Friday, May 23, 2014

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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