Sunday, November 22, 2015

Leinster's “must win” match was not won

by Emma McGarry


The “must win” match was not won. A nightmare pool for any team but Leinster just weren’t up for it. Toulon nearer to Christmas will be a bleak affair (but I’m going anyway).

What happened today?

Scrum
Sean Cronin made a brilliant break in the first half, full bulldozing mode was engaged and it led to a sequence of play that almost earned Leinster a try. As always I was in awe of how fast and agile he is on his feet for a hooker. Gave Dave Kearney a run for his money. Cian Healy was not on top of his game, he hasn’t really been since his hamstring injury before the World Cup. Definitely frustrated with himself, but he’s extremely dedicated and motivated so I’d be certain he’s doing everything he can to up his performance. Mike Ross, too much is being expected of him, nearing the end of his career you can’t blame a decline in performance, it’s just natural progression.

Jamie Heaslip was quiet as were the second rows, Hayden Triggs had a pretty okay game until he left the pitch with an ankle injury. I think he could have a good impact on Leinster even if it’s only short term.

Backs
Isa Nacewa led very well after returning from injury, a calm and cool captain throughout which Leinster so desperately need.

Johnny Sexton was again fairly quiet but kept the scoreboard ticking over and drew his side level twice with Bath. I questioned the decision in the second half to take the three points after Bath conceded a penalty very deep into their own half. Going for the corner would have paid off as Leinster were looking their most dangerous at that point.

Dave Kearney clearly wanted to wipe the slate clean after that slip (the one we do not speak of) against Wasps last weekend. He made good ground and his intent and desire was evident. It’s just unfortunate we couldn’t break Bath’s defence to capitalise.

Budding talent
The bench’s effect on a game is always important. I can’t help but wonder should Leo Cullen have named a more mixed starting XV age wise.

The blues only try came from Josh van der Flier with just 10 minutes to go after replacing Jordi Murphy at the 65 minute mark. A move started by newcomer Tracy carrying powerfully into the Bath 22. The score came with Luke McGrath’s excellently timed pass to van der Flier from the right-hand side of a ruck. The in-form openside bulldozed his way through two tackles after a wonderful break and crossed the white wash.

Luke McGrath immediately had a positive impact off the bench lifting the tempo but his development at Leinster will be hindered by lack of game time. A young player but he has more to offer than Isaac Boss and Eoin Reddan. Opportunity is what’s needed for our baby blues.

We missed Madigan, Ringrose and Reid’s liveliness however the return of Ben Te’o brought some excitement and hope into this game. He had a great game, didn’t look like a player who was injured last week. Read Bath very well and managed to slow down their backs time and time again which in the end was vital.

Martin Moore and James Tracy came on and we saw a slight improvement in the scrum but Bath were too strong for us around the breakdown.

A gutting defeat leaving Leinster with only the Pro12 to play for. They are, for the time being, no longer contesting the top teams in Europe. Granted you can’t always be the best but we know what this group of players are capable of which makes it all the more disappointing.

Emma McGarry (@EmmaKMcGarry) - Hugely interested in all aspects of rugby. Supporter of Irish and Leinster Rugby. "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad" - Brian O'Driscoll

*****

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