Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Watching bunnies thrash c-, er, male chickens

I've got nothing against rugby league - it's just that I rarely get to watch it.  These days if I have time to watch telly sports, it invariably has to be union since I tend to harp on it now and again.

But despite the code preference there was still plenty of union interest for me in last weekend's NRL playoff between the Sydney Roosters and the South Sydney Rabbitohs, so I thought I'd scribble an aul blog post on it...not a match writeup though, rather a couple of mini-posts on different topics arising from the match that interested me.

Before we get to those headings, some brief thoughts on the match & league itself - despite the fact I think the overall concept that is known as rugby would be better off if somehow the two codes could be united, I have to say the NRL is an enjoyable product to watch and I can see why it is so popular.

Unfortunately for the game of rugby league itself though the competition is so far ahead of its competitors around the world, yes, even Super League, that it pretty much makes taking the game worldwide impossible.  Sure, there will be fans everywhere thanks to global TV coverage but will it ever be played to a level to come close to the NRL anywhere else?  Hmm, I don't think so.

Anywho, that's just my opinion.  Here are some more...


Since it was confirmed that Ben Te'o was coming to Leinster I have tried to watch the Rabbitohs play whenever I can to see if I can get an idea what we can expect him to bring to our lineup.  

I was doing it with a view to writing a post like this long before now, but to be honest I hadn't really seen anything from him to make me what to get tapping on my keyboard.  Well that has all changed after watching this playoff, and hopefully that has to do with an ability to rise to the big occasion, because Leinster's reputation has been built on just that.

He actually wasn't in the Rabbitohs' starting lineup for this "preliminary final" (better known north of the equator as a semifinal) because he was just off a four-game suspension for what is brilliantly called a "chicken wing tackle" (just the job for playing the Roosters I would have thought).

But when his team found themselves 12-0 down early in the contest, he was thrown in after just 16 minutes and don't just take it from me that he was impressive throughout, the press who follow the league week-in week-out were saying this was his best outing of the season.

Clearly the tackle which led to his ban will be a concern, and soon after taking to the field he unnecessarily lifted an already-tackled Rooster from the ground to smash him back down again, which gave away a penalty and helped relieve pressure.

Let's just say that if what I hear is true and Brian O'Driscoll spends the odd afternoon with at Leinster training session, it wouldn't hurt for him to give Ben a few pointers on positioning and discipline.

But if the Queenslander can control that side of his game, what he can bring to the table offensively is immense.  And Matt O'Connor in particular could well see him as the missing piece to his puzzle.

Despite being 16 minutes late to the party in this match, Te'o carried for a whopping 95m.  Anything around triple digits for a full match is good, and though nobody would hope to get near the 171m gained by Sam Burgess (also union bound as he's heading to Bath), Ben broke 5 tackles including one which led to his impressive try which came at a crucial stage of the contest.

Can I see him as Leinster's centre answer?  Eh, well...no, not right now, but he does have a role to play.

As I said in my match writeup yesterday, when we try to select an "ideal" Leinster matchday squad, we must think of one that is going to be able to square up to Toulon in the Stade Mayol.  We had set the bar prior to 2013, they raised it, and we got a taste of where it is now in that quarterfinal last season.

There's no denying that Te'o has the power to face those who ran roughshod over us at times last April.  But power is nothing without nous, particularly on defence.

However, there is most definitely a Leinster jersey for a player like Te'o on European matchdays if he makes a good early transition...23.

He could be the absolute epitome of an "impact sub" for us in the final quarter of tight contests and for all that fans have moaned about the seemingly dull "pass, pass, cut inside" series of phases we have put out so far especially in away matches, that approach could actually be the making of Ben Te'o in union and if so, then who knows, even Matt himself might get a bit of credit.

Yeah, I'm really stretching the point at the end there, aren't I?  Sorry.

Anyway, those were my thoughts on Ben for now.  Best wishes to him & the Rabbitohs in the Grand Final and we look forward to welcoming him to the RDS.


What's that?  You haven't heard of Sonny-ball?

It's a unique hybrid of league and union and the rules are simple...you just get to play whichever code you want, whenever you want, once the money is right.  You even get to throw on boxing gloves once in a while to spice things up.

Look...I've heard all the arguments about Sonny Bill's code-hopping.  And I know it's not so much about him rather his agent Khader Nasser doing the best deal he can for his client.  Particularly in sport with its short time span career-wise, it's hard to fault someone for chasing the money when they can.

But where do we draw the line?  Or do we draw one at all?  Well I do, and I would do so at the Rugby World Cup.

It is played every four years because it is more than a tournament.  Yes, I know, it's a means for making a bucket-load of cash and it's full of marketing opportunities for sponsors and what-not, but there is another purpose - it is a showcase for the sport and all that it stands for.  You could say it's rugby's Olympics.

If that is true, then why don't we have minimum qualifying standards for the RWC just as the Olympics does?  You can't just say you play a particular sport to take part in an olympiad, you generally have to post a particular time or throw an object particular length.

Whether intentional or not, Sonny Bill is making a mockery of the rugby union code in general, and in particular those who have worn the All Black 12 jumper since 2011.  Not only is he switching back once the Roosters were eliminated to rejoin the All Blacks setup, he's even talking about going BACK to league once the World Cup is over!

Of course actually legislating for this would be tricky.  But the fact remains league is not just a different rugby code, it's essentially a different sport.  Can you imagine if the Republic of Ireland qualified for soccer's World Cup (don't be smart - I did say IMAGINE!) and, say, Simon Zebo declared he'd fancy playing up front for Martin O'Neill's side?

Sonny Bill Williams is an amazing talent.  A powerful presence at inside centre and an unbelievable offloader of the ball.

But for me, no player should be able to cut the cloth of sport to suit themselves as easily as he is being allowed to do.  If you choose to leave there should be a consequence.  If he wants to come back to play for the Chiefs then who am I to stand in his way, but for me, a World Cup should be reserved for those who commit to the sport, and he obviously can't.  JLP

Life Style Sports Launch New Connacht Away Rugby Jersey

Today, Tuesday 30th September, the new Connacht Away jersey will go on sale at select Life Style Sports nationwide (Galway Retail Park, Galway, Shop St, Sligo, Westport, Castlebar, Athlone, Dundrum, Blanchardstown Retail Park and Mary Street, Dublin) and online at www.lifestylesports.com. 

Available for men, women and children, the jersey is the product of close collaboration between BLK and Connacht Rugby, combining innovativedesign, through the eye-catching white, green and navy accents, along with revolutionary sports performance technology.

To celebrate the launch of the jersey, customers who purchase the new Connacht away jersey instore and online at lifestylesports.com will receive a FREE Rhino Connacht Rugby Ball worth €15!* This exclusive free gift is also available with purchase of the both the home jersey and training kit. What’s more, Life Style Sports are offering Connacht Rugby Season Ticket holders a 10% discount on ALL full price Life Style Sports products including Connacht Rugby kit and merchandise.

As title sponsors of Connacht Rugby, Life Style Sports is hugely passionate about providing fans with the widest range of team jerseys and supporters wear. The arrival of the new Connacht Rugby Away jersey will add to the already broad range of training kit, supporters wear, rugby boots and equipment from top brands such as Adidas, Canterbury and Asics, catering to rugby ‘players and fans alike. With a team of product experts trained to the highest standards, Life Style Sports ensures customers get the highest service and the right product for their needs.

Speaking on the arrival of the new jersey in Life Style Sports Stores, Debbie Byrne, Marketing Director, Life Style Sports said “Our new partnership with Connacht rugby is a very exciting time for us. It is our mission to support rugby in the local community and we are dedicated toensuring that Life Style Sports brings the most up-to-date and expanded range of fantastic supporters product to the province and to Connacht Rugby fans. The team are off to a great start to the season and we are calling all Connacht fans to wear the jersey with pride and get behind their team ahead of some thrilling fixtures over the coming months”.

The title sponsorship of Connacht Rugby underpins Life Style Sports’ commitment to the sport of rugby in Ireland. Through this partnership, the brand offers Connacht Rugby fans exclusive access to increased rewards and benefits while also raising additional funds for re-investment into club and player bases throughout the province.
Life Style Sports offers the biggest and best range of replica club jerseys, rugby boots, training kit and supporters wear for both adults and children across 63 stores nationwide and online at www.lifestyleports.com

With the unique instore ordering service, customers can order products which may be out of stock or unavailable in a preferred size to their nearest Life Style Sports store or direct to a home or work address for added convenience. An unrivalled next day delivery is also available on all orders placed before 7pm on lifestylesports.com.

Front Five - 30.09.14

Start your day with five eye-catching egg-chasing quotes & links from around the ruggersphere.

"It’s always a good sign when you see someone thrown in at the deep end like that, and they [do] really well"

Gordon D'Arcy: Kane Douglas reminds me of Rocky Elsom

RTÉ Rugby

Why are Munster persisting with jobbing tradesmen at centre when they could be giving valuable matchtime to a far more talented player?

Munster Centres Post #237

Whiff Of Cordite

“The Top 14 cannot be a competition where 13 teams play by the rules of the salary cap and where Toulon play by their own rules.” - Jack Lorenzetti 
Paul Rees - The Guardian

The poise, communication skills and general game management of Nigel Owens is the best in the world 
Jonathan Kaplan - Rate The Ref

"What WILL the referees do? There's been a thousand punches thrown!"



Feel free to share any interesting links you spot yourself about t’internet by email, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, blog comment or carrier pigeon – whatever works for you. JLP

Monday, September 29, 2014

Life Style Sports Launch the new Canterbury IRFU Jerseys

Yesterday, Sunday 28th September, in Life Style Sports Dundrum Town Centre, Life Style Sports Brand Ambassadors Dave Kearney (Leinster), Ian Madigan (Leinster), Conor Murray (Munster) and Peter O’Mahony (Munster) officially launched the new Canterbury IRFU Home & Away Jerseys and met some very excited Irish rugby fans.

Debbie Byrne, Marketing Director, Life Style Sports said, “We are extremely proud to be part of this event and to welcome our Life Style Sports Ambassadors to our Dundrum store. We are always pleased to find occasions where we can offer our customers a unique opportunity to meet some of their rugby heroes”.

Both the new IRFU Home and Away jerseys feature a new collar with Canterbury’s trademark ‘loop’ neckline, echoing traditional jersey designs from yesteryear. The Away kit specifically is inspired by the first Irish international test jersey worn in 1875, when Ireland took on England at TheOval, wearing a white jersey with green hoops. Ireland will line out in their new IRFU jerseys for the first time in November when they take on South Africa at the Aviva Stadium.

The new Canterbury IRFU jersey retails at €70 (adults). Life Style Sports customers can shop a large range of rugby apparel including supporters wear, as well as alarge range of rugby boots and accessories, at all 63 Life Style Sports stores nationwide as well as the online store at www.lifestylesports.com. Customers can have their purchases delivered to their door or, with the newly launched Click & Collect service, order online and collect from their nearest Life Style Sports store.

Life Style Sports are also the title sponsors of Connacht Rugby as well as the official retail partners of both Leinster and Munster Rugby, underpinning the brand’scommitment to the sport of rugby in Ireland. Through these partnerships, Life Style Sports offers fans exclusive access to increased rewards and benefitswhile also raising additional funds for re-investment into club and player bases throughout the country. All Connacht, Leinster and Munster Season Ticket Holders receive a discount of 10% in Life Style Sports stores nationwide and online at lifestylesports.com

Life Style Sports is 100% Irish owned and operated. For a list of all 63 stores nationwide please see www.lifestylesports.com

Pictured are Zara Weafer 7yrs from Terenure and Thomas Tisdall 7yrs from Blessington at Life Style Sports in Dundrum Town Centre, who got  to try on the new Ireland Rugby jersey with the help of  Life Style Sports  Ambassadors Peter O'Mahony (Munster) Dave Kearney (Leinster), Ian Madigan (Leinster) and Conor Murray (Munster)  at the launch of the new Canterbury IRFU rugby jersey.

Front Five - 29.09.14

Start your day with five eye-catching egg-chasing quotes & links from around the ruggersphere.

Later today here on HarpinOnRugby...this week's match writeup is titled "Twenty-Three"

Grenoble have now won four of their opening seven matches with Racing on the same win strike-rate but two points behind.

Irish abroad: Grenoble’s green streak continues

Johnny Watterson - Irish Times

Leinster speedster (Adam Byrne) was in terrific form as he ran in two tries in UCD's bonus-point win over Dolphin.

Ulster Bank League roundup

Irish Independent

...there has been no general agreement that teams should play in a manner designed to appeal to crowds...as is the case with the Super 15 
Brian Moore - The Telegraph

Compared with the Pumas, the All Blacks are clinical, ruthless and desperate when challenged. 
Justin Marshall - NZ Herald

Conor Murray spoke after the game of needing to make amends next weekend in the Aviva which is a key game for both teams

Putting the Cats amongst the Ospreys

Gayl - WestTerraceView

Feel free to share any interesting links you spot yourself about t’internet by email, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, blog comment or carrier pigeon – whatever works for you. JLP

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Emerald Rugby Oct 2014 competition

click the grid for a better look



Congrats to Joe, thanks to Emerald Rugby for the prize and to all who took part.  

Click here to learn about next week's competition.


Our "unriggable raffles"" are back!

To celebrate their upcoming October issue, the good folks at Emerald Rugby Magazine have offered a one-year subscription to the winner of our first competition of the 2014/15 season.

Check out their online pages to see what's in store for the new edition...


As always, to qualify for the competition 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.


The rugby match which will provide the winning square for this competition is Leinster’s Pro12 clash with Munster on Saturday, October 4, 2014.

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

  • 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 all 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 of 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 would like to sponsor one down the line, feel free to email we'd be happy to help.

  • How an "unriggable raffle" works




    Throughout the rugby season we run a unique style of competition here on HarpinOnRugby known as an “unriggable raffle”.  It takes a bit of getting used to, but it is quite straightforward once you get the hang of it.

    Here’s a run down of how to take part.

    1. FOLLOW HARPIN ON RUGBY ON SOCIAL MEDIA - it can be Twitter Facebook or Google+
    2. READ THE INTRO POST CAREFULLY - A new competition is usually launched with an introductory post, which publishes on a Saturday or Sunday.  This will give you details on the sponsors, the prize and the rules specific to that particular competition.
    3. QUALIFY FOR THE GRID - You can only win the competition if you’re on the “unriggable raffle” grid.  To do this you must be one of the first to follow the instructions on a social media post on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ on selected nights during the week (details given on the Intro post)
    4. MAKE NOTE OF YOUR GRID LOCATION - In the photo above, there is a grid we ran for a competition in November 2013.  As you can see there are numbers & letters running down the side and along the top.  If you qualify for the grid, it is usually published on the Friday evening at 9pm, so you can jot down the position/s that are relevant to you.
    5. FIND OUT IF YOU WON! - Each competition relates to a particular rugby match - the one in the grid above used the Rabo Pro12 match between Leinster and the Scarlets.  The winner of the competition is the person who owns the square which corresponds to the FINAL SCORE WHEN YOU USE ONLY THE LAST DIGIT.  So in this case, the final score was Leinster 36 Scarlets 19, which meant the winning square was L-6 S-9.

    Of course if you have any questions, be sure and email we’ll be happy to explain. 

    Why not have a go at the next one?

    Front Five - 28.09.14

    Start your day with five eye-catching egg-chasing quotes & links from around the ruggersphere.

    Later today here on HarpinOnRugby...the "unriggable raffle" is back!!!

    Ulster looked to have scored a great try through Darren Cave. But it was ruled out for obstruction

    Ulster lose to Zebre in Parma

    Belfast Newsletter

    ...above all, this was a team performance from the Ospreys and one which would have given their absent coach Steve Tandy huge pride.

    Ospreys prove they are real deal with Thomond Park victory

    Simon Thomas - WalesOnline

    Schoolboys...are becoming bigger and more powerful, but their bones remain as fragile as ever. 
    Tim Lewis - The Observer

    Beauden Barrett will be pleased with his flawless goal kicking - nailing a perfect six from six - but disappointed in some of his skill execution. 
    Liam Napier - Stuff.co.nz

    Next month, Tallaght Stadium will play host to not one, but two, European Championship ties

    ‘We’ve come a long way’ – Could Irish rugby league be on the verge of a breaktrough

    Steven O'Rourke - TheScore.ie

    Feel free to share any interesting links you spot yourself about t’internet by email, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, blog comment or carrier pigeon – whatever works for you. JLP

    Saturday, September 27, 2014

    Front Five - 27.09.14

    Start your day with five eye-catching egg-chasing quotes & links from around the ruggersphere.

    "I've had the best seat in the house to see how good he's been for the last decade and how important he's been to me and the teams that we've been involved in"

    O'Driscoll: D'Arcy could comfortably play at 13

    Irish Independent

    “The opportunity arose to come away and you can reinvent yourself in a new environment where nobody knows you, your character or your traits."

    Model pro Peter Stringer relishing his new lease of life

    Gerry Thornley - Irish Times

    Nuvolari will start their broadcast of the Guinness PRO12 on Saturday 27th September when Zebre take on Ulster in Parma at 3pm (UK time). 

    The Queensland representative back-rower (Te'o) had arguably his best game in a Rabbitohs jersey on Friday 
    Ian McCullough - Sydney Morning Herald

    "We'll be showing the rugby games, but we didn't want to rule out any other sports by becoming a rugby bar."

    'Delight' on rugby heroes' bar opening night

    Elaine McCahill - The Herald

    Feel free to share any interesting links you spot yourself about t’internet by email, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, blog comment or carrier pigeon – whatever works for you. JLP

    Friday, September 26, 2014

    Leinster-37 Cardiff Blues-23

    There's no denying, Leinster's display was littered with mistakes.  If we're assuming that every time we take to the park we must play in such a way as to beat Toulon in the Stade Mayol, then a repeat of what we saw on Friday would have meant a bigger loss than that we suffered in April.

    However, my 3 concerns going into this match had little to do with individual errors.  I was worried about 1) our offensive approach, 2) our scrums, and 3) the inexperience on our bench; and in my view all of these far exceeded expectations.

    The reason I have chosen the number 23 as my title is that I believe the number represents two ways which this match can be analysed.

    You can either say there are 23 reasons why Leinster won (our players on the night*), or there are 23 reasons why we need to be worried about Leinster (the points Cardiff put on the board).

    I am happy to do both.  Some may prefer to only do the latter.  So let's start there shall we.

    A 27-9 lead at home with half an hour to go should be safe for any team, let alone the league's back-to-back champions.  So when the clock hits 65 minutes and the score is 27-23, of course there are questions to be answered.  Well, how did those particular 14 points come about?

    The way I see it, the two Cardiff tries ironically came as a result of our offensive strategy which, even more ironically, I think was a sound one.

    My principal complaint when we played both Glasgow and Connacht was that I could not see a particular approach, just basic phase play every time we got the ball.  On Friday, however, I saw a plan which seemed designed to take Sam Warburton's many talents at the breakdown out of the equation.

    The more phases of possession we would have, the more opportunities he would have to force a turnover as he has done so often in the past.  So what we did instead was either ship it quickly out wide if it was on, or kick it forward if it wasn't.

    I know many will disagree, but I can see the sense in that approach.  What went wrong for us on Friday was that on several occasions our senior players were unable to execute.

    The first Cardiff try came after an Ian Madigan crossfield kick went over Fergus McFadden's head, and fair play to the visitors; despite the scoreline they were keen to take the quick throw and punt deep into our own 22 which had Madigan, now playing full-back for the (hopefully not too badly) injured Rob Kearney rather than 12, scrambling back.  He took the ball in his slide but lost it in a second contact with the ground and Cory Allen was able to pounce.

    Shortly after the restart it was Jimmy Gopperth this time applying the kick strategy and once more it was inaccurate; also the timing wasn't ideal as our defence wasn't properly set for the chase.  When it was set (and either side of this 5-minute, 2-try spell for Cardiff it was) their offence was going nowhere, and this needs to be said.

    What also needs to be said is that impressive though the visitors' quick movement of the ball in this sequence may have been, the final pass from Dan Fish (wearing 23) to Sam Warburton was well forward.  Just how the officials deemed the replays "inconclusive" I'll never know...the fact that Sam caught it well ahead of where Dan chucked it was conclusive enough for me.

    And even if you go down the "what way were the hands going" road, Fish's may have been heading towards his own tryline by the end of his motion, but not when he released the ball.  No doubt fans of the Welsh region will point out a try they had disallowed in the same fixture last season...though hopefully the TMO doesn't take that into consideration...
    "Ref?  I have a decision.  The pass was clearly forward but you may award the try as poor Cardiff were robbed this time last year!"
    So although Cardiff got 7 points, they shouldn't have, and on the evidence of the rest of the match, chances are they wouldn't have gotten close to doing so again.

    Yet the fact remained the lead was now just four, and we were starting to go to our bench.   And it's from here where I can find most of the positives from our display.

    Once more, I fully acknowledge there were mistakes by not just Gopperth & Madigan, but other experienced players like Heaslip, Reddan and McFadden were also struggling to do the simple things at times; more than once after restarts right after we scored, which was mightily frustrating.

    But not only did they make several good contributions themselves (like turnovers at key moments forced by Reddan & Heaslip), we also saw names filtering through from the A squad staking their claim for more gametime at this level.

    To the forefront was Rhys Ruddock, who literally exploded into the match with the opening try just before halftime. I reckon that score gave us the confidence to go after the other three, otherwise it could have been another long night.  Someone on twitter tried to take from his run to the line because he "only" had the scrum half to beat but that ignores the take and line through two Cardiff forwards to get free in the first place.

    Then there was young Mick McGrath, wearing the blue 23 jumper (now I'm committed to that headline I'll link to it any chance I get!).  His turn of pace for try number two was one thing, but the determination to keep going until he was properly put down is something else altogether.  An excellent, well crafted score.

    Am I done picking out impressive youngsters?  Far from it.  What about our reserve front row of Tadhg Furlong and the twin brothers Byrne?  With players of the calibre of Adam Jones, Matthew Rees and Gethin Jenkins involved, for us to even achieve parity at scrum time would have been a result and for 80 minutes I would say we at least did that.

    Credit must also of course go to our starting front row as I'm sure many would have been worried about Michael Bent.  Turns out they, ok ok WE, needn't have been.  Though I will say that Reddan is still feeding the ball crooked to Cronin (who to be fair must be ready for a rest at this stage - maybe Strauss is due back next week?) and was lucky not to be pinged as Cardiff's 9 Jones was.  It all boiled down to what side of the scrum referee Ian Davies was on.

    Kane Douglas gave away a penalty here and missed a tackle there but overall seemed to slot in nicely to our side, while Jack Conan made a decent six tackles in his cameo.  Our lineout wasn't as perfect as I had hoped but that never really cost us.

    Honourable mention should also go to Darragh Fanning, who I think cops way more flak that he deserves.  Our early 6-0 lead was built on the back of an almost Groundhog-Day series of Cardiff restarts which went Patchell to Toner, Reddan box-kick, Fanning chase to pressure Patchell's catch.  Each time the St Mary's winger did his job superbly and he also helped out an under pressure McFadden in the second half.

    For once I had no complaints with the man of the match award.  Gordon D'Arcy played outside centre in the first half, inside in the second, and led from the front in both positions, helping himself to our third try in the process.  And the space for Mick McGrath's 5-pointer came from a super-quick pass from The Power Beard as Cardiff's high defensive line threatened to disrupt us once more.

    But the final Leinster player to fall under my microscope has to be Luke McGrath.  Apologies in advance, but I'm about to throw bouquets at myself (hey, if I don't, who else will, right?).   This is from my preview -
    I really hope Luke McGrath sees more action than the 6 minutes he did last week
    When I saw him ready to come on for Reddan right after the first Cardiff try, I had a hunch and for some mad reason decided to tweet it.
    Now I freely admit I was hedging my bets quite a bit with the words "involved in", and you'll just have to trust me that I wouldn't be harping on it if he had simply provided a pass off a routine phase.  But he only went and scored the bloody thing himself (albeit with the help of a nice setup from Bryan Byrne) to reward the Leinster fans who hadn't left the stands ten minutes or more before the end.

    So how do we sum up...were Leinster perfect?  No.  Did we deserve the full five point haul?  Probably not, though we did at least look for it, when we passed on an easy 3 to wrap up the win towards the end.  But did we deserve to lose? Absolutely not.

    Cardiff put in their best Dublin performance in recent years.  Now most Leinster fans will know that's not saying much, but my point is that they didn't throw in the towel the way they have done in the past.  For example, our BP try came after we turned them over as they tried to chuck it about deep in their own territory to nick a draw...few would blame them for settling for the losing bonus and in the end they went home with nothing.

    Hopefully their centre Dafydd Hewitt is ok after what looked like a nasty clash of heads with Madigan when I was surprised both weren't badly affected.  Neither side was able to play a full 80 with their starting centre pairing which had to play a part in what was overall a scrappy affair.

    At least we had Gordon D'Arcy telling TG4 afterwards that he wasn't satisfied with the performance, and I am delighted to hear that - it tells me their focus will be in the right place for the difficult matches in the coming weeks, and I don't just mean playing Zebre in Parma either!

    Still, when I see so much doom and gloom around the ruggersphere, I can't help myself from trying to see at least some silver linings and when you know where to look, there are plenty.

    We are just one point behind what we were at this stage last season, our current "struggles" are nothing compared to those of the other teams in our Euro pool and we have the October visit of Munster to the Aviva next week, a match which has so often been a kick-start to our season in years gone by.

    I could probably build that list of positives up to twenty-three to help me link to my headline even more, but I reckon I'll quit while I'm, er, "ahead". JLP

    * - yes, I know Crosbie didn't get a game but you don't honestly think I'd let that get in the way of my theme do you?

    HarpinOnRugby match writeups are brought to you by the IrishRugby store where the full Ireland Canterbury range is now available.  

    Also in Round 4

    8NG DRAGONS41-9672-47

    Round 5

    Friday, October 3
    Connacht v Cardiff Blues, Sportsground, 7:35pm
    Ulster v Edinburgh, Kingspan Stadium, 7:35pm
    Zebre v Ospreys, Stadio XXV Aprile, 7:35pm

    Saturday, October 4
    Leinster v Munster, Aviva Stadium, 6:30pm

    Sunday, October 5
    Treviso v Glasgow, Stadio di Monigo, 2pm
    Scarlets v NG Dragons, Parc y Scarlets, 4pm

    Preview : Leinster v Cardiff Blues

    CARDIFF BLUES : 15 Rhys Patchell, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Dafydd Hewitt, 11 George Watkins, 10 Gareth Davies, 9 Lewis Jones; 
    1 Gethin Jenkins, 2 Kristian Dacey, 3 Adam Jones, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 5 Chris Dicomidis, 6 Josh Turnbull, 7 Sam Warburton, 8 Josh Navidi (c)
    Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Sam Hobbs, 18 Taufa'ao Filise, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Manoa Vosawai, 21Tavis Knoyle, 22 Adam Thomas, 23 Dan Fish
    At RDS Arena, 7.35pm Live on TG4 

    Referee: Ian Davies (WRU, 19th competition game)
    Assistant Referees: Mark Patton, Will O'Connor (both IRFU)
    Citing Commissioner: Denis Templeton (IRFU)
    TMO: John Carvill (IRFU)

    I have tried to be careful with my Matt O'Connor criticism so far this season, because I don't want to stray too close to those Leinster fans I call "Anti-Matters" who simply want him gone regardless of what happens on the scoreboard.

    But two defeats out of three haven't made that process easy!

    Still though, going into tonight's visit of the Cardiff Blues I am clinging on to my theory that at least we can expect a good outing from our own boys in blue at the RDS.

    And it's not as though the Welsh region tends to do incredible things on their travels themselves, something we know all too well here in Dublin.  Almost a year ago to the day we put them away 34-20 and that was a close contest compared to the season before.   

    But when we look at the lineup they're putting out this evening, we'd be mad to assume we're going to see more of the same.  No side that includes names like Sam Warburton, Adam Jones, Gethin Jenkins and Alex Cuthbert can ever be taken lightly.

    We have to assume the ongoing crisis in Welsh rugby won't help their cause, however.  And yes, it is very much ongoing.  Sure, the WRU and RRW signed their poorly-named "Participation Agreement" before the season started but that couldn't possibly put an end to things worth squabbling about like the 16-game limit and the also-poorly-named "Judgement Day".

    Yet while all that happens on the Welsh side of things, we can only control what we do and the Leinster matchday 23 you see above will be under pressure to produce an 80 minute display similar to that which we saw against the Scarlets two weeks ago.

    One name that stands out on the Leinster teamsheet is that of Kane Douglas.  It would be unfair to expect him to put in a stunning performance straight off the plane, but it's at least a measure of the confidence O'Connor has in him that he can throw him straight into the starting lineup.  Here's hoping he's fully on board with Devin Toner's lineout calls because that is a set-piece we can ill afford to go wrong tonight.

    In my writeup of the Connacht match I outlined my deep concerns with our scrum.  It's an area where we shouldn't have problems given the talent we have, particularly in the front row, but we do; and tonight we have the Eoin Reddan-Sean Cronin feed tandem that has been the cause of most of my worries. 

    Also, with both Cian Healy and Jack McGrath unavailable, this means it is up to Michael Bent to hold up the "put-in" side of the front row and he's only up against Adam Jones so what could possibly go wrong there?

    Meanwhile on the other side it's great to see Martin Moore returning to the starting lineup but we really need him to hit the ground running against Jenkins.  I know scrum steadiness can often have a bearing on a result anyway, but for tonight's match it's even more so the case.

    The breakdown should be a fierce contest and our back row of Ruddock, Ryan and Heaslip will have their work cut out against  the likes of Warburton & Navidi.

    In the back-line we have Gordon D'Arcy starting at 13.  He came on for Brendan Macken right after the superb Marmion try in Galway...it's not so much that I'm blaming Macken for the score, rather that having "Darce outside" from the start should improve Madigan's coverage and thus make the crucial centre channel more water-tight.

    But having said that...it's not as though the channel was particularly leaky last week - if you concede just the ten points away from home you should always win more than you lose.

    So will we be able to find the points this week to stay ahead for good?  I reckon so.  Hopefully, for tonight's sake anyway, my "Jeckyll & Hyde" theory is right and the shackles will be taken off of our offence.  

    We can probably expect the box-kicks from Reddan and the conservatism of Gopperth we have come to know and whinge about, but I'm counting on certain individuals, especially Messrs Madigan & Kearney, to be looking to provide the leadership that may not have been there last week.  

    And if we are to make an impression with the ball tonight, it is imperative that we do so early.  A decent margin has to be established in the first half an hour otherwise we will be relying on a largely inexperienced bench in the latter stages.  (Though on the subject of the bench, I really hope Luke McGrath sees more action than the 6 minutes he did last week)

    So as you can see, there is an element of pressure on Leinster tonight in several different areas and victory is by no means certain.  I'm still backing us to win however, and possibly even with a try bonus if Cardiff's dislike of Dublin continues.  That should keep the Anti-Matters away.  For the time being.  JLP


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