Saturday, May 31, 2014

Leinster-34 Glasgow-12

lest we forget

Click here for the full set of matchday photos from Ken Bohane

LEINST WE FORGET

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It probably, scratch that - it DEFINITELY goes without saying that this was a satisfying victory for Leinster fans.

Not only was there a major trophy on offer but it was the final farewell for two of the province's most legendary figures.

But for me the satisfaction did not come near to ending there.

This has been a curious season for Leinster Rugby to say the very least. Going into Saturday's final, when you look at the raw stats over the time dating back to that opening day demolition of the Scarlets in Llanelli, you'd see a record in all competitions that any provincial team would envy...played 30, won 23, drawn 1, lost 6.

Yet the thrust of all the commentary around the game was such that Leinster, and by association first-season coach Matt O'Connor, would be considered failures should they fall short against the Glasgow Warriors on the last day in May.

I suppose when you have the amount of success Leinster have enjoyed in recent seasons, that's a fair enough call. Still though...when you consider that the bulk of the criticism in this campaign stems from two defeats in particular over the course of the season, one at home to Northampton and one in Toulon, both of whom went on to win a brace of silverware themselves, you have to feel the bar was being set a tad high even for us.

So what was most satisfying for me about this result and performance was the fact that for all the talent and ability brought by the visitors, Leinster won fair and square on the day. No game-changing refereeing decisions, no lucky bounces of the ball, no reason for anyone to say “the better side lost”, a comment left on HarpinOnRugby social media channels after several Leinster victories this season.

First though, we must pay tribute to the visitors. Glasgow Warriors have done Scottish rugby proud throughout the season, they brought over a superb following on the day, and they most certainly belonged in the tournament's showpiece. In my preview I said the setting was similar to Leinster's 2009 Heineken Cup final only this time the roles were reversed...we were the ones with the big game experience and Glasgow the pretenders. In fact the Warriors even had a young out-half in Finn Russell who had come from nowhere to impress in the second half of the season, much as Sexton did back in Murrayfield.

Yet for all the consistency it took to get the Warriors to this big day, I think it's fair to say they just didn't have the extra 5% at key moments to take the chances when they had them. Hopefully the final margin of victory, which I will admit was somewhat unfair to the way the match went, won't deter them from regrouping for next year's challenge because there is no doubting that the Pro12 is a much better competition thanks to the achievements of Gregor Townsend & his staff in the past few seasons.

And when I talk about not having that extra 5%, it has to be said that it was up to Leinster to make them need it on the day, and I'd find it hard to fault anyone's performance in blue. In fact, not for the first time this season, I have absolutely no idea what the thinking was behind the awarding of Man of the Match...Sean Cronin has been a fine servant to Leinster of that there is no doubt, but I don't know what more you can do to earn the awards than score 2 tries and provide the final pass for the other 2?

Zane Kirchner had a good role in the Fanning try but overall it wasn’t his best outing.  We have all said how he was never going to replace Isa and that is true but I don’t think it’s too much to expect at least one man-of-the-match display from him before the season is out.

I penned that in my writeup for (ironically) our last meeting with Glasgow back at the beginning of March (another one we should have lost apparently), and I believe that although there were fine displays from several players including Gopperth, Ruddock, Reddan, McFadden, Rob Kearney, Madigan and yes even Cronin, Kirchner saved his best outing for last and deserved the gong in my humble opinion.

But let us not forget that this match was still very much a contest going into the final quarter, and much like our playoff win over Ulster, the key moments came between the 55th and 60th minutes.

With the score a mere 14-12 to the home side Rob Kearney connected with a clearance from within his own 22 a bit too well and it went out over the far end line, resulting in a scrum to Glasgow in what was to say the least a great attacking position. But with the clock heading towards 60 as it was the scrum gave the teams and officials a chance to regroup.

Glasgow took the opportunity to finally replace their tight head Jon Welsh who had been absolutely destroyed all day by Cian Healy. I'm not sure how legal Church's sets were (on the call of “bind” he seemed to place his head around his opponent's belly button) but I didn't see Welsh nor his captain complaining so I guess it was ok? Anyway...like I always say we best leave such matters between the front rows where they belong!

The point was...this was a crucial scrum and even though the clock was stopped as the subs came on (including no less a figure than Sean O'Brien by the way) and referee Nigel Owens took a sip of water, every passing moment must have made it more and more clear in Glasgow's heads that this could well be “now or never” time.

The Warriors had some impact subs of their own...most notably in the form of Fijians Nakarawa and Matawalu. The former is a giant back rower whom I call “The Octopus” for the way no matter how he is tackled he always seems to have an extra arm or two free to attempt a cheeky offload. It definitely worked against Glasgow that an injury to Fusaro meant he came on early and Leinster were bang wide to his unconventional decisions by the final quarter.

Then there was Matawalu, who although half the size of Nakarawa has twice the desire to do the unexpected. Glasgow needed to roll the dice, and having won the scrum and worked the phases to get within another sniff of the Leinster line, the stage was set for Matawalu to get over.

But such was the way the famed 15-headed blue monster that is the Leinster defence had frustrated the visitors all day, that final yard or two proved elusive and the sub scrum half reached for the line when he really had no right to and knocked it on...then despite the relatively small area behind the RDS try-line, Leinster had the audacity to chuck the ball out wide and before you could say “see you Jimmy!”, Gopperth was surging down the pitch and eventually it was a 5m scrum way down the other end, which in turn led to a penalty, and the lead was stretched to 5.

In the space of just 5 minutes on the clock, Glasgow got their answer to the “now or never” question and it wasn't the one they wanted.

Of course I couldn't let the writeup go without mentioning the four Leinster tries, all of which were fit to grace any major final. Crossing the whitewash on big occasions has been an area where we have struggled, but one word you can definitely use to describe our offence all season is “patient”, and when it mattered on Saturday we had the ability to keep control through the phases before both finding and exploiting the gaps when they appeared, and as I have already mentioned Kirchner was heavily involved in all four, with Jennings and Darcy also chipping in.

But despite all the 5-pointers it was the superiority in Leinster’s defence which won this contest for me. When Matt O'Connor took the reins, he made no secret of the fact that this was a priority for him. Despite all the success last season, we were a tad shaky without the ball and I firmly believe in any team sport it is in defence where you should get things right first.

And for all the criticism he has copped throughout the year, he has stuck with the winning formula and nit-pick at individual performances all you want...this season has been better than last. Remember...we can't go by trophy count since there's a reason we weren't in the Amlin this time around!!!

Finally I get to mention the two retiring heroes. So much has been written about their “long goodbyes” all season (by myself included) that I'm sure both Brian & Leo can forgive me for leaving it so late in my writeup to mention them.

But as sad and stunning as it was to see BOD go off after only 8 minutes (has that EVER happened?), it was also in some ways fitting...his last act in professional rugby was to run full pelt to try and charge down a clearance for his team despite being injured. Not much more I can add to that to show the man’s dedication.

And as for Leo, I had to laugh watching back the RTE coverage as Donal Lenihan remarked that the Leinster fans didn't seem to know Cullen had taken the field...clearly the chants of “Leeee-o, Leeee-o” hadn't tipped him off. He won us a penalty at a key moment and got busy with his usual sterling work around the breakdown area. Again, a fitting way to end such a successful career.

Still...this great day could not be just about them. Let us not forget the other 44 players involved, the officials, the sell-out crowd, in fact the much-maligned league itself. Hopefully the Welsh regions watching this final, played as it was shortly after the Premiership one, will find some comfort that they are in a league with a much higher standard of entertaining rugby – at least the difference was glaringly obvious to this blogger.

Next season will see many changes...a new sponsor for this league, a new format for Europe and the start of the serious countdown to RWC2015.

But will anything change my support and appreciation for Leinster Rugby? I think not. Many thanks to all involved at the province....yet another job extremely well done. JLP

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

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Also this weekend

Premiership Final : Saracens 20 - 24 Northampton Saints

Top 14 Final : Toulon 18 - 10 Castres

Friday, May 30, 2014

Leinster Rugby Summer Camps competition

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To help promote the “EarlyBird” offer for their Summer Camps, Leinster Rugby have offered a prize of 2 places at any of their venues to a witty HarpinOnRugby reader! Read on…


ABOUT THE CAMPS

The camps which run in 21 venues throughout the province during July and August will revolve around maximising enjoyment and learning to play the Leinster way. This year will see a strong emphasis placed on the capacities of the players and the rugby specific coaching will be tailored to each individual group and conducted in an appropriate safe manner with the aim to optimise learning, create friendships, improve rugby skills and enhance rugby specific knowledge.

The typical week will see the camp content broken down into the various elements of the game and see each day take on a different aspect of skill development, taking it from an introduction level through to using it in fun game based activities. A special area that we will be focusing on this year will be at Mini Stage 2 (8-10 years old) and Mini Stage 3 (10-12 years old), where the players will learn and experience activities around coaching based techniques such as 'Players on the Ball' and 'Players in Space'. This will see the coach's guide and give an understanding of the skills that are needed in these areas of the game such as passing, evasion, tackling, decision making and general movement.

Billy Phelan, who will manage The Herald Summer Camps this year, commented "With only two weeks until the Early Bird price of €70 closes, we are really looking forward to meeting all the players on the camps this summer. We look forward to seeing the next batch of Leinster players come through our camps and break through into the men's and women's Leinster teams".

Players who attend the camp will get:

· 5 days of coaching from 9.30am-1.30pm Monday to Friday trained by Leinster Rugby fully accredited IRFU coaches
· Visit from two Leinster players
· One free junior ticket to a selected Leinster game
· A Canterbury of New Zealand pack including a T-Shirt, a ball, a boot bag and a water bottle
· Learn new skills; make new friend and most importantly-HAVE FUN!

Sign up today at www.leinsterrugby.ie/camps to avail of the early bird price of €70 (before the 6th of June, €89 thereafter). It's cheaper than a babysitter!


HOW TO ENTER

  • Come with an amusing caption for any or all of the four photos below (Just one caption for one photo is required for entry, but feel free to have a go at the all of them if the mood takes you!)
  • Email your entry to paganoblog@gmail.com together with your name USING THE SUBJECT LINE “LR Summer Camp” (without the quotes)
  • PLEASE NOTE - ONLY entries received by email with the correct subject line will be considered.  Comments left on the blog or via social media cannot count.
  • Closing time for entries is 9pm on Tuesday, June 3, 2014.
  • You are free to enter as often as you like until the closing time.
  • The caption which raises the most chuckles here at HarpinOnRugby Manor will be declared the winner - the name & winning caption will be announced on Wednesday, June 4 at 9am.
  • There is to be one winner of the competition, and that winner will receive two places at the Leinster Rugby Summer Camp of their choice.
  • NOTE : Be sure and label your caption to match the correct photo! [ie #1,#2,#3 or #4]
  • All decisions of the competition organising committee will be final.

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

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Dancing to the Same June

Specsavers
 
DATE TIME MATCH COMPETITION VENUE TV
Mon Jun 2 6:35AM UNDER 20S V FRANCE JWRC QBE Stadium, Auckland TG4
Fri Jun 6 6:35AM UNDER 20S V WALES JWRC ECOLight Stadium, Pukekohe TG4
Sat Jun 7 7:40PM ARGENTINA V IRELAND FIRST TEST Estadio Centenario (Resistencia) SKY
Tue Jun 10 2:35AM UNDER 20S V FIJI JWRC QBE Stadium, Auckland TG4
Fri Jun 13 2PM EMERGING IRELAND V RUSSIA IRB NATIONS CUP Stadionul National Arcul de Triumf, Bucharest TBD
Sat Jun 14 7:40PM ARGENTINA V IRELAND SECOND TEST Estadio Monumental Presidente Jose Fierro, Tucumán SKY
Sun Jun 15 TBD UNDER 20S PLAYOFF JWRC TBD TG4
Wed Jun 18 2PM EMERGING IRELAND V URUGUAY IRB NATIONS CUP Stadionul National Arcul de Triumf, Bucharest TBD
Fri Jun 20 TBD UNDER 20S PLAYOFF JWRC TBD TG4
Sun Jun 22 5PM EMERGING IRELAND V ROMANIA IRB NATIONS CUP Stadionul National Arcul de Triumf, Bucharest TBD

All times Irish.  TBD = to be determined

HoR pro logo blueHopefully we’re all prepared for the media onslaught which is about to befall us as the soccer World Cup appears on the radar. 

Personally I’m not one of those rugby fans who detests the round ball game; I will be taking in a contest or two as the tournament progresses, but definitely not at the expense of the egg-chasing on offer throughout the month of June, and there’s plenty for Ireland fans to take in.

So as we get ready to receive a barrage of world Cup wallcharts from the various media sources, I have compiled an online version specifically for Irish rugby fans so we can keep tabs on the various teams travelling to very different corners of the globe throughout the month of June.

Of course there are many other intriguing test series going on at the same time, like England in New Zealand, France in Oz and Wales in South Africa, but I’m mainly interested in how the Irish set up comes out of the month with a view to preparation for our own version of the World Cup in 2015.

I will also be able to give my opinion on Joe Schmidt’s first 217 days in the job, one I promised to give in this post back in November.

There will be many a tear shed this Saturday at the RDS as two Leinster & Ireland legends retire, but they will be the first to point out that life will go on afterwards and as if to prove the point, the Under 20s open their campaign down in New Zealand just a couple of days later.

So set your calendars folks, there’s much intriguing rugby to come! JLP

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Specsavers Competition

Win a pair of tickets to Leinster V Glasgow Warriors at the RDS this Saturday

*****

The draw was made at 9:30pm 

Competition winners : Cearbhall Guilfoyle & Ann Marie Crean

*****

Our friends at Specsavers, sponsors of the match officials, have given us tickets for this Saturday's Leinster V Glasgow Warriors Rabo Direct PRO 12 final this Saturday at the RDS.

All you have to do to win a pair of tickets is complete the well known advertising slogan;

"Should've gone to...... "

  • Email your name & answer to paganoblog@gmail.com before 9pm on Thursday, May 29.
  • Make sure your subject line reads exactly : “Rabo Direct PRO12 Ticket Giveaway” (without the quotes)
  • Only one entry per email address allowed.
  • There will be two winners drawn; each will receive a pair of tickets.  Winners will be notified by 10pm on Thursday evening.
  • Tickets must be collected in Dublin city centre on Friday, May 30th.

HAVE A GO AND BEST OF LUCK!!! JLP

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Let The Schmidt Hit The Fan - Rd 10 (MUN)

Since the start of the season four bloggers, one representing each province, have taken turns selecting their ideal Irish matchday 23 for a test match to take place the following weekend (so current injury status must be taken into account).

This week it is the turn of Munster blogger Kate McEvoy to give her final selection.

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

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This is my last hurrah as supreme overlord of the Irish rugby team, or at least a hastily appointed substitute for whoever dropped out in the first place. So we'll look forward to the first test in the rather splendidly-named Resistancia on June 7th. This is actually one of the easier squads to pull together as I have a definite pool to draw from from. Bar the intense emotion of it all of course.

  1. Jack McGrath

  2. Rory Best

  3. Marty Moore

I'm a bit baffled as to why Mike Ross is on the road again but I suppose he's like my friend's retro car, you have to turn the engine over on a regular basis or it won't start. He's probably bigger than Peanut but they're both distinctly limited on the speed front. I'm starting Rory Best as one would imagine he'll be fresher having recently returned from injury and alas, not to be taking to the field this weekend. Plus his leadership and level head will be important in between the young front row in the Estadio Centenario. Of course, this all depends on who comes through this weekend's clash with Glasgow unscathed.

  1. Iain Henderson

  2. Paul O'Connell

We're quite thin at lock, but one would imagine that's to fit in as many contenders for our competitive back row as possible. On the bench, my player of the season, Devin Toner, not a phrase I thought I'd use, despite not being quite as tough on him in the past as various denizens of the North Stand (you know who you are). I felt Henderson didn't kick on as much as I would like during the 6 Nations but was seldom less than competent and apparently put in a big shift in Ulster's semi final loss to Leinster. I say apparently not because I doubt the veracity of this, but because I was ploughing through prosecco at my school reunion at the time. He's paired with Paulie, who is no doubt looking forward to hunting some Pumas to take the frustration of two semi final losses out on.

  1. Robbie Diack

  2. Chris Henry

  3. Jamie Heaslip

There will be ballads written about the durability of Jamie Heaslip – my love is as deep as the ocean, as strong as the foundations of the earth and as consistent as Jetboot's fitness levels. I've probably doomed him now to come a cropper in short order but it has to be said that it really is extraordinary. After an impressive 6 Nations campaign Henry's back in harness alongside Ulster compatriot Robbie Diack. Even with some high profile absences, O'Mahony, O'Brien and wee Stephen Ferris, it's still a mighty scrap in Ireland's backrow with Munster pair O'Donnell and Dougall unlucky to miss out, on past glories and recent form respectively.

  1. Conor Murray

  2. Jonny Sexton

Despite a long and punishing season Jonny Sexton boards the plane to Argentina. After dragging Racing into the semi finals of the Top 14 only to be bested by Toulon, he should fit right in with the majority of the squad who have come up against a similar road block this season. He and Conor Murray form their established axis and what is currently our starting World Cup pairing. Expect Sexton to boss it even more than usual in BOD's absence and put any young pretenders through their paces.

  1. Simon Zebo

  2. Luke Marshall

  3. Darren Cave

  4. Andrew Trimble

  5. Robbie Henshaw

There will be tears of joy in the streets of Cork as Zebo dons the green once more. However all gazes will be centrewards as the auditions for a new centre pairing rapidly move towards opening night, with one of the more obvious choices first up. Payne has failed to convince at 13 and despite Cave's feeling his face doesn't fit in the Irish set up, a good tour could influence his subsequent season at Ulster as well as his national prospects. Henshaw and Trimble fill the remaining berths, bringing a plethora of seasonal decorations with them. Still would have gone for Jack McGrath for young player of the year but I can't be supreme overlord of everything.

  1. Damien Varley

  2. Dave Kilcoyne

  3. Mike Ross

  4. Devin Toner

  5. Jordi Murphy

  6. Kieran Marmion

  7. Ian Madigan

  8. Keith Earls

The bench consists of big boys in the forwards and hopefully a spark of magic in the backs. After a season of bad luck, some of his own making, Madigan shone in the last chance saloon and has been given another chance to show what he can do at test level. Much like Madigan, Resistancia is perched on the edge of the wilderness so hopefully it'll inspire something in him. Then onto the Argentinian rugby hotspot of Tucumán and hopefully further glory for all concerned.

Finally just a quick note to say thanks to Jeff for as ever being a gracious host and to everyone who read and commented on my flights of fancy across various portals, particularly to all my family members who stumbled across this by accident. Yes, this is what I do with my spare time. I doubt many of you were particularly surprised. It's been a pretty special season with this national side and it's been great to be a tiny part of all the chatter. Until next time, gracias pour todos. ¡Viva Resistancia!

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


MANY THANKS KATE!  NEXT WEEK ON LET THE SCHMIDT HIT THE FAN…

THE SERIES COMES TO A CONCLUSION AS OUR ULSTER BLOGGER LAURA JOHNSTON GIVES HER OWN FINAL SELECTION

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Friday, May 23, 2014

Leinster A-44 Leeds Carnegie-17

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ONE DIRECTION

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I wonder would Herbie pass an NCT?”

Oisín Langan, Setanta

You know a match was never really a contest when the commentator is saying sentences like that a few minutes into the second half.

Now I have to be fair to Leeds Carnegie...even though their kit looked like something the city's better-known soccer team may have worn back in the 80s, they had a lot of things going against them in this contest (five-day turnaround after a bruising Championship semifinal plus home advantage in the final being decided by a draw) yet they continued to compete right to the very end.

Still...while the visitors' offence went from coast to coast on each possession, Leinster's simply coasted.

In this week's lead photo you see the moment just before Girvan Dempsey's men took the lead for good, and the clock hasn't even reached one minute yet. But does this mean I would have been more entertained by a visit to Croke Park last Friday evening to watch a different crop of youngsters performing before a slightly bigger crowd? Eh, no.

The British & Irish Cup may not have been taken too seriously by the media (or indeed it's own organisers – no sponsorship or even a dedicated website?) but it has to be said the IRFU and Leinster Rugby in particular have used the competition to the max over the years of its existence, giving fringe and academy players the chance to get competitive action to show they are ready for the next level.

And having watched this particular batch play for all five of their home fixtures this season, I have to say there are definitely some stars ready to make that break.

But it's not just the players that this tournament has helped develop...let us not forget the coaches. Before I go through the starting lineup one by one (the only real way to write up a match like this IMO) credit must go to Girve the Swerve, John Fogarty and everyone else involved behind the scenes with the A team over the past couple of seasons.

Sure, many of the victories have been comfortable, but these back-to-back trophies have also included some away trips that were challenging to say the least...Pontypridd in the semifinal a few weeks ago and Newcastle, Munster A and even these same Leeds Carnegie last season.

And where you can see the evidence most of all in the quality of coaching in this group of players is in their defence. That doesn't mean all the coaches are involved in this aspect of the game of course, but it is one area where you need everyone to a man knowing their job and having the willingness to stay focused when it counts and all could be said for Leinster A on Friday.

Leeds may be in the second tier of English rugby but they definitely had players who could hurt us (wingers Doherty and Holmes impressing the most) but I very much doubt that they would ever have come across a defence this season as well-drilled as the one they met in Donnybrook...it was little surprise that they coughed up a couple of penalties for back-chat, such was their frustration.

Sure, the Leinster tackling wasn't so hot when the visitors sneaked in for a couple of quick tries in the final quarter, but only the hardest of hard-ass commentators would punish them for that given they had a 34-point lead at the time.

Here are some thoughts on the starting XV and what the future may hold for them...

DARREN HUDSON – Hopefully Bristol can put away London Welsh in the Championship final because if Darren is to get the full benefit from his stay over there it will need to be in the Premiership. He definitely has the talent to do well, he has been unlucky with injury plus he happens to be at a province which has been generally well-stocked with quality back-three performers. Don't remember him by his slip before the 2nd Leeds try in this match....he has shone in the B&I Cup and I wish him all the best – hopefully he will be back,

SAM COGHLAN MURRAY – If Ireland ever do put together a men's 7s team, stick this guy's name down first. Natural speed from a standing start that is hard to find in the modern game and when properly utilised, can be deadly. I'm not sure if he's a fit for the way the Leinster senior team are playing, mind you, but with another brace of tries he must surely be knocking on the door for some Pro12 time next season.

BRENDAN MACKEN – Brendan hasn't needed to knock on the Pro12 door, injuries & international call-ups have left it wide open for him. I'm definitely a fan of his style but I'm not so sure he has proven himself at the next level just yet. Let's just say I'd move someone into the much-discussed 13 jumper next season ahead of him until he was able to prove himself ready, particularly defensively (though to be fair his try was from an intercept).

NOEL REID – Noel has come on in leaps and bounds since that semifinal in this competition a few years bac where he played a big part in Leinster throwing away a decent lead against Munster. Very comfortable at 12 and more interestingly, seems to have a good understanding with Cathal Marsh so both could be used in Pro12 action next season. Always good for a try or two in any fixture, though he was unlucky to pick up a knock on this occasion.

DARRAGH FANNING – Very much a fairytale story for Brody from Homeland, er, I mean, Darragh. Solid performer off his wing and suits the senior provincial team's current style perfectly. Played a massive role in making Lote Tuqiri's early season cameo look like a wasted venture, though some may say the man did that himself! Took his try well after a fortunate buildup.

CATHAL MARSH – Definitely needs a string of games at the next level; I'm not sure what much more he can show us at this one. Showed his full array of talents on the first try on Friday – bringing the ball to the gainline, throwing a no look pass to Reid crossing behind him, then after a few phases spotting the overlap out wide which was eventually exploited by Coghlan-Murray. And to cap it all, he made the conversion from the touchline look effortless even though he had to rush it as the ball had already fallen over. Another season in the A team would be a waste for this lad.

LUKE McGRATH – Back in his familiar role of 9 after a brief spell on the wing against Ulster last weekend (when he did extremely well I might add). Saw a gap well for his try and was solid throughout. Finds himself in a position where Leinster are well stocked, let alone Ireland, but much like Marsh he has provided more than enough evidence that he needs to move up.

JACK O'CONNELL – Much like Hudson, you can hardly blame him for being tempted to go abroad as his chances may well be limited. Stuck to his task on the night and was part of a front row which grew back into the game after Leeds clearly targeted success in that area from the start.

JAMES TRACY – A couple of crooked lineout throws but a decent shift from Tracy. Not sure if he's ready to challenge Dundon for the 3rd hooker role at the province just yet but matches like this one will help him get there.

TADHG FURLONG – Yet another tight head coming down the assembly line. Has had a few opportunties in the Pro12 this season, should have more next.

BEN MARSHALL – Very unlucky to come off worst in a clash of heads with his fellow lock Roux in the early stages...I have liked what I've seen from Ben in this competition and what's more he can play a decent 6 as well when required.

QUINN ROUX – I thought he looked lazy & disinterested the first few times I saw him after his much-vaunted arrival at the province but I did make allowances since he's a youngster who is far from home and deserved time to adjust. His game has much improved since the turn of the year and did well in his 50-minute Pro12 playoff shift, and despite a knock on the head held out for a decent outing on Friday.

JACK CONAN – I have always said it and I always will...if this guy ever plays for the Barbarians the headline will write itself. He's a fair ways off it, of course, but he has progressed well in this comp over the past couple of seasons

DOMINIC RYAN (CAPT) – He, Rhys Ruddock and Jordi Murphy are Leinster's answer to the “three amigos” but “Dippy” has had terrible luck with injuries and fell behind the other two somewhat. Still an awesome talent, however, and hopefully will get more opportunities at senior level next season. With Shane Jennings as mentor, I can only see good things down the line if he stays fit.

LEO AUVA'A – Not sure what the future holds for Leo. He's the sort of player you want when you are looking for crash ball from 5 meters out yet Leinster A didn't need it on the night despite the multitude of tries. He has scored a lot of 5-pointers in this competition but personally I wouldn't look to use him in the senior side at any time of year unless I absolutely had to.

BENCH – Ross Molony put in a solid display despite being called upon much earlier than expected, while of the Byrne twins, they may be tough to tell apart but I do know that hooker Bryan has had some great cameos in this competition throughout the season. Both seem to play with a very “Healy-esque” approach which certainly isn't a bad thing. Elsewhere on the bench there were limited opportunities on the night, though it's worth pointing out that it was Andrew Boyle's try which rescued the semifinal at Sardis Road in Pontypridd.

So there we have it...yet another trophy for Leinster's cabinet, and things looking well for the future. But with the new European format at senior level leading to greater resources for the Premiership & Top 14 clubs, I wonder if Messrs Hudson & O'Connell are the last who will be tempted away from the province.

Next weekend may see a League title up for grabs at the RDS, but of course the sub-plot of the final bow for two massive legends of the game in the province will also take centre stage. At least there is some consolation in that there's a more than decent crop of talent ready to step up – here's hoping they can taste a similar amount of success in Leinster blue down the line. JLP

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Also this weekend

Heineken Cup Final: Toulon 23 - 6 Saracens

Amlin Challenge Cup Final: Bath Rugby 16 - 30 Northampton Saints

Let The Schmidt Hit The Fan - Rd 10 (LEIN)

Since the start of the season four bloggers, one representing each province, have taken turns selecting their ideal Irish matchday 23 for a test match to take place the following weekend (so current injury status must be taken into account).

This week it’s the turn of our Leinster representative Iain O'Connor to offer his matchday 23. 

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

LTSHTF avatar

So what kind of year has it been? 6 Nations Champs. Leinster can salvage what is a disappointing season in the Rabo final, Munster had a few good results but on the whole disappointed, Ulster will probably feel they were cheated in the H Cup and underperformed slightly on where they should be and Connaught showed some spark but didn’t do much. Oh and we almost beat the All Blacks and some centre retired.

So basically a bloody good year for the green. A lot of bloody good youngsters stood up, Henry and Toner to name just 2, and some of the old heads showed why they shouldn’t be written out just yet, Best and Darcy spring to mind making selections for this bloody near impossible most months. I have decided to make it slightly easier this time; Joe has picked his squad for Argentina and I am picking the team. I disagree with a lot of his squad, one centre/wing/tragedy in particular, but I will pick within it for this.

I have gone with a mix of experience and youth in the starting team and on the bench. I am not guaranteeing a win against the Pumas, those are hard to come by lately, but I would say the W doesn’t matter. This comes down to performance at the expense of results.

  1. J McGrath – Has had a good season. Needs game time on the big stage and this is his chance. Healy gets a well earned rest

  2. R Best – Some experience wedged in the middle of a young front 3.

  3. M Moore – Along the same lines as McGrath. Very few will argue with his inclusion and will go well for the experience.

  4. D Toner – Seems like he has been around for a while but could do with bulking up his cap count. Last years tour was about him standing up and being noticed. This year it is all about others following his example.

  5. P O’Connell – Personally would have left him at home. He will pass on some bits to the younger lads but I think he could better do with a rest. Still if he is there you gotta play him.

  6. R Ruddock – Next seasons Chris Henry. Given the chance he will do serious things.

  7. C Henry – This seasons Chris Henry. As with Dev T needs to up his cap count. Diack to feature heavily too.

  8. J Heaslip – Again I would have left him at home as I think Murphy could do with the game time. He is going so I would play him half and half with Jordi.

  9. K Marmion – Is he the next big thing? Maybe, maybe not. Give him a few games and see what happens. He can’t be worse than whats there at the moment

  10. J Sexton - Leads a very young back line for me. Solid head to guide the others through. With Jacksons back issue Madigan plays understudy and I expect him to feature a lot. Expect lots of “Sexton Wrecked by being in France and having to deal with currency exchange” headlines if it doesn’t go our way.

  11. A Trimble – Would have left him at home as he had a big season. Zebo will be given a chance to get over hyped and do comparatively very little by Joe but I don’t think he is good enough. If anybody mentions “x factor” or “spark” here I swear I will shove a flaming Simon Cowell up their nose.

  12. L Marshall – Could do with uninterrupted game time. Needs to stay fit and concussion free for both tests.

  13. R Henshaw – And first to try and fill his shoes is…. Looking forward to seeing what he can do. Has decided to stay put in Conn for a while longer and hopefully it is the right decision for Ireland and himself.

  14. F Mc Fadden – Can move into centre if the inevitable happens to Marshall. Very worthy of a spot. Often overlooked.

  15. R Kearney – Last bit of experience in the team. Would be nice to see him take a role as a leader more often.

  16. D Varley

  17. M Ross

  18. D Kilcoyne

  19. R Diack

  20. D CAve

  21. C Murray

  22. P Jackson

With this being my last one of these I would like to say thanks to Harpin for giving me the space and you people for reading. I will also point out that during this I have been called Pro Leinster, Anti Leinster, Anti Ulster, Pro Ulster, Anti Munster and Pro Connaught. That doesn’t really sum it up. I am just Pro Ireland. I am not really anti anybody to be honest. Well… other than Keith Earls.

Iain O’Connor (@iain_not_ian) is a Leinster fan who should have retired from playing bad standard rugby years ago. Part time stand up comedian and full time radio person he is the presenter and creator of Heave, a schools rugby show on Dublin South FM. He also likes rugby league and names Alisona Taumalolo as his hero.


Many thanks again to Iain for all the selections throughout the season! 

Next week it’s the turn of Munster fan Kate McEvoy…

The Pagano Preview May 23-24

Every Friday I look ahead to the weekend's rugby for the Irish provinces and beyond. 

HoR pro logo blueHistory is to be made this very weekend, as a rugby institution which has gone by a particular name for many years sees it’s last game in existence before moving on to a new era.

What’s that?  You think I mean the Heineken Cup?  Well, that too I guess, but I’m really talking of course about tonight’s visitors to Donnybrook from Leeds who from next season are to go by the name Yorkshire Carnegie instead.

Joking aside, this British & Irish Cup has been a vital part of Leinster’s continued success in recent years, and I can’t find any evidence online about the competition continuing.

If it doesn’t, I hope the IRFU has plans in place to offer the four provincial “A” sides some competitive action next season, and a simple way to do this would be to have a four-team round-robin tournament taking place on the same weekends as the Rugby Champions Cup pool matches.

Without the


Click here for TV listings. All times are Irish.

Friday, May 23

British & Irish Cup Final

Leinster A v Leeds Carnegie, 7pm

We have gotten used to these “A” occasions in Donnybrook being comfortable wins for the home side but we’re not so used to them being a final and now that Leeds are out of the promotion playoffs in the Championship, you can be sure they will be putting everything into this one.

I looked back over the two legs of their Championship playoff against London Welsh to see what we’ll be up against, and even though Leeds didn’t make it despite having opened up a decent cushion in the early stages of the first leg, they do have enough to hurt Leinster A if we’re not on our game.

They were by far the most impressive in broken play.  If your territory kick goes awry against them, they are very quick at not only spotting gaps in the defence but also exploiting them with neat support lines and precision timing in the offload.

But therein lies the rub…this Leinster outfit may be the second string of talent in the provincial pool, but so far in this campaign Girvan Dempsey’s men have shown all the evidence that we have trained with the best and this is born out most when we don’t have the ball.  Bar one try run in by Munster in the quarterfinal when the match was all but one, our D has looked every bit as impressive as that of the senior side, and I doubt Leeds will have faced much similar this season, even after 5 meetings against Championship favourites Bristol (three of them in this British & Irish Cup).

And if Leeds find scoring points hard to do, they will have to keep the home side out, and going by the two semi-final meetings with London Welsh, defence isn’t exactly their strong point.  From what I could make out from the two meetings, if you get possession in your 22, you’ll score.  And Cathal Marsh has shown in this campaign up to now that he is well capable of quarterbacking his side into good attacking positions.

So I guess you can say that I’m tipping a home victory tonight.  Of course it’s cup rugby, and anything can happen…an early sending off, a controversial interpretation of the rules, poor conditions slowing down the offence (rain forecast for D4).

But pound for pound I’d rate this Leinster A side as being capable of holding their own in the Premiership let alone the Championship.  Here’s hoping the lads prove me right and retain the trophy.  Leinster A by 12

Amlin Challenge Cup Final

Bath v Northampton Saints, 8pm

Saints are in a similar position to the one Leinster found ourselves in last year…all trophies are great but this final should only be seen as a warm up to the league final the following week which has to be a priority.  But even with other matters on their minds, I can still see them taking this one handy.  Again, much like Leinster last year.  Northampton by 9

Super Rugby

Bulls v Brumbies, 6:10pm

Saturday, May 24

PREVIEWS WILL PUBLISH ON SATURDAY MORNING

Heineken Cup Final

Saracens v Toulon, 5pm

Rugby Champions Cup Playoff 2nd leg

Stade Francais (29) v (30) London Wasps, 1:45pm

Super Rugby

Highlanders v Crusaders, 6:35am

Hurricanes v Chiefs, 8:35am

Force v Lions, 10:40am

Stormers v Cheetahs, 4:05pm


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

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