Saturday, March 29, 2014

Leinster-22 Munster-18

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sandymount selfie

FOR THE GOOD OF THE GAME

HoR pro logo blueDave Kearney had a great Six Nations and it was unfortunate for him to have to miss this game on Saturday.  But hand on heart I honestly believe that if Keith Earls was able to start ahead of him, the Irish team would have been even better.

Yes, you read that first paragraph right, April 1st hasn’t come early.

I had many thoughts after watching this match over for the second time, and that Earls point was just one, and a minor one at that.  But it is also an honest one, and unfortunately I feel I have to lead with it to set the tone for this piece.

This website exists because I love rugby and I love writing.   I’d love to be able to cover all aspects of the game - the four provinces, club rugby, schoolboy rugby, Premiership, Top 14, Super Rugby, hey I’d write up a game from the Georgian 4th division if you could get me the footage.

I would, that is, if I had time.  But I don’t.  None of us has.  But I still want to write, so I focus on the team I see week in week out and to whom I pay good money every year for a season ticket.  And that’s Leinster Rugby.  Of course when it comes to international time, I’m all about the boys in green.

But what has made the website worthwhile has been the fact that I have met so many fellow rugby fans who share my love of the sport, and the best thing about THAT is that it doesn’t matter which team they follow.

In the lead photo you can see myself with several of these fans in the Sandymount Hotel after the game on Saturday.  It was an impromptu “event” arranged by RaboDirect as a way of saying thanks to some of the game’s supporters before they end their sponsorship of the Celtic League.

The smiles are all genuine - we had a laugh, a few beers, some pub grub and it was all good.  It didn’t matter to anyone who won or lost the game, but if we had our opinions on what may or may not have happened, we were all able to share them respectfully.

For the good of the game, let us not only hold on to that, but also welcome others who feel the same. 

Sure, there are eejits who are determined to go the tribal route.  And they are not just from Leinster, nor just from Munster, nor just from Ireland.

And sure enough they were out in force after this match, whether it was on my Facebook page, Journal.ie, and all the usual messageboards.

Well we know they’re there, we know how sad they can be, we know how much they can stir our emotions especially after big derby matches like this one.  We also know that even with my bubble-bursting opening paragraph, there will still be those scanning this page word by word looking for some kind slight to pounce on.

But please, for the good of the game, don’t ever let them stop us harping on rugby.

This match came in three distinct segments - Munster won the first 30 minutes, Leinster the next 30, Munster the final 20.  But throughout the entire 80, it really did look as though only one side was going to score a try, and that was the team that eventually did, and that was the team which won the match.

Although I think Munster were mistaken to take the three points when awarded a penalty on 73 minutes, I reckon they made that choice because they agreed that the Leinster defence was at its best and that they were more likely to get another score by a penalty.  As it turned out, that didn’t happen either.

Had they instead gone for the corner, with a lineout and patient phases even if the Leinster tackling was to keep them out, some good recycling could have at least won another penalty and Alain Rolland would have to show a yellow as he did earlier to Dave Kilcoyne.

Ah, yes, Alain Rolland.  He went to Blackrock College, didn’t he?  So therefore he must have been determined to make calls that favoured Leinster on the night, right?

Look…he wasn’t the scheduled ref.  Pascal Gauzere was injured and with all the other refs assigned and travel arrangements made, if AR was the best available option it was surely a testament to his career (which included involvement a World Cup Final, more than any other Irishman can say) that he be handed this gig.

As I have said before on this site, thinking a ref just gives bad calls against your team is like thinking lemon juice only squirts into your eyeball…just because that’s the only time you notice something doesn’t mean that’s the only time it happens.

He got calls wrong on Saturday it’s true.  But the same can be said for any given official on any given day.

The one thing you can be sure of with Rolland is that you’ll generally get a detailed explanation of why he made a particular decision, and sometimes, although he lacks the wit of Nigel Owens, he’ll even add a little colour, like when he said to Brian O’Driscoll at one stage “all I’m saying is that it’s for the good of the game”.

He is perfectly within his rights to say something like “because I said so” but he goes that extra mile of quoting chapter and verse what he saw and it’s a shame more refs can’t be like him.

[Funny little sidenote…at one stage as a scrum was forming Rolland said “Everybody is giving out about everyone else” after which Setanta commentator Oisin Langan quipped, “Welcome to Ireland!”]

Of course it was clear the ref had his hands full with the scrums on the night, and at the centre of this was David Kilcoyne v Mike Ross.  We need not worry ourselves about the particulars of what goes on between props at scrum-setting time but needless to say they caught Rolland’s attention and it set the tone for the first half.

He seemed to take turns awarding penalties against the two of them, though only the Munster ones tended to be in kickable positions which helped them to their early 9-0 lead.  As he threatened to show both of them yellow I was reminded of Nigel Owens doing similar in the same fixture 2 years ago only then it was Marcus Horan wearing red 1.  Looking at the two benches for this match I’d say a double yellow would have favoured the visitors.

But they stayed on the park and things improved in the second half on that front.  It was around the 30-minute mark when Leinster’s offence finally seemed to find its spark.    That has been a pattern this season in that our style going forward needs to work its way up through the gears before it gets to a point where the passes start sticking and the scoreboard starts moving.

When the score got to 3-12 Ian Madigan (who along with his opposite number Keatley nailed  some superb placekicks on the night) did a short restart which paid off with Fergus McFadden taking it and from there it really did look as though a try was inevitable, though it was still a long time coming, the 56th minute to be precise, albeit with the help of the extra man.

Man of the Match was given to Jamie Heaslip - not for the first time this season I disagree, but again it’s nothing against the man himself.  Since he got the try there was a case to be made for BOD but in my book it should have gone to Shane Jennings.  Made some good breaks, forced turnovers, hit his tackles and of course had two key involvements in the try including the final pop pass.

On the Munster side as I have already suggested I thought Keith Earls was their biggest threat and is having a fine season when fit.  I have nothing against Simon Zebo but I really do feel he still has a way to go before he can move up the Irish pecking order.  For one thing, although he is an “x-factor” type of winger, he doesn’t play for a club that will base their style of play around him the way London Wasps would do for Christian Wade, for example.

But while he had a few good bursts and chased down some kicks, he really was all at sea for the decisive try and for a solid 80 minutes I’d have Earls in my side any day ahead of him if I were Joe Schmidt.

I could go back over the match in more detail and single out more individuals, but I really think it’s more important that we put this one to bed and focus on next weekend. 

The 2013/14 season is well poised to become the best-ever for Irish rugby.  After winning the Six Nations (all of us!) we are on the brink of having three Irish provinces in the final four of both the Heineken Cup and the RaboDirectPRO12, and into the bargain we have Connacht playing some amazing rugby as well.

I say we put our full support behind them and make sure that all further derbies this season are enjoyed in the proper fashion for the good of the game. Once Leinster win, of course ;-) JLP

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

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Also this weekend

Glasgow 11 - 9 Ospreys

Zebre 25 - 25 Dragons

Benetton Treviso 20 - 16 Edinburgh

Cardiff Blues 28 - 23 Ulster

Scarlets 32 - 30 Connacht

1 LEINSTER 18 68 14 149 44 436 18
2 MUNSTER 18 63 14 166 42 429 24
3 ULSTER 18 60 13 364 35 364 17
4 OSPREYS 18 52 10 145 47 454 23
5 GLASGOW 16 51 12 42 26 277 11
6 SCARLETS 18 41 8 -29 32 334 -5
7 CONNACHT 18 34 6 -51 32 301 -1
8 NG DRAGONS 17 30 6 -58 25 293 -6
9 EDINBURGH 16 30 6 -65 25 280 -10
10 CARDIFF BLUES 18 28 5 -119 22 342 -23
11 TREVISO 17 24 4 -136 21 279 -29
12 ZEBRE 18 20 3 -167 26 271 -19

Next matches

Thu Apr 3

NG Dragons v Edinburgh, 6:30pm

Fri Apr 4

Glasgow v Benetton Treviso, 7:35pm

Fri Apr 11

Ospreys v Leinster, 7:05pm

Ulster v Connacht, 7:05pm

Edinburgh v Cardiff Blues, 7:45pm

Sat Apr 12

Benetton Treviso v NG Dragons, 6pm

Munster v Glasgow, 6:30pm

Scarlets v Zebre, 6:30pm

ERM Apr 2014 Competition

ERM APR 2014 FINAL GRID

CLICK GRID FOR A BETTER LOOK

FINAL SCORE

TOULON-29 LEINSTER-14

WINNING SQUARE - T 9 L 4

COMPETITION WINNER

CAT CRIBBIN


Once again we have a year’s subscription to Emerald Rugby magazine to give away to the winner of our latest “unriggable raffle”.

As always we are grateful to the monthly publication for the prize - be sure an check out their April issue which is out next Thursday and includes interviews with Jamie Heaslip and Devin Toner.

http://www.emeraldrugby.com

https://twitter.com/EmeraldRugby

https://www.facebook.com/EmeraldRugby

We had a different format last week but this time the format is back to its old self.

To qualify you will have to stay tuned to the HarpinOnRugby Facebook page throughout the coming week and follow the instructions when the posts are published.  Below you will see a grid showing the days, times and number of qualifiers for each post.

Click here for a more detailed explanation of how the “unriggable raffle” works.

DAY

TIME

NO. OF QUALIFIERS

MONDAY

9PM

40

TUESDAY

9PM

30

WEDNESDAY

9PM

20

THURSDAY

9PM

10

The rugby match which will provide the winner for the competition will be Leinster’s Heineken Cup quarterfinal clash with Toulon on April 6, 2014, kickoff 4:30pm.

The following extra rules are unfortunate but necessary.


  • the winner must provide an address on the island of Ireland

  • the competition winner will only be contacted via the social media account they used to qualify and they MUST respond within 48 hours of the final whistle in the rugby match otherwise the prize could be put back on offer to other entrants in a manner to be determined by the organisers

  • only one entry per separate Facebook account is allowed each day, but it’s ok to enter once on each of the four days

  • each window closes 3 hours after posting – if all of the spots are not taken, the extra ones will be allocated in a manner to be determined by the competition organisers.

  • when you are asked to leave an “exact phrase” this means you can use the phrase with OR without the quotes; also, since speed is a factor in the competition we will make allowances for typos once it is clear a decent attempt has been made to repeat the phrase

  • for some windows “edited” Facebook comments will not be permitted as entries…this will be outlined as part of the post where it applies

  • for transparency purposes your qualifying comment must remain on the social media post until at least two hours after completion of the rugby match that is to determine the competition winner.

  • be aware that Facebook have been known to display comments in a random order on the web; as competition organisers we will do all we can to ensure the timeline is properly followed in each window.

  • entrants’ positions on the grid are set and not open for discussion, nor are any other final decisions made by the competition organisers.


    If you have any questions about the competition and/or its format or indeed would like to sponsor one down the line, feel free to email we'd be happy to help.

     

    BE SURE AND HAVE A GO AND BEST OF LUCK!!! JLP

  • Friday, March 28, 2014

    The Pagano Preview Mar 28-30

    ERM LOGO

    I thought I couldn’t get more annoyed about this European Cup fiasco.  O how wrong I was.

    Partly it was down to the way the new format has been teased out over the past couple of weeks, with countless click bait tweets from mainstream sources telling us how the deal is “about to be revealed”.

    The other part was about the way the new deal is being spun in such a way as to suggest the English clubs are “getting everything they wanted”.  That somehow the Irish in particular are disgusted to have to back down and have all these things we don’t want imposed on us.

    I have said countless times here that a large portion of the suggestions for format change to our premier European competition were needed.  My biggest objection was the infantile manner in which the PRL went about their campaign, and whether they achieved their objectives or not, I certainly wouldn’t be proud if I were them.

    That’s not to say I’m entirely happy with the “about to be announced” new deal, and the biggest beef is over the TV deal. 

    Oh, of course it seems to make perfect sense that since Sky & BT were arguing over coverage rights then let’s all just get along and let them BOTH cover the new competition!

    Compromise is fine.  Normally I’m all for it.  Unless, of course, it is we the fans who are being compromised. 

    Not only are both Sky & BT going to be able to reap megabucks to beam ads at us if we watch the competition on their channels, we’ll also have to pay them both a monthly subscription charge for the privilege, which for the moment works out at around €60 in total, on top of regular cable rates, which means rugby fans get the added “bonus” of such sports as soccer, darts and motocross whether they want them or not.

    I’m prepared to accept that there will be something done about that by the TV companies, but let’s just say I won’t be holding my breath.

    Anyway…enough of such rants.  There’s some massive games to savour this weekend, involving clubs from all over the rugby world, I might add.  Let’s be having a look at them shall we.


    Click here for TV listings

    Friday, March 28

    RaboDirect PRO12

    Glasgow v Ospreys, 7:35pm

    This a match-up that not only has massive consequences, but also gives a massive two fingers to everyone who thinks only the Irish care about this league.  Sure, three provinces occupy the top three spots, but nobody, Leinster especially, will relish meeting either of these two in a playoff, even at home.  And with Glasgow just four points behind the Welsh region with 2 home games in hand, this contest has massive implications for two clubs who clearly want to take something meaningful from this season.  Really tough one to call, but something in my bones tells me those pesky birds can sneak it.  Ospreys by 3

    Ulster Bank League Division 1A

    HarpinOnRugby is primarily a fan site for both the Leinster provincial team and Ireland test teams.  We won’t pretend to offer extensive coverage of anything else because we don’t (yet!) have the time to extend our remit.  So if you want to know more about the massive top-of-the-table clash at Castle Avenue tonight, or other big club rugby happenings this weekend like the semifinals of the Provincial Towns Cup, you’d be best served by the likes of KnockOn.ie.   But if all you want is an overview then Tarf trail Belvo in the league by just 3 points with a game in hand and games are running out so tonight’s clash is crucial.  Almost worth TV coverage, one might say.

    Clontarf v Old Belvedere, 7:30pm

    UCD v Lansdowne, 7:30pm

    Lansdowne Premiership

    Bath v Sale Sharks, 7:45pm

    Top14

    Brive v Clérmont, 7:45pm

    Saturday, March 29

    RaboDirectPRO12

    Zebre v NG Dragons, 3pm

    Think this match means nothing?  Think again.  Assuming the proposed new European format happens, the top Italian team in the Rabo will qualify for the new comp.  Even though there are whispers that Zebre will be disbanded, they are just 2 points behind Treviso who may have a game in hand but given that game is away to play-off chasing Glasgow next week I wouldn’t see that as an advantage.  Zebre also have to face the Warriors but that’s in their final match when the Scots very possibly may have already qualified for the final four and thus will no doubt rest players.  Add all that to the fact that Treviso also must still play Leinster at the RDS and you get the nailed-on fact that the italian slot is still very much in play, and what’s more I reckon it still will be after this matchup.  Zebre by 4

    Benetton Treviso v Edinburgh, 6pm

    See my Zebre preview for the significance of this match for the home side…but the difference in this match is that Embra have their own interests as well.  With two games in hand on the teams ahead of them, plus the fact that those two play each other on Sunday thus at least one will drop points, this match is huge for their chances of finishing sixth.  What could prove the difference, however, is the fact that Greig Laidlaw has been asked by the SRU to take a breather for the remainder of the season.  For that reason I’ll go for a home win but it could require some late heroics similar to italy v Scotland in Rome recently. Treviso by 2

    Cardiff Blues v Ulster, 6:30pm

    You look at the Cardiff bench and you see the name of Matthew Rees, definitely a welcome sight after all the Welsh Grand Slam hero has been through of late.  But then you look at the Ulster bench and you are dragged back into the current Pro12 reality.

    Having Iain Henderson, Robbie Diack, Paul Marshall and Craig Gilroy to call on is just one of the many advantages enjoyed by Mark Anscombe going into this fixture and with the goings on at the Aviva Stadium giving them a chance to gain some ground, they will surely be immensely disappointed not to come away with at least four points.

    The only thing that could hold them back would be having Sarries’ visit to Ravenhill next week to the front of their minds, but that shouldn’t bother them as they are used to having tougher HCup assignments away from home.  Hopefully they will get the job done here with any injuries, though a try bonus may be beyond them. Ulster by 12

    Leinster v Munster, 7pm

    CLICK HERE FOR MY PREVIEW ON THE FANTASY5LIVE BLOG

    Ulster Bank League Div 1A

    Cork Constitution v Ballynahinch, 2:30pm

    Dolphin v Garryowen, 2:30pm

    Young Munster v St Mary’s, 2:30pm

    Lansdowne Premiership

    London Wasps v Saracens, 3pm

    Harlequins v London Irish, 3pm

    Exeter Chiefs v Gloucester, 3pm

    Northampton Saints v Leicester Tigers, 3:15pm

    Leinster v Munster isn’t the only big top-of-the-table derby tussle today - these two are also long-standing rivals and they are also in the mix for the playoffs.  However in this case after Sale’s win over Bath last night the points are needed by the Tigers to not only stay ahead of the Sharks but also to move ahead of Bath in 3rd.  Hang on - am I daring to suggest that a game in the Lansdowne Premiership may actually be exciting?  Maybe I need to lie down…  Anyway - I’m going to tag this as my Upset of the Week and go for an away win.  Leicester by 4

    Top14

    Stade Francais v Racing Métro, 1:55pm

    Montpellier v Bayonne, 5:30pm

    Oyonnax v Grenoble, 5:30pm

    Bordeaux v Perpignan, 5:30pm

    Biarritz v Castres, 5:30pm

    Toulon v Toulouse, 7:45pm

    Super Rugby

    Bulls v Chiefs, 1pm

    Sharks v Waratahs, 3:05pm

    Sunday, March 30

    RaboDirectPRO12

    Scarlets v Connacht, 2:05pm

    This is Connacht’s biggest game of the season.  Yes, I am well aware that they won in Toulouse, but the fact remains that their recent run of form has put them in contention for a seat at next season’s top Euro table, and the Llanelli-based region stand in their way.

    Pat Lam gets to name another unchanged side this weekend, something he has struggled to do all season and certainly doesn’t hurt a squad.  Meanwhile the significant portion of Welsh fans looking for another stick to beat WRU chief Roger Lewis with will no doubt be baying for an away win here. “Look - even the 4th best Irish province can beat us, mun!!!”

    As always I am bound by the traditions of this blog when I make my prediction but be assured it comes with both a nod AND a wink.  Be sure and catch this one on RTE2 Sunday afternoon if you can, it promises to be a thriller and is every bit as important for Irish rugby as Saturday evening’s goings-on in Dublin. Scarlets by 2

    Lansdowne Premiership

    Newcastle Falcons v Worcester Warriors, 2pm


    Be sure and enjoy your rugby this weekend wherever you are. JLP

    Thursday, March 27, 2014

    #HeinekenRugby competition

    heineken-cup

    DRAW MADE AT 9PM ON SUNDAY

    COMPETITION WINNER

    LAURA GALLAGHER

    Many congrats Laura! An email has been sent. 

    Thanks to all who had a go and also to Heineken for offering the prize!!!

    *DEADLINE EXTENDED TO 8PM SUNDAY MARCH 30*

    Ahead of the upcoming quarterfinals, Heineken have kindly offered 2 tickets to Ulster v Saracens to a lucky HarpinOnRugby reader!

    After the four mouth-watering matches that weekend, The Heineken Rugby Show will be back with more bonus chat & banter.

    Click here to see the episodes so far.

    Entry could not be simpler - just follow these steps :

    • Answer this question : Which former England captain is the host of the Heineken Rugby Show?  Is it : (a) Will.I.Am (b) Will Carling (c) Will Ferrell
    • Send your answer plus your name to paganoblog@gmail.com using “#HeinekenRugby competition” (without the quotes of course) as the subject line

    Done.  The draw will be made on Sunday evening and the winner announced on Monday morning.

    Simples! Have a go and best of luck! JLP

    Follow  @Heineken_UK

    &

    Join the conversation using #HeinekenRugby

    TERMS & CONDITIONS

    Heineken® Cup

    1. Acceptance of the rules is a condition of entry and entry instructions form part of the rules. Entry indicates acceptance of rules.

    2. Only open to residents in the Republic of Ireland, the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man aged 18 or over, excluding employees of any company in the Heineken group and any person whom, in the Promoter’s reasonable opinion, should be excluded due to their involvement or connection with this promotion.

    3. Entrants will need to provide proof of age to receive the prize, in the event that they are chosen as a winner.

    4. No purchase necessary to enter. To participate in the promotion, entrants must follow the instructions as outlined above. Entries limited to one per person. Entries must be made personally. Entries made through agents/third parties are invalid. Any mechanical reproduction of automated entries or multiple accounts is prohibited, and any use of such entry methods will cause disqualification. No entries submitted via any other means will be accepted. The Promoter cannot guarantee uninterrupted or secure access to the web and accepts no responsibility for non-receipt or late receipt of entries due to technical difficulties, nor any associated costs to the entrants. Proof of sending is not proof of receipt. The Promoter is not responsible for lost, damaged, incomplete, illegible or delayed entries, such entries will be void.

    5. The promotion opens at 6pm on Thursday, March 27, 2014 and closes at 7pm on Sunday, March 30 (“the Promotion Period”).

    6. All valid entries received during the Promotion Period will be entered into prize draws to take place on the prize draw dates listed below. The first valid entries chosen at random by an independent judge will be deemed the winners. The judge’s decision is final.

    7. There are 1 Pair of tickets to be won. Each prize consists of 2 x tickets to the Ulster v Saracens Heineken Cup quarterfinal.

    Draw date: Sunday, March 30, 9pm

    Date of event:  Saturday, April 5, 2014, KO 6:30pm

    The winners will be contacted using the email address they provide within 3 hours of the draw to confirm details. If the winner cannot be contacted within 24 hours, the Promoter reserves the right to re-draw and select a new winner (and so on until a winner can be contacted who will take up the prize).

    1. The winner’s guest must be over the age of 18.

    2. The winners’ names will be announced publicly on this blog post within 12 hours from the end of the draw.

    3. There is no cash or other alternative to this prize in whole or in part. The prize is not transferable.

    4. The winner will be required to participate in all required publicity, including any presentation ceremony.

    5. The decision of the Promoter in all matters is final and binding and no correspondence will be entered into.

    6. The Promoter reserves the right to cancel or amend this promotion due to events or circumstances arising beyond its control. The Promoter is not responsible for any third party acts or omissions.

    7. The Promoter cannot guarantee that the event will be free from disruptions, failings or cancellations. The Promoter is not liable for such disruptions, failings or cancellations unless they are caused by our negligence. Any requests for refunds or compensation arising from them should be sent to the operator of the event. We can provide you with their details on request.

    8. The promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. Facebook is not responsible to entrants in respect of any aspects of this promotion. Entrants understand that they are providing their information to the Promoter, and its affiliates, and not to Facebook. The Promoter will only use the information for the purposes of this promotion.

    Tuesday, March 25, 2014

    Nigel Owens to take charge of the Battle of Clontarf

    World Class Referee Nigel Owens will be the Man in the Middle as Clontarf Rugby welcomes the World Famous Barbarians RFC to Castle Avenue   

    An Evening with Nigel Owens

    Clontarf Rugby are delighted to announce that Welsh referee Nigel Owens has been confirmed to take charge of the Dankse Bank Challenge between Clontarf and the Barbarians on April 23rd in Castle Avenue. Kick-Off is 5.30pm.

    Owens, a television presenter in his native Wales is one of the most recognisable referees in world rugby and was the only Welsh referee at the 2007 and 2011 World Cups. He has taken charge of many of Ireland’s high-profile games and made headlines in 2012 by addressing a player who was acting up with the line “This is not soccer”.

    The evening before the game, April 22nd, the club will be hosting “An Evening with Nigel Owens” in a purpose built marquee that will be in place for the duration of the 1014 celebrations in the club.

    Tickets for the event are priced at €20 and are available from behind the bar in the Clontarf Rugby Club, or by calling the office on 01-8336214.

    Follow Clontarf Rugby on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ClontarfRugby

    And Facebook:  www.facebook.com/ClontarfRugby


    ATTENTION ALL CLUB P.R.O.s

    FEEL FREE TO SEND ON INFO ON RECRUITMENT OR UPCOMING EVENTS TO US AND WE’LL HELP YOU PROMOTE IT

    paganoblog@gmail.com

    Let The Schmidt Hit The Fan - Rd 8 (MUN)

    Since the start of the season four bloggers, one representing each province, have taken turns selecting their ideal Irish matchday 23.

    This week our Munster representative Kate McEvoy picks a side for the summer tour.

    Click this link for her last selection and these for the latest from Ulster, Leinster & Connacht.

    LTSHTF avatar

    I hope we're all still feeling the warm, unifying glow that comes from basking in a 6 Nations victory. Probably not since the often less than illustrious airing of grievances that is a Leinster v Munster Rabo fixture is coming up unfortunately fast on the rails and is sure to dissipate any residual good vibes between the provinces. The process has already begun and lord, I hate this fixture so I'm going to move swiftly on, pray they don't meet at any stage in the Heineken Cup and concentrate on picking an as yet fairly abstract team for this summer's tour to Argentina.

    As it stands, I'm focusing on developing younger players for contention in the RWC squad and experienced players returning from injury, while resting last year's Lions who, particularly as some will hopefully be involved in the business end of this season's European competitions, will have an extremely long, tough year. This almost goes without saying but this will change massively over the next 3 months. I may decide to slot in more senior players onto the bench, especially in the front row, depending how the season progresses. I'm fickle like that. Also, I'm still sticking to my policy of avoiding players with long term injury until they've returned to play (Sean O'Brien) for a decent amount of time (Stephen Ferris). Like I said, there'll be a lot of change. But sure, isn't it great to have options?

    1. Jack McGrath – Probably the breakthrough of the season so far. Dynamic in the loose, strong in the ruck, dependable in the set piece, and still so young. Cian Healy is one of the world's best looseheads but his understudy ain't too shabby.

    1. Sean Cronin – This could be a make or break tour to see if Cronin can finally make the transition from spectacular, try scoring impact sub to starting hooker. His throwing has improved but he still seems incapable of striking the ball in the scrum. Former cardiac patient Richardt Strauss takes the bench spot hoping to add to his international cap tally.

    1. Marty Moore – I know Mike Ross is one of those players that needs a regular run around the park to keep the engine turning over but let's leave him at home this time out. Moore struggled in Paris, the first real set back we've seen but will hopefully be the stronger for the win under pressure and learned a lesson or two along the way.

    1. Devin Toner – Devin “most improved” Toner, once seen as a soft pick, is going to be hard to dislodge from the starting Ireland team. The giant from the clearly magical village of Moynalvey (see Mary-Louise Reilly) is on the plane.

    1. Donnacha Ryan – Often underrated, the Nenagh native seldom disappoints and is a competitive animal with a major point to prove. He's a great tourist & I'm looking forward to seeing him back in green. Dan Tuohy will be also be chomping at the bit after his latest international opportunity was cruelly cut short by a broken arm sustained on the pitch.

    1. Iain Henderson – Solid first test start, but somewhat less spectacular than those who have followed his career to date had hoped for, with some good cameos off the bench across the tournament. There seems to be a good chance Henderson's future may be at second row, particularly with a plethora of options in the back row, but for now, particularly as it looks like O'Connell has the world cup in his sights, I'm starting him at blindside. Rhys Ruddock offers good cover and an experienced pair of hands from the bench.

    1. Tommy O'Donnell – Somewhat unlucky not to feature more throughout the tournament, Tommy O'Donnell's season was a case of arrested development with a bad injury at the start of the season. Henry will prove difficult to dislodge after and excels as a jackal-type openside but O'Donnell is an exciting talent who offers something slightly different with more of an explosive edge.

    1. Jordi Murphy – The medal-losing bequiffed former Blackrock sports personality of the year is certainly good value on the social media front. It'll be a tough act to dislodge the bionic man Jamie Heaslip but I'd like to see his young counterpart get a chance to put his own stamp on the number 8 jersey.

    1. Conor Murray – Despite Eoin Reddan playing with a new lease of life this spring, Murray is Ireland's pre-eminent scrumhalf who's service seems to have improved after his Lions' tour under Rob Howley's tutelage. I think it's important for Murray to have a good working relationship with the young pretenders so J10's outhalf crown and there is certainly little point in bringing an overworked Jonny Sexton to sample the delights of South America. Also, this is a fairly callow squad at this point and Murray's leadership, particularly at provincial level has come on massively this season. Time to cap Marmion before the Welsh cast their eyes in his direction too.

    1. Paddy Jackson – Madigan did manage to cooly close things out in Paris, to my utmost relief but Jackson looked assured during his appearances and deserves a chance to demonstrate his improved game management. For me, although Madigan is certainly the more exciting player, he hasn't kicked on this season as much as I would like and the Ulsterman has done a better job at addressing the deficiencies in his game.

    1. Simon Zebo – Generating more ink than many players who actually featured in our tournament win, the Cork flyer has an abundance of natural talent but there are question marks over his work rate. This would be the ideal chance to address those worries. And, for the record, I don't think there's much wrong with his defence.

    1. Luke Marshall – Although D'arcy has made no mention of following his centre partner off into the sunset, the the beard removal has shaved years of his age, Bamm-Bamm starts at 12. Mind your head, Luke.

    1. Darren Cave – Time for Darren to put his money where his mouth is after his somewhat ill-advised pop at some of his potential Irish teammates. There seems to be a narrative than Henshaw is BOD's anointed successor but Cave is currently more the the finished article and forms a solid defensive pairing with his provincial counterpart. The first of 3 potential outside centres in the mix, and I'd certainly bring Keith Earls on tour too but I'm restricted numbers-wise here. Luke Fitzgerald, who scored two tries against Zebre without breaking anything or being struck by lightening offers cover from the bench and hopefully gets a chance to augment his outside centre autumn cameo.

    1. Tommy Bowe – Always considered a nailed on starter and certainly world class when in form but for me his international showings in autumn were below par, and, particularly given his injury struggles this season, needs game time to reassert his supremacy on the wing. Promising signs at provincial level bode well.

    1. Robbie Henshaw – Another potential heir apparent, also adding depth to a somewhat shallow pool at full back until Jared Payne qualifies in September. Oodles of potential, and I for one am happy to see he'll be realizing in at Connacht until 2016 at least.

    1. Jack McGrath

    2. Sean Cronin

    3. Marty Moore

    4. Devin Toner

    5. Donnacha Ryan

    6. Iain Henderson

    7. Tommy O'Donnell

    8. Jordi Murphy

    9. Conor Murray

    10. Paddy Jackson

    11. Simon Zebo

    12. Luke Marshall

    13. Darren Cave

    14. Tommy Bowe

    15. Robbie Henshaw

    1. Richardt Strauss

    2. Stephen Archer

    3. Dave Kilcoyne

    4. Dan Tuohy

    5. Rhys Ruddock

    6. Kieran Marmion

    7. Ian Madigan

    8. Luke Fitzgerald

    Kate McEvoy : Munster fan in a sea of Leinster blue. Raised on a strict diet of Bective Rangers. Earliest childhood memory is stud marks in the muck. Former hooker for a father & a mother with an eye for a forward pass bordering on freakish . Best rugby memory, Toulouse main square, May 24, 2008. Epitaph will read “Knew a lot about rugby for a girl.” Can be found tweeting optimistically at @ImKateMc


    NEXT WEEK ON LET THE SCHMIDT HIT THE FAN…

    OUR ULSTER BLOGGER LAURA JOHNSTON GIVES HER POST-CHAMPIONSHIP SELECTION

    Saturday, March 22, 2014

    Sheary’s of Crumlin Competition

    This week’s competition is a little bit different…please read carefully before taking part!

    SHEARYS FINAL GRID

    CLICK GRID FOR BETTER LOOK

    FINAL SCORE

    LEINSTER - 22 MUNSTER - 18

    WINNING SQUARE : L 2 M 8

    COMPETITION WINNER

    DIARMUID TEMPANY

    Congrats Diarmuid!

    Contact us by direct Facebook message to claim your prize!


    Sheary’s of Crumlin, the home of rugby in Dublin 12, has offered an excellent prize for the winner of our latest competition.

    The winner will be able bring 3 friends to watch the Toulon v Leinster Heineken Cup quarterfinal on Sunday, April 6 in the comfort of their best seats in the house along with a €50 bar tab to help enjoy the match!

    Sheary's of Crumlin is your quintessential local family-run pub. Whether it's to catch up with the girls, to watch a match with the lads, to surf the internet on our free WiFi or to browse through our library in kids-free peace, Sheary's hits the spot.

    With your choice of public bar or lounge you can enjoy the atmosphere of Sheary's. We have 8 superb craft beers on draught, (Brooklyn Lager; Sierra Nevada IPA; Punk IPA; Porterhouse Plain & Red; O'Hara's Pale Ale & Natural Blonde Lager; 5 Lamps Lager. We host a superb Trad Sessiún every Friday from 930pm and you are welcome to bring along your banjo, fiddle, tin whistle or just your voice! Saturday night is a bit more up tempo where we may have a anything from a Bluegrass Band to Musical Hits to Karaoke!

    Sheary's understands that sport is important for you so enjoy our 7 TV's with full access to Sky Sports, Setanta Sports, ESPN, At The Races & UK Racing. We specialise in showing Rugby matches & have a dedicated section for you. For added convenience there is a Paddy Powers Betting Office 50 metres away. If you'd like to participate in activities please feel free to join Sheary's Golf Society which has outings at great value to top courses once a month.

    We are one of the few pubs in Dublin that do not allow children on the premises and have a strict over 23's policy to ensure that your visit to us for your quiet pint of excellent beer or peaceful glass of wine is just that, the way it should be in a great Dublin pub...


    Obviously you should only enter this competition if you feel you will be able to make to Sheary’s on the day in question!

    Qualifying for the grid this week will be done differently to normal, but the winner will be determined in the usual manner.

    Plus, it is at the discretion of the Sheary’s ownership to refuse service and the prize will be null and void if presented by those they consider to be underage.

    By entering this competition it is understood you have read & understood all of the above.


    Unsure how these competitions work? Click here to find out.

    To qualify for the grid, all you have to do is follow the instructions posted on the HarpinOnRugby Facebook page at specific times during the week.

    There will be 5 nights this time instead of the usual 4, so you can qualify once each night.

    DAY TIME NO. OF QUALIFIERS
    MONDAY 9PM 20
    TUESDAY 9PM 20
    WEDNESDAY 9PM 20
    THURSDAY 9PM 20
    FRIDAY 9PM 20

    The match which will provide the winning square for this week’s competition is Leinster v Munster in the RaboDirectPRO12 on Saturday. March 28.

    The following extra rules are unfortunate but necessary.


  • the competition winner will only be contacted via the social media account they used to qualify and they MUST respond within 48 hours of the final whistle in the rugby match otherwise the prize could be put back on offer to other entrants in a manner to be determined by the organisers

  • only one entry per separate Facebook account is allowed each day, but it’s ok to enter once on each of the days

  • each window closes 3 hours after posting – if all of the spots are not taken, the extra ones will be allocated in a manner to be determined by the competition organisers.

  • when you are asked to leave an “exact phrase” this means you can use the phrase with OR without the quotes; also, since speed is a factor in the competition we will make allowances for typos once it is clear a decent attempt has been made to repeat the phrase

  • for some windows “edited” Facebook comments will not be permitted as entries…this will be outlined as part of the post where it applies

  • for transparency purposes your qualifying comment must remain on the social media post until at least two hours after completion of the rugby match that is to determine the competition winner.

  • be aware that Facebook have been known to display comments in a random order on the web; as competition organisers we will do all we can to ensure the timeline is properly followed in each window.

  • entrants’ positions on the grid are set and not open for discussion, nor are any other final decisions made by the competition organisers.


    If you have any questions about the competition and/or its format or indeed would like to sponsor one down the line, feel free to email we'd be happy to help.

    BE SURE AND HAVE A GO AND BEST OF LUCK!!! JLP

  • Friday, March 21, 2014

    Leinster-27 Zebre-0

    Sheary's banner

    ESPN stats

    NOTHING TO SEE HERE…

    HoR pro logo blueWAIT! DON’T CLICK AWAY YET! The headline refers to the game itself - I promise to try and make the writeup as entertaining as always! [ahem]

    If you just watched the highlights of this match offered on YouTube by the league itself (great service by the way - they post clips while the match is in progress) you’d be forgiven for thinking “four great tries, bonus point win for Leinster, with a whitewash thrown in, all good.”

    But if, like myself and several thousand others, you were actually there on the night watching the 80 minutes tick agonisingly by, you would put things a little differently, as 27-0 doesn’t go anywhere near reflecting how the match went.  Something closer to double Leinster’s total with (to be fair) at least a few points on the board for the visitors would have been more like it.

    Even the ESPN statisticians were bored - look at all the tallies they not only screwed up, but also never bothered to fix over the weekend (screengrab from Monday morning).

    Still though…before I get to all the negative stuff, it has to be said that with much bigger contests ahead, Leinster’s remit was a bonus point and no injuries and pending their squad update today, it seems like that was accomplished.

    There’s also the issue of context…go back 12 months to Leinster’s first Pro12 fixture after the 2013 Six Nations and you see we needed 22 points from Ian Madigan to get past Glasgow who led for most of the night.  If you expect a rugby union team to be thrown together with some having a few weeks off and others playing with different coaches to just click right off the bat, you’re expecting the impossible.

    Having said that, when you as a fan have spent hard-earned money for your seat at a sporting contest and you know one team is at the bottom of the league and the other are not only top but also reigning champions (whether it’s Pro12 or Six Nations we can debate later!) I suppose it’s fair to be disappointed to see possession after possession go to waste for a variety of reasons like knock-ons, holding after the tackle, and what-not.

    It started fine for us - Zebre’s winger-turned-outhalf Ianonne put the kickoff out on the full, and the night never got much better for him.  The clock was barely at a minute when we had a penalty which Madigan promptly put into the corner to set up a lineout/maul.

    “Here comes a try for Jordi Murphy”, I said to those with me.  In the end I was right - note that I didn’t specify that it was to be at that exact moment!

    What followed was a series of phases in the Zebre 22 which led to them conceding pen after pen after pen.  No sign of ref issuing any warnings, we try different ways to get over until the 4th pen when we just take the three points.  Surely we must have thought the floodgates would soon open.

    Madigan zebreYeah, not so much.  On 8 minutes Mike McCarthy was pinged for holding after the tackle (looked like he was presenting the ball fine to me but I’m biased) and from there the offensive gremlins began.  I counted fifteen possessions throughout the match where we ran into dead ends; once in a while we were forced into them, but generally it was our own doing.

    See, if we make excuses about our side being thrown together we must also remember that the same goes for our opposition, and sometimes it looked like players on the Zebre team had only met each other that evening.

    This made for an extremely scrappy contest, in which the ref didn’t help with penalty calls which lacked consistency.  Plus although he awarded one yellow towards the end of the first half, he could have sent several other Zebres to the line for some sloppy and sometimes dangerous attempts at tackles.

    It was during that spell with the extra man that we finally got our first try, and you could hear the collective sigh of RDS relief all over Dublin.  On its own it was a very impressive score (as they all were actually) given that the move started with a Luke Fitzgerald burst out of his own 22, included another big gain by McFadden at midfield, saw some patient phases in their red zone and ended with another strong finish by Noel Reid.

    But birthday-boy and 100th-cap-winning Madigan missed the conversion minutes after also missing a pen (yes, a bit like Sexton in Paris) and luckily for us Iannone was having a similar mare with the boot so we went in with an 8-0 which no doubt had the ABLs watching ready to draw the knives out if the result was to be that close.

    And right up to the 58th minute the scoreline was STILL that close as time after time after time the Leinster offence failed to get going.

    Now this could be extremely unfair on Isaac Boss, but the fact remains that two minutes after he was replaced by Eoin Reddan we got two quick tries to put the bonus point back on the table, so make of that what you will.

    The first came off a lineout/maul which worked very well until it was stopped short of the line and Luke Fitzgerald dived into the corner.  He got his second also after a lineout though this time there was no maul and we simply passed it back and forth to stretch them and again he had the space to put it down in virtually the same spot.

    So it was 20-0 on 66 minutes and it looked like the visitors would buckle making the key fourth try inevitable.  But then came a curious phase of play that had me even more convinced that the French Top14 try-bonus point system is much better than ours.  Over there, it’s not enough to score 4 tries - you must instead get at least 3 more tries than your opponents.

    Credit to our Italian opponents with an uncertain future…in the final quarter they showed great ambition to not merely break their duck-egg but also breach our line.  But as our defence was being continuously pinned in our own 22, the clock ticking well past 70 and our tackle count was increasing, I wondered…would we have been better served by just letting them score at that point?

    I know that sounds crazy, but we needed to get down the pitch and while 7 points to them wouldn’t affect us, a chance to restart and probably have an attacking lineout around halfway from the exchange would definitely have given us a higher percentage chance of getting try number 4.  A moot point given how the match turned out I know, but still it’s a bit nuts that there could ever be a case made for conceding a score.

    In fact I reckon it was that “nothing to lose” mentality which led to Zane Kirchner attempting a crossfield kick on his own tryline in an attempt to get McFadden & Fanning away on the other touchline.  Although it didn’t quite pan out for us and Zebre had another crack at it, they got their wires crossed on our 22 and we had a chance to clear.

    And again, taken on its own the sequence of events that led to our bonus point try was pretty impressive for Leinster.  The gremlins were put to bed, the phases all went to plan, penalties were won, quick taps were used to full effect and finally, right as the fat lady started to sing, Jordi Murphy proved my prediction to be spot on as he collapsed over the line following another undefendable lineout/maul.

    strauss zebreRichardt Strauss was awarded man-of-the-match and it’s true, he hit all his darts and forced many turnovers.  Luke was also a big contender though because his involvement was much greater than just the two tries.  Also Murphy and Reid had good outings, while Madigan made up for his earlier misses by nailing two great conversions from the far touchline, the perfect birthday presents both for him and for me!

    If you really want to throw mud at Leinster for this one being far from wall-to-wall champagne rugby then go ahead - we got the job done and with a stronger 23 out next week we should be more than ready for the visit of our southern cousins.  And it doesn’t hurt to be handed even more motivation by Rob Penney either!

    Look…on what he said - there were many on social media yesterday playing the “I don’t see why Leinster fans are so up in arms” card.  Really, that wasn’t the case.  If anything his quip was a compliment to Leinster and yes, in some ways it could be seen as an off-the-cuff remark meant to motivate his own troops.

    Thing is though, if Denis Leamy was out of place moaning about Joe Schmidt’s selection policy then so was the current Munster coach, whether his future is with the province or not.  That’s all.  If we don’t want our players to behave like football divers such as Luis Suarez, then we shouldn’t want our coaches to behave like football divas such as Jose Mourinho either. 

    After Paris you’d think this season couldn’t possibly get more exciting, but fasten your seat-belts folks…there’s loads of rugby worth seeing in the coming weeks…and not just at The Palindrome next Saturday.  Ulster are still well in the mix for a double and let’s not forget Connacht who have a massive game in Llanelli on Sunday to stay in contention for yet another seat at the top European table.

    I’m not sure how we can complain about anything that happened (or didn’t) on Friday with all that to look forward to. JLP

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

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    Also this weekend…

    Ospreys 34 - 9 Cardiff Blues

    Edinburgh 3 - 9 Ulster

    Glasgow 14 - 6 Scarlets

    Munster 14 - 3 Benetton Treviso

    Dragons 8 - 24 Connacht

    [Rearranged match played Fri Mar 14]

    Ulster 26 - 13 Scarlets

    TEAM PLD PTS W PD T PF TD
    1 LEINSTER 17 64 13 145 43 414 17
    2 MUNSTER 17 62 14 170 42 411 25
    3 ULSTER 17 59 13 128 34 341 17
    4 OSPREYS 17 51 10 147 47 445 24
    5 GLASGOW 15 47 11 40 25 266 10
    6 SCARLETS 17 36 7 -31 28 302 -5
    7 CONNACHT 17 32 6 -49 28 271 -1
    8 EDINBURGH 15 29 6 -61 24 264 -9
    9 NG DRAGONS 16 28 6 -58 22 268 -8
    10 CARDIFF BLUES 17 24 4 -124 21 314 -23
    11 TREVISO 16 20 3 -140 19 259 -30
    12 ZEBRE 17 18 3 -167 25 246 -17

    positions marked red represent proposed qualification for new European competition

    NEXT FIXTURES

    Fri March 28

    Glasgow v Ospreys, 7:35pm

    Sat March 29

    Zebre v Dragons, 3pm

    Bnetton Treviso v Edinburgh, 6pm

    Cardiff Blues v Ulster, 6:30pm

    Leinster v Munster, 7pm

    Sun March 30

    Scarlets v Connacht, 2:05pm

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