few errors throughout the match, as he has done at other times when we were fortunate to come out on top. I’m not saying we should be rid of him by a long, long chalk, and I’m not pro-Madigan on account of his nationality, but I do feel Ian needs to start this weekend AND put in a full 80 if possible to see if he can be in the frame to face Northampton.
THE LEINSTER BACK ROW 2.0
Of course I am praying like everyone else that Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip don’t follow Sexton to France. What I will say however is that in Rhys Ruddock, Dominic Ryan and Jordi Murphy we may very well have the best second string back row on the continent. For me, they won us this match, and I would give Man of the Match to Rhys, though Ryan forced several key turnovers and Jordi though a sub, won the penalty which actually put us ahead for good.
ELSEWHERE IN THE PACK
More often than not the scrum was a good platform, though I’m dead set against this practise of rolling the ball in and hoping our shove will bring the ball back…hook the bloody thing! Roux seems to be coming on as a lineout option, and can I take this opportunity to congratulate Martin Moore for an extremely well-deserved Player of the Month award.
As the wins keep coming it gets harder to question Matt O’Connor but having gotten two early tries in broken play thanks to defensive frailties in the Treviso backline, I have to wonder why we reverted to the bashing every time we got the ball in more controlled circumstances. At least test the back line first? Our repeated failure to get over the line (though granted we got damn close a few times) helped give the home side the confidence to first claw back from 12 pts down to 2, then from 8 down to a 2-pt lead.
We seemed to do everything we could to give the Italians the chance to pinch this one at the end, and the same can be said for other occasions we have won this season.
But hey - all things considered, seven wins and one draw from ten matches is a pretty damn good record for Matt O’Connor to lead off with…here’s hoping he can keep up the pace. JLP
Also this weekend…
Fri 29 Ospreys v Glasgow, Liberty Stadium 19:00
Fri 29 Dragons v Munster, Rodney Parade 19:15
Fri 29 Edinburgh v Connacht, Murrayfield 19:45
Sat 30 Zebre v Ulster, Stadio XXV Aprile 14:00
Sat 30 Benetton Treviso v Cardiff Blues, Stadio Comunale di Monigo 16:00
Sat 30 Leinster v Scarlets, Royal Dublin Society 19:15