Sunday, December 14, 2014

Leinster A-59 Plymouth Albion-26


WORTH IT?


Personally, I love these British & Irish Cup matches at Donnybrook.  It's the perfect opportunity to see the Leinster stars of the future and invariably there's a hatful of tries to enjoy.

Yet after Girvan Demspey's men handed out yet another tonking (home record this season : played 3 won 3 average score 50-14) I have to wonder...are these matches actually helping them?

But this is meant to be a writeup so what say we start there.  Leinster A's mission was to secure the four try bonus.  We had already won our pool but we needed the points to give us a fighting chance of a home quarterfinal.

Well with 6 tries in and a scoreline of 40-0 after just 22 minutes, I think the back of the task was well and truly broken.

If you wanted to be hyper-critical, you could say we took our foot off the pedal and from the 23rd minute onwards Plymouth "beat" us 26-19.  

But in reality we must give credit to the visitors for playing the full 80.  Since they're bottom of the RFU Championship you'd forgive them for sitting back to save energy for the relegation battle back home but with decent set pieces and a positive attitude in adversity they stuck it out and I for one applaud them.

As often is the case with these matches, the difference was in the defence.  They just had no way to match our quick line speed in the early stages yet and on almost every possession they were nabbed well behind the gain line (legally I might add).  When it was their turn to defend all it took was a couple of well-times passes and we were crossing the line. 

The Leinster try-scorers' list demonstrates why my attempt at liveblogging was a challenge.  There was one from Marsh and one from Marshall.  One from Coghlan and three from Coghlan-Murray. There was one from Beirne, but none from Byrne.  The other two were from Kelleher and Ringrose.

Despite the impressive hat-trick from Sam Coghlan-Murray, all of which involved him making the most of his explosive pace from a standing start, I'd give man of the match to Jordan Coghlan.

He has had a challenging time for the past season or two what with injury and yo-yoing from the forwards to the backs (sometimes in the same match!) yet from the kickoff in this encounter he showed great eagerness and was often the first up tackler and helping himself to the first try in the avalanche sealed the deal for me.

Cathal Marsh deserves a mention as well - he is clearly too good an outhalf for this level.  I'd like to say he is due a start in the Pro12 but when I start talking about who should be wearing the 10 jumper in the senior team these days I get a migraine so I won't take that thread any further!

Steve Crosbie had another decent showing at 12 and even got in on the conversion-taking in the second half, nailing one from the touchline as Marsh had done a few times before him.

This was my first chance to see Gary Ringrose live in Leinster blue - decent outing, got a try, made his tackles and had some good carries.

In the pack things were more of an even contest between the two sides but as well as Coghlan the other back rowers van der Flier, Timmins and sub Timoney applied themselves well.

I just wonder if we really want our players facing the likes of Plymouth Jersey and Carmarthen at this time of season.  I don't mean that to denigrate those sides...it's just a long way for them to travel for a thrashing, that's all.

Maybe in future they can keep the pool phase regional?  I know if our six matches were all against the other provinces it would make for a much better sell for the fans and way more competitive on the pitch.  Then, should you come out of your pool, THEN you can get a match against a Championship outfit but this time it's a knockout game that's worth the trip.

But anyway...that's something to worry about for next season and in this year's competition, our failure to get the fourth try when we played away to Plymouth back in October has cost us a home quarterfinal.  

The seeds are as follows : Home > 1 Doncaster, 2 Bristol, 3 Worcester & 4 Rotherham. Away > 5 Leinster, 6 Yorkshire Carnegie, 7 Potnypridd & 8 Munster.  Apparently the draw will be made this week.

None of the home sides will be an easy draw for us, but I reckon this Leinster A side would stand a decent chance of a top four finish in the Championship and if I'm right then we shouldn't fear travelling to any of those sides.

In the meantime, congrats to Girvan Dempsey for topping the pool.  He has them playing the way he wants, they're doing the basics well and playing rugby in the right areas when they need to.  Not the worst thing you can say about a rugby coach; no doubt it will lead to better things for him one day. 

#COYBIB JLP
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