Friday, December 20, 2013

Edinburgh-11 Leinster-6

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HoR pro logo blueAs you can probably tell, I enjoy watching rugby. 

I don’t think it’s too unreasonable to ask that if I pick out four live matches from a particular weekend to watch, I will find at least one that I won’t mind harping on.  It doesn’t even have to be the Leinster match.

Well on this final weekend before Christmas, I was served up a set of stinkers, and all three of the top European competitions were represented, so it wasn’t as though any of them were putting their hands up as being superior to the rest. 

And although the compositions of the various teams were different depending on the league (Pro12 having players rested after the Heineken Cup, English & French having players thrown back out into action regardless of what they did last week or plan to do next) the net result was still the same…a desperate scramble to put two or three decent passages of attacking play together, way more often than not ending in mind-numbing errors.

So between Sarries v Leicester (which I’ll admit had tries but was still too one-sided and horribly reffed by Wayne Barnes), Brive v Racing Métro (superb final kick by Sexton but still, a 9-9 draw? Yawn) and Munster v Scarlets (wonderful Christmas present by the visitors who seemed to go out of their way to concede late penalties and squander their deserved lead), I had no consolation from this Friday night offering which I will try to make interesting enough to be the subject of this post.

Talk about suffering for your “art”!!!  But when it comes to suffering nothing that happened to me this weekend could match those amazing Leinster fans who made the trip and wore the ponchos and stood in the rain and waved the flags and made themselves heard back home…yet another super effort guys, well done.

I suppose if I wanted to keep the blue goggles on I could ask why Dominic Ryan was judged to have knocked on when the ball fell lateral and bounced backwards at the death in Murrayfield, when earlier on referee Peter Fitzgibbon clearly shouted “backwards!” after Edinburgh full-back Jack Cuthbert saw a dropped high ball fall lateral and bounce forwards.

But that would in no way define how this match went…in fact, Tony Ward provided the most perfectly prophetic words early on when it was clear the teeming Edinburgh rain & chopped-up Murrayfield pitch were going to be main factors :

You cut your cloth according to the conditions, and the team that does it better usually comes out on top

Shortly after Tony said that, a Greig Laidlaw break into the Leinster 22, followed by an error-free series of phases by the home pack, followed by a simple screen move out wide, all led to the game’s only try by Dougie Fife.  Nothing wrong with the cloth-cutting there.

Meanwhile when Leinster were going forward, the cloth wasn’t so much being cut as it was hacked to pieces with no particular pattern.

Although the DVD sessions will no doubt find fault with the Edinburgh try, overall the Leinster defence was pretty solid…restricting any home side to just 11 points is pretty good going even if the pitch is pretty poor going.

It’s just when we had the ball, not for the first time this season, we seemed to go out of our way to find different ways to either hand possession back to the home side or just lose needless territory. 

Senseless penalties, knockon gremlins, and what seemed to be a record amount of clearing kicks out on the full (both sides were guilty of this but one of ours was after failing to hear the ref say “carried back”), I’ll give it to the lads - the errors were at least creative.

But despite the fact that Alan Solomons’ Edinburgh side have recovered well from a poor start to the season and are starting to string some results together, the match was totally winnable for Leinster and this time we even made the change at outhalf I was screaming for last week but to no avail.

From the start it didn’t seem like we were going to allow for the conditions at all.  On our first attack Madigan went on one of his trademark bursts followed by an offload which was knocked on. 

With the wind and the rain it seemed the best option was to kick and force mistakes, but not just any kicks….as it turned out most players were ok under the infinite ping-pong of garryowens and it was only when the ball was kicked into space where it could bounce that anyone was finding traction.

And given that fact, the most frustrating option we took was when Madigan kicked crossfield to Luke Fitzgerald, when the bounce got the better of him.  The succession of low-percentage options made for an extremely frustrating evening’s viewing.

Not that Edinburgh were much better, but like I said, they at least managed to finish once.  All Leinster could manage was two (admittedly well-taken by Mads) placekick penalties and that is seldom going to be enough.

I’m not even sure where to point the finger for this abject performance…sure, it was a completely new pack from the previous week, but remember the team in that Aviva disappointment was a carbon copy from the week before and they were also rendered tryless.

One thing’s for sure, Brian O’Driscoll won’t have too many fond memories of either of his final two visits to Murrayfield!

I won’t go as far to say that Leinster have cancelled out the impressive win at Franklin’s Gardens with the two losses that came afterwards, but what they have done is given Matt O’Connor an extremely challenging few weeks ahead.

The clash with Ulster next Saturday will be a 2nd v 3rd cup final…Mark Anscombe’s men may have done the regular-season double over us last season but that “home” Pro12 final is the one that really counted so they’ll be out for revenge. 

Then it’s off to Galway where Pat Lam’s men will be keen to topple another multiple European champion. 

THEN there’s the small matter of rounds 5 & 6 of the Heineken with a trip to France followed a dreaded 5-day turnaround.

All I know is that one thing is definitely cut out for Matt O’Connor over the Christmas period…his workload.  We all know he has the personnel to turn things around, but it’s a job that still has to be done and there won’t be any “honeymoon period” to fall back on so Leinster’s performances will need to drastically improve.

But I reckon that’s enough harpin’ on rugby for the time being.  What say we wrap things up for now and enjoy the festivities?  Many thanks for all the feedback and post-sharing over the season so far, have a super Christmas and I’ll see y’all back here on the other side. JLP

 Click here for the post-match reaction on the HarpinOnRugby Facebook page

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Cardiff Blues 19 - 22 Ospreys

Ulster 13 - 6 Zebre

Glasgow P v P Benetton Treviso

Connacht 14 - 11 Dragons

Munster 16 - 10 Scarlets

1 MUNSTER 10 39 9 85 21 228 12
2 ULSTER 10 33 7 77 20 209 10
3 LEINSTER 10 32 6 47 22 228 6
4 OSPREYS 10 31 6 68 24 266 9
5 GLASGOW 9 29 7 23 14 149 8
6 EDINBURGH 10 21 5 -49 17 186 -9
7 SCARLETS 10 21 4 -18 16 181 -3
8 NG DRAGONS 10 20 4 1 13 174 -1
9 CARDIFF BLUES 10 17 3 -36 13 203 -9
10 TREVISO 9 14 2 -22 -7 166 -7
11 CONNACHT 10 11 2 -93 12 141 -9
12 ZEBRE 10 9 1 -83 15 167 -7

stats are presented from left to right in order of priority from “PTS”

Thu Dec 26 

Scarlets v Ospreys

Edinburgh v Glasgow

NG Dragons v Cardiff Blues

Fri Dec 27

Munster v Connacht

Sat Dec 28

Benetton Treviso v Zebre

Leinster v Ulster


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