Saturday, December 31, 2016

Top Harpin posts of 2016

We do quite a bit of "harpin" here as our name suggests, but one thing is for sure...despite all that happened in 2016 you won't find any mentions of Brexit, Trump or celebrity deaths, once you ignore this paragraph of course!

No, it's pretty much all about Leinster & Ireland rugby and as we prepare ourselves to kick off a Lions year, since we can't beat all the other online sources looking back over the 12 months just gone, we decided we might as well join them.

Rather than reviewing, we're simply going to share with you the posts that had the biggest reaction from our readers.

And before we start our big "top ten" countdown, we'll check out the most popular editions of our various weekly features here at Harpin Manor.


Watch 80 minutes of rugby then review it exactly 80 words, that is the challenge.  We haven't done many of these posts in recent months but it remains a popular feature and we hope to do more in 2017.  Top one of 2016 registered in January when one of our top guest posters Kristian Ross reviewed Ulster's dramatic Champions Cup win at Oyonnax.


Taking a festive break from the feature for the past week or so, but for the rest of the year, every morning we scan the ruggersphere for quotes & links we find relevant, interesting or downright hilarious...ideally all three at once.   The edition that received the most hits was on June 20, right after Ireland's 2nd test against the Springboks and before the "Wolfpuppies" faced Argentina in the World Championship semifinal.


Every Thursday we list the upcoming rugby due to appear on Irish screens.  What's interesting about our most-hit edition of 2016 is that it came in a week that didn't even involve a match for Leinster or Ireland!


Before every featured match we offer a preview which includes a score margin prediction that generally assumes Leinster/Ireland are a little below par while our opponents are playing at their very best.  once in a while we even get them right!  Looks like we saved our best until next-to-last in this category as our preview of Munster v Leinster on St Stephen's Day was the most popular.


A relatively new feature on the site...on Sundays we share some of the reactions we noticed on Facebook & Twitter immediately following a Leinster or Ireland match.  Top edition of the year was this one following the second meeting with the All Blacks.


In the sidebar to the right there, you'll see a long list of guest contributors to HarpinOnRugby over the years.  They are in order of number of posts there, though naturally we are grateful to all of them.  Top offering of 2016 was this Lions selection by Mark Jackson posted right after the November internationals.

OK that's it for the so-called "minor categories"....time to start counting down the top 10 posts of 2016.  

We were sad to see Kurt McQuilkin leave after a second spell that was every bit as effective as his first, especially under the circumstances.  The fundraising effort to help out his family was an excellent way to say goodbye, and I think it hit well on HarpinOnRugby because I was in a position to get the press release onto the site almost instantly after I received it.

Ironically next on the list it the response of Leinster fans to the naming of McQuilkin's successor in the Leinster coaching staff.  The reaction was mixed though mostly positive, and surely nobody can argue against his influence being a key part of the province's successes since he settled into the role.

It's not often we get to "break" a story though as I put this post out I assumed it was common knowledge.  I was notified through my account with Virgin that they were no longer to be carrying what was formerly known as "Setanta" (as well as the BT Sport rugby coverage that goes with it) and it was interesting how they deftly danced around the fact that it had been taken over by cable provider rivals Eir.

7.  Leinster-25 Munster-14 : "That Little Bit Higher"

The remainder of the top ten are all match writeups, our main feature here at Harpin Manor.  This was from the visit of Munster to the Aviva back in October.

"We weren’t simply barrelling forward on every carry hoping this would be time we broke through...whether it was carries, grubbers, territory kicks, box kicks, it usually seemed like the right option, if not always with the perfect execution."

6.  IRELAND-9 NEW ZEALAND-21 : "The Bear Pokes Back"

There'd be something wrong if the brace of clashes with the All Blacks didn't make our top 10!  This of course was the least enjoyable to write of the two!

"If some of our own fans don’t know we gave them one hell of a battle for 160 minutes, you can be sure the All Blacks themselves do.  The Lions wouldn’t turn down our results and performances for the first two tests next summer, that’s for sure."

5.  IRELAND-40 NEW ZEALAND-29 : "End Game"

It kind of makes sense that this clash with the All Blacks had more readers than the other one, though I would have thought both would be higher on the list.

"the boys in green played like they were in one of those epic fantasy movies, where an army of what looks like a million soldiers is about to take on an army of what looks like a billion, yet all it takes to motivate them is one charismatic general with sword raised high, riding his horse back and forth, somehow speaking loud enough for all to hear his chest-thumping oratory which ends with words like: 'Not this day!!!'"

4.  Northampton-10 Leinster-37 : "Franklin's Sense"

No matter how poorly Northampton were doing in the Premiership, or how well we did the last time we visited Franklin's Gardens, or even how good Leinster's form was, there was concern over this match among fans (me included) so to come away with a comfortable win was very pleasing indeed.

"In no way did Leinster win this match purely because the home side were down a man for the final quarter.  I’d even go so far as to say we didn’t even need the extra man to get the bonus point, though I’d be willing to hear arguments on that one."

3.  Montpellier-22 Leinster-16 : "What's Left In The Tank"

A loss that felt like a win thanks to a bonus point earned right at the final whistle.  Here's hoping that in a couple of weeks we'll be thanking Isa's late try for a home quarterfinal.

"What made our late reward a deserved one was an overall sense of belief throughout the team, plus an extra pair of fresh legs in the pack thanks to the prior planning, and last but certainly not least individual displays from the likes of Garry Ringrose, Dan Leavy, Sean Cronin and ultimately Jamison Gibson-Park"

2.  Leinster-24 Connacht-13 : "The Blue Monster"

You might notice something in common with all of these top match writeups...they all come from the 2016/17 campaign.  It's hardly surprising that, for example, Leinster fans would prefer to read about our clash with Connacht  at the end of October instead of the one in May, even though that was a final.

"...there was something about the way our approach evolved throughout the 80 minutes...almost an organic process whereby we were adapting to what they were trying on us and slowly but surely we were able to squeeze the life out of their attack, while at the same time making the most of our visits to their end of the park."

1.  Leinster-33 Castres-15 : "Remembrance"

Not only was this our top post of 2016, it is the most popular post in the 8-year history of HarpinOnRugby.  But naturally, given the subject matter, we were far from celebrating and we didn't mention the milestone at the time.  The entire rugby world was still in shock as we published this post, even though we waited an extra day.

"Of course you feel it on a personal level...he was a father like myself and was a few years younger, which certainly gives you a sense of perspective when it comes to things happening around you.  But ultimately when you can bring yourself to look past the shock, sadness and personal connections to the news, at least you can find some sanctuary in the memories he left behind, and there were many."

So there you have it.  The best of our offerings from 2016.  Thank you all so much for being among the readers that helped create the list, and here's to a successful 2017 for Leinster, Ireland & Lions rugby...I have a feeling in my bones that it could well be the case.  JLP


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