Saturday, January 11, 2014

Leinster A-23 Moseley-13

2014-01-10 17.52.58

The photo shows just what kind of a night it was down at Donnybrook for this British & Irish Cup fixture…but despite the constant rain and early Friday evening kickoff time there was a decent enough turnout at old HQ.

We even had the traditional pocket of away support…by pocket I mean three, all of whom arrived about five minutes after kickoff having clearly taken extra time in the pub working out what to shout as they passed by the front of the Grandstand. 

The first guy came up with a simple long drawn out “MMMMMOOOOOOOSSSSSSE-LEEEEEEEY”, while the second clearly thought he’d crack everyone up by loudly asking “Is this where Munster play?” - he nearly got knocked over by the tumbleweeds cascading down from the rows above him.

Not that their antics weren’t a welcome distraction from what was going on in the match at that time - it understandably took the two sides a while to find their footing in the conditions. 

Much as expected, the cup holders looked more organised both with and without the ball, but Kevin Maggs’ outfit did well to hold their own and if anything edged the territory stats at halftime despite being 3-6 down.

Cathal Marsh was having an off night from the kicking tee but managed to slot two while Moseley lock Greg Charlton was in the bin only for outhalf William Hooley to pull one back before the break.

Hooley levelled the scores with a pen on 45 minutes but it wasn’t until our lock Ben Marshall saw yellow that the game really came to life. 

Moseley had enjoyed more good territory early in the half but their number 10 was unable to convert a couple of penalty chances - after Marshall walked for what I think was an off-the-ball incident with his opposite number, they chose to put it in the corner and after a lineout/maul and series of phases they put it out wide and once they were able to evade the Leinster defenders shooting out of the line, winger Matthew Williams had the space to go over.  The conversion was good and it was 13-6 to the visitors.

This was the wake-up call Leinster needed  to kick-start their offence.  Despite going just 3/7 placekicking Marsh played an enterprising 10 and got his backline moving well throughout.

With the visitors still enjoying an extra man, a spot of good jackling by Darren Hudson forced a turnover penalty which we put into the corner - the resulting lineout/maul was too good for the Moseley pack and hooker Brian Byrne, who is getting a knack for scoring in these matches, got the ball over the line.

But the conversion was missed and we needed the moment of the match to put us ahead for good.  Loosehead prop Edward Byrne had just crashed forward into the Moseley half for an impressive gain before knocking on in the tackle resulting in a scrum right outside the 22.

The “non-verbal signals” were being applied by the Welsh ref Daniel Jones (who despite being tall looked about 12 by the way) and although the ball came out of the scrum ok for the visitors, their number 8, ironically named Buster Lawrence, found himself busted by a bone-crunching hit courtesy of our blindside Jack Conan.

Lawrence managed to hold onto the ball in the tackle just about, only to have it ripped from his grasp by scrum-half and skipper on the night Luke McGrath who broke free and still had some work to do to get over the line but showed a cool head to got it done.  Again the Marsh conversion wasn’t successful so the lead was only three.

Just as I was thinking the Moseley backline was surely going to start getting tired, on trotted sparkling clean jerseys marked 20, 21 and 22 all at once…clearly Maggs was well aware what to expect on the night.

But even the fresh legs couldn’t do anything about the simplicity of the third try - the strong attacking platform of a central scrum inside the 22 saw Leinster stack their centres to the left, all of whom were deep in conversation before the put-in, only for the ball to be sent out to the right where Auva’a from the base, McGrath, Marsh and finally sub Andrew Boyle combined for the score that clinched the four match points - and this time the St Mary’s RFC outhalf kicked a beauty from out wide to add the extra two.

Sadly the fourth try just about eluded us, but the win puts us into the quarterfinals and by my calculations we need just a losing bonus in Ealing next week to make sure it’s a home tie.  Not a bad night at the office for Girvan Dempsey’s men.

I’d award man-of-the-match to Luke McGrath though there were some impressive outings all round.  Although I suspect Jordan Coghlan was the guilty party advancing early for the Moseley try, he is a strong presence at 12 and is definitely worth a run of starts for Leinster there.

In the pack we showed just how deep our squad goes particularly in the back-row; Leo Auva’a is a veteran in this comp, Conan’s tackle wasn’t his only contribution and openside van der Flier also impressed.

As for the Championship outfit although they provided much of the expected “bosh” to their credit they did try the odd bit of creativity to unlock the tight Leinster defence and I wish them all the best in the rest of their season as they try to remain in the second tier of English rugby.

Looking at Leinster’s Pro12 schedule I see Zebre coming to the RDS towards the end of the Six Nations so hopefully many on show in this match can get a much-deserved Pro12 start then, if not before.  JLP

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