Tuesday, February 28, 2017

NG Dragons-22 Leinster-54


One of our overall goals here at HarpinOnRugby is to produce an archive of sorts for Leinster & Ireland fans to look back on down the line, and generally we produce a writeup of around 2000 words after every match.

That's a bit difficult, however, when we are neither present at the match in question nor able to watch TV coverage of the 80 minutes in question!  Still, we're a bit traumatized after letting the win in Treviso go without so much as a post so what we'll do here is share some comments from our Facebook page after we posted the final score at full time, as well as a few thoughts of our own.

A surprisingly good result! Scarlets also on track to win which is also a helluva surprise!

Cormac Mannion 

A bogey ground for us, especially during international windows, so any win is sweet. A BP win sweeter still. But 8 tries? That's chocolate sauce, nuts & sprinkles ๐Ÿ‘

Derek McGee

Fantastic win by the boys in blue. Allez Les Bleus !!!

Paul Smith

Told ya Harpo. Far too much fire power. We are on track for the double. Top of the table too.

Chris Mcdonnell

Please use the headline 'Dragon the arse out of it' for the write-up. ๐Ÿค“

Cian ร“ Muilleoir

Wow. Just wow.

John Molloy

2 tries for Conan and from what I could tell McGrath's 2nd could have gone to him as well. Some buck.

Dรณnal Foley

In my preview I was worried we could lose this one. Naturally I came out looking a little foolish I'll admit, but in my defence I base all my predctions on (a) my team playing below par and (b) our opposition playing at 100%.  But as you can see by the highlights above, neither of those conditions were met so in a way, you could say I was right!!! ๐Ÿ˜

Seriously though, it looks like we pulled together and given it was such a makeshift side compared to the previous outing against Edinburgh just over a week earlier, the coaching staff seems to have the squad well drilled in all areas.

That's the first of a crucial three-game set against Welsh regions before the Wasps quarterfinal.  I was hoping for at least 13 points during that sequence, I am now revising that to 14.  But anyone who saw the Scarlets at Thomond last Friday will know that we have to put all recent successes behind us to prepare for their visit to D4 this weekend.

Finally on the subject of TV coverage I will re-post a snippet from my preview...

I know certain companies have agreements with the Pro12 but from what I can tell, the money is relatively small so I'm wondering if down the line the league can add a clause that if the networks choose not to cover a certain individual match, it can be tendered out to someone else?  I'm sure eir Sport would be keen to broadcast tonight's match for example.

Roll on the RDS on Saturday!!! Normal Leinster writeup coverage will be restored by then, we promise! JLP

Keego on...Six Nations Week 3

Week 3 of the 6 Nations may be the greatest one in my memory. There was absolutely everything. Nail biting moments, head scratching moments and moments of joy. It was the sporting equivalent of my wedding night.
We started with Scotland taking on Wales in Edinburgh. The former started slowly (did an Ireland) and Wales started solidly but not too spectacularly.  But with every missed opportunity and / or bad choice in kicking for the lineout instead of taking the points, they wilted. The confidence that team had years ago appears to be delicate. A Scotland team without Laidlaw and without a few other players won easily. A very unexpected start to the weekend. Going into the French match, Ireland would have zero fear of that Welsh team.
France where welcomed to the Aviva stadium. Well it was a ¾ full Aviva stadium because everyone remained at the bar instead of singing the anthems and settling into their seats.
As an aside, nothing annoys me more than people trying to squeeze into their seat when the anthems have started. If you aren’t bothered to get into your seat for the start of the game, then you wait until there is a lull in the game. It must be great having all that money to spend on tickets to a game you aren’t bothered with, but the rest of us aren’t in a position to waste the cash.
Anyway, back to the match. France started strong. They had been improving throughout this tournament   and they started with a bang. Ireland started a bit slowly, not badly like against Scotland, just slower. The first 15 minutes involved tougher collisions than you would see on a 4 car pile-up on the m50. Some massive hits. And then it started to change, Ireland plugged in and almost as one, turned the screw. It may have been the knock on costing the French a try but Ireland almost said ‘well, that was the best you had; now it’s our turn’. What came for the rest of the match was control, aggression, a playmaking pair who are on a different level to almost any other 9 and 10 in the sport and a rugby version of a triangle choke in MMA. Ireland strangled a France who have very little ideas but the shoots of a team that will cause damage in the next few years. Every stat was in Ireland’s favour, the main issue being, that there were more points to be taken in that match. A 10 point win against France would have been taken by all before the match. But once the second half started, I thought Ireland could get close to a bonus point.
It keeps Ireland in the competition, Wales and England wait when it gets to the big weekends.
Then came the delightful head scratcher that was England taking on Italy. Everyone thought it would be a landslide, an embarrassment for Italy. And then the game started. Italy decided to tackle and back away, tackle and back away. Everyone viewing reached for their smart phones and logged on to the IRB site to find the rulebook. Don’t lie! I know you all did the same as me! Then we saw it, they were avoiding the ruck to stop an offside line being formed. It was within the laws and was genius from Conor O’Shea. The meatheads from England where unravelling in the first half. They had no idea what to do to counter act this. Complaining to the ref along with a quick explanation of the rules from Poite meant very little. The first half showed an Italian side with pride and an English bully side on the receiving end of a mental master class.
The only thing that got England through the game was the regular Italian fatigue. They got the bonus point but the chink in the champions armour has been established. Like Tyson being knocked out by Buster Douglas in Tokyo, England are now human. Not to be feared. They take on a Scotland side on a high and looking to take another scalp.
The one thing that Ireland and Scotland have in common is that nothing motivates more than scrapping with the old enemy.
Ireland get on the ferry (or first class on the plane) to Cardiff on a Friday. This is after a week off which is massively beneficial after a bruising French match.  The confidence is back in the green machine. Whereas Wales are in the opposite. They have nothing to lose and that Welsh pride may appear, but if Ireland can put the pressure on, start well and maybe bring in O’Mahony for O’Brien Ireland will put Wales away.
But more on that closer to the time. As usual, @nkeegan on twitter and @kdubdd on the instagram. I am not sure what instagram is, but I am on it anyway.
Keego (@nkeegan): Blogger, professional wrestler, sometime attempted rugby player (@TheThirsty3rds), professional procrastinator and attempted musician with a fondness for long walks on the bar, tea and the couch. Opinionated Leinster fan and constant gardener.
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Front Five - 28.02.17

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

ICYMI click here for our
Ireland v France writeup

"I've been fortunate - I'm surrounded by guys that have had their career cut short by injury or been out for a year."

BBC Rugby

"I think Ian is a quality player, and I think that versatility and his ability to play anywhere across the back line is a really strong asset.”

Irish Times

The uncapped Rory Scannell, Darren Sweetnam, Andrew Conway and Adam Byrne have been outstanding for their provinces this season and that hasn't gone unnoticed by the Ireland coach.

Cian Tracey - Irish Independent

"James has done something stupid and it’s difficult to defend him."

Warren Barnsley - The Roar

"...it might have been a case that, with probably 500 people in that room, they didn’t see our guys."

Sean Farrell - The42.ie

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

Note - views expressed in "Front Five" links do not necessarily reflect those of HarpinOnRugby

Joey Carbery teams up with Europcar Ireland as new brand ambassador

from Europcar

Europcar Ireland presents Leinster and Ireland rugby star with keys to all new Hyundai Tucson

Leinster and Ireland rugby out-half Joey Carbery has been announced as a new ambassador for leading car rental company Europcar Ireland. In doing so, Joey will join a team of leading sports professionals who represent Europcar Ireland as brand ambassadors, including Olympic triathlete Bryan Keane and professional golfer Kevin Phelan.

Originally from New Zealand, Joey moved to Athy in Co. Kildare at the age of 11 and played rugby for his school, Blackrock College, and club, Clontarf Rugby Club, before joining the Leinster squad at 20 and the Ireland squad at 21 years of age.  In his role as a Europcar Ireland brand ambassador, Joey will drive a Hyundai Tucson vehicle from the Europcar mid-size SUV range and will support the car rental company on a range of activity promoting its extensive vehicle fleet.

Speaking about the announcement, Joey Carbery commented, “Joining Europcar Ireland as a brand ambassador comes at an exciting time for me and I’m very grateful to have the support of Europcar at this important stage in my career. At the moment I’m constantly on-the-go for training sessions and other commitments so it’s a fantastic opportunity to partner with Europcar.”

Colm Brady, Director of Business Development at Europcar Ireland, added,

“We are delighted that Joey is joining us as a brand ambassador for Europcar Ireland. His talent and enthusiasm as one of Ireland’s most promising up-and-coming rugby players is inspiring, and we are thrilled to offer our support to him as he embarks upon his professional rugby. We hope he enjoys his new Hyundai Tucson ambassador vehicle which is part of our mid-size SUV fleet.”

Hyundai Tucsons are available for short-term rental and long-term rental from €750 per month - visit www.europcar.ie for a rental quote.

Monday, February 27, 2017


"I remember refereeing Thierry Dusautoir, captain for France at the time. I was trying to tell him something and he said to me "you have to speak slower, or maybe if you were speaking Welsh I could understand better". I thought this was funny."

As part of an interview for the official RBS Six Nations site on the topic of #RespectTheRef, Nigel Owens shared the mini-anecdote above, and I was reminded of it watching this match over a second time.

Like I said in my preview, we always wonder “which French team is going to show up”.  Personally I was more concerned about what we were going to do, but as it turned out it was interesting to see how Guy Noves’ men set themselves out for this contest.

One thing we expected was physicality, not just in normal duties, but also the little “extras” we have all come to know and loathe, particularly on Johnny Sexton.  They were there alright, but luckily there was nothing too bad from an injury standpoint.

Then there was their team spirit.  Ronan O’Gara said before the game that he was speaking to “a few former players” who had been in and around the dressing room and apparently they were using remarks in the Irish press to motivate them.  Well, by all accounts, it worked as they definitely looked focused, most of all in that opening spell.

But there was something else, and I couldn’t put my finger on it watching it live.  It was a tactic in and around the breakdown, but just in case I start to sound like Eddie Jones I want to point out that I’m not complaining about this; I actually kind of admire it, if indeed it was planned.

Time and time again as we tried to construct one of our IKEA-esque series of phases, we saw a French forward or three lingering around the breakdown.  He may have his head down over the ball, he may be grabbing a jersey to prevent a clearout, or often he may have miraculously found himself beyond the ruck altogether, right where Conor Murray is about to collect the ball.  Of course I know everyone does these things, but the French seemed to be letting it go on a fraction of a second longer each time.

We are so committed to our structures, especially in the first quarter, that even the tiniest hint of delay could throw us off altogether, and that is pretty much exactly what happened.  But what of the referee?  Isn’t Nigel Owens known as a great communicator who will tell you what he thinks you’re doing wrong?

Yes, that he may be, and few officials actually earn #RespectTheRef in the modern game more than he, but here I’m not talking about respect.  The various things the French were doing would have involved long-winded explanations from Nigel, and not only that, he is also a ref who likes to let the game flow where possible.  So I’m wondering just how willing he was to call the visitors out on their little niggles?  And if he did, would he be met with one of these?

OK, maybe that was a little tongue in cheek, but that opening spell did knock us back, and we are a side that generally needs a good start; just look what happened in Murrayfield.   

And how well were we dealing with their exploits?  Not so much at first.  In fact, my two biggest concerns surrounding our attacking approach were borne out in that time - one, that we’re vulnerable to teams who set out to thwart us, and two, that we’re a little too eager to look for penalties, something that many refs seldom appreciate, particularly this one.

It’s not like the accuracy on which we depend was spot on either.  All it took was one errant Johnny Sexton kick to touch on the full and France were able to get themselves into a strong attacking position.  Then later Simon Zebo made a complete horlicks of dealing with a ball heading for touch near his tryline - what should have been a lineout for us became a 5m scrum to France.

On another day, we could have found ourselves 0-14 down.  Instead, thanks to a strong defensive line and a hint of luck as well, the deficit was only six.  So now the question was simple.  To get our side of the scoreboard moving, were we going to just keep plodding along as we had so far against the French defensive onslaught or would we try something different to make them think again?  Luckily it was the latter.

At the 25th minute after a few more “going nowhere” phases, Sexton dinked a little kick over the onrushing defenders that found a good touch right outside their 22.  Then a few minutes later after some good mauling got us on the front foot, he finally got his backline moving and found himself in a bit of space to run, but even here his options were limited so he chose to kick...at first it looked like he sliced it but the ball dropped perfectly into a place where the French defence would struggle to cope...now it was our turn to pile on the pressure at a 5m scrum.

Once in this position, our mojo began to flow throughout the side like a switch had been flicked.  Now it was our turn to win a penalty at a 5m scrum, now it was our turn to opt for a reset, and now it was our turn to launch an attack on the tryline, only this time we weren’t taking “non” (or indeed “bof”) for an answer.

Just on a side note that I haven’t seen covered much...for all the defensive responsibility we place on our centres, we can really depend on them for crash ball options as well, even if they aren’t in the Bastareaud mould.  Ringrose made several steady gains throughout the evening, but on this occasion it was Henshaw pushing back the first wave of French resistance before Conor Murray took it the rest of the way.

All of a sudden, thanks to the conversion being popped over by Sexton, Ireland were in the lead despite all the early frustration.

We did everything we could to significantly increase it before break, including a quick tap penalty from Sexton from what would have been a kickable position - the visitors were able to hold out both this time and for 14 exhausting phases before the whistle, though not before getting the first half warning from Nigel that we didn’t see on our previous two outings.  

So after the temporary solution made on the pitch mid-half, we now had the opportunity for Joe Schmidt & co to work their magic as they have done so many times before.  As half-time wore on I tried desperately to ignore a voice at the back of my head which said “We’ve got this” but it was persistent.  And thankfully, it was right.

Before I go on, I hope there aren’t any Irish fans who feel we somehow left a bonus point behind.  I thought we had a chance going into the game, but the conditions combined with French determination made that very difficult.  No, the path to this win was going to come from staying on the front foot and capitalising on French mistakes, and we won the 3rd quarter thanks to three penalties that came at 4-5 minute intervals.

The first was after Nigel finally started pinging the French shenanigans.  At a scrum in their own 22, their 9 Serin thought he could stand in Conor Murray’s way - he was wrong.  Sexton kick, 10-6.

Next we relied on our own defence, which was every bit as effective as our visitors’ yet much more conventional.  They had tried to exploit any “narrowness” by getting it wide quickly but we were able to shut it down and by the time the clock neared 50 we were well set to hold them out.  We were even able to deal with pressure on our own scrum thanks to quick thinking between Jamie Heaslip and Conor Murray.

It wasn’t long before we were back in their 22 and with a penalty advantage coming, Sexton stroked over a drop goal that was the highlight of the match for many.  Sorry about this, but to that I say “meh!”.  No doubt it was a technically well-struck kick in a pressure situation,  I just personally think you should always go for a try with an advantage, especially which the pen is in a kickable position.  But that’s just me, and the good news was that now our lead was out to seven.

At this stage the rain was getting heavier, and that wasn’t the only thing falling from the sky that was hurting the French chances.  For me Sexton’s drop kick wasn’t nearly as impressive as his bombing garryowens that hit their target right outside the French 22 with deadly accuracy.  I know catching high balls is a full back’s job, but when they fall just outside your “safety” zone like that, they throw off even the most seasoned test performer, and Scott Spedding dropped two at key moments.  

Then after Ireland forced a penalty at the ensuing scrum, Sexton was able to push the lead out to ten, meaning the French now needed two scores in the final quarter.  To their credit, their heads never dropped.  But thankfully, this was the phase of the game where Conor Murray earned his man of the match award.

Normally I think it’s lazy to give the medal to a lone try scorer but that is far from the case here.  Just when we needed him most, as the French were trying to find a path back into the contest, Murray was in the right place at the right time doing exactly the right thing.  First, not to be outdone by his outhalf, there was his kicking.  Some absolutely superb positional play, particularly from deep inside his own 22.

But what sealed it for me was a tackle on Scott Spedding.  Simon Zebo had just hit a woeful kick which I don’t even think was intended as a grubber and which the South African-born fullback was able to take easily to start a dangerous counter attack.  He was ably supported by his winger Nakaitaci but when he got it back he was close to breaking away completely.  

Given the conditions plus the speed at which he was running, many would have slipped off the tackle but Murray was bang wide to the importance of the situation and hauled him down.  For me, this gave us the chance to regroup...eventually their sub prop was pinged for a neck roll on Sean O’Brien but I’d be confident the try opportunity was already gone.

France did trouble the scorers again after Toner was pinged for a bit of his own off-the-ball tomfoolery (I guess he didn’t “sell it well” as the saying goes) and Lopez brought them to within a score.  Anyone who knows the history of this fixture would have thought a draw was on the cards at that stage.  Anyone, that is, except the fifteen men glad in green.

It’s like our intensity increases when we concede a score.  Sometimes when we start to look lethargic I wonder if we should just let the other lot in for a try so we could get fired up and hit back with two of our own.  We squeezed the French exit off the restart and earned ourselves a lineout at the 22, just like that we were hitting them with phases and winning a penalty which Paddy Jackson, on for a much deserved cameo, easily converted to restore our ten-point margin.

That score killed the match as a contest but credit to our “finishing” lineup for playing right to the final whistle, we never let up.  And once more, credit to the French for coming with a decent plan to ask us questions, it’s just we did very well to find the right answers.

And while Conor Murray was the man of the match and Johnny Sexton showed us exactly why he is our presumptive starting out-half, much credit must go to the pack.  Hard to single out names; in fact, I won’t.  The eight starters did extremely well as did the six who replaced them.  In many ways I understand why Murray was so humble in accepting his prize.

So...where does this leave us in the Six Nations Championship?  Well I’m not sure where I heard it, but someone described our final three matches like they were knockout games.  France was the quarterfinal, and we had problems but got our way through it.  And at the end of the first half at Twickenham yesterday, I jokingly hoped England would be similarly off guard when they come to Dublin for St Patrick’s weekend.

But that of course leaves out the “semifinal” in Cardiff on Friday week, and that is all we can be thinking about for the next while.  Wales might be out of title contention but they won’t want to lose a third match in this series, especially in front of their home crowd and even more especially against us.  So it’s all to do.

What’s that you say?  Do I think we can do it?  Maybe we can come up with our own "Gaelic Shrug", one that suggests modesty to disguise quiet confidence? JLP

Front Five - 27.02.17

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

And the winner at the Aviva Stadium was...
France!!!! Ooh La La (Land)!!!!  ๐Ÿ˜‚

"The win just proved with an extended squad everyone is up to speed.”

Dave Hooper - Irish Examiner

(Craig Ronaldson) showed his value at the heart of the Connacht attack with slick passing and a line-break threat on top of his unerring goal-kicking.


They will play Zebre again...with...Treviso visiting Belfast on Friday night...Ulster will want to improve on their delivery."

Richard Mulligan - Belfast Telegraph

Young fly-half Luke Price caught the eye, playing with a maturity beyond his years

Mark Orders - WalesOnline

Italy's tactic of non-engagment at the ruck has kicked off a war of words

Rugby Onslaught

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

Note - views expressed in "Front Five" links do not necessarily reflect those of HarpinOnRugby

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Online comments after Ireland v France

A selection of the “keyboard warrior” reactions after the full-time whistle of our featured matches of the weekend.

If you’d like to contribute stay tuned to
our Facebook page for our “Feel free to leave your thoughts…” posts which show up around full time after Leinster & Ireland matches.

Johnny has made a big difference being back in the team. Think it might have been different if he was not playing. But I must say, well played Ireland, looking forward to our encounter.

John Neave (England fan)

First quarter wasn't very good. Really improved after that. Even at half-time, that obvious French togetherness was making me nervous. It was never easy, but in the end we were well worth the win.

Mark Barry

Great to get the win. Could clearly see the tactics changed in the 2nd half from "get the bonus point win" to "get any kind of win" but got there in the end

Craig Boyd

It was a gritty hard fought win but we NEED something else against Wales. The performance definitely isn't enough currently to beat England neither. The English game is too quick, strong & wide playing in comparison to ours. I trust Joe as ever to have a plan to upscale successively in the next 2 games though ๐Ÿค”๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿค”

Joe Sheppard

Tough game. The first quarter reminiscent of the Scotland game, except all we gave away were penalties. Want ever going to be easy, and we grew into it. was good to get the win, a pity to leave chances behind.

Conor Cronin

Sexton by far and away MOTM. Hope he turns up on April 1st like that. Jamie Heaslip was outstanding! Zebo worst man in the 23 again.

Baz C. Ryan

It was a tough match to win.thought Johnny had a good game & controlled it well from an Irish perspective. Won't quibble with Murray getting MOTM.

Gerald Williamson

Plenty still to work on but that was a decent performance. Anyone who thought Sexton shouldn't be first choice out half was way off the mark. He was outstanding. Murray showed yet again why he is the best No. 9 in the world right now. Turned over too many balls at the breakdown in the first half but dealt with that in the second. France never looked like scoring a try at any point. We really should have had a couple more. All in all I'm happy with that result. Bring on the Welsh! :)

Imelda Reidy

A workman-like display from Ireland. We tired the French pack out and the plan to do so worked. As Clive Woodward said, "victory extinguishes all arguments."

Paul McSweeney

Mixed bag. We're creating chances, and our defense did the job. But leaving too many chances behind us.

Dรณnal Foley

Could have been worse.....but could have been better!! What's with Heaslip not passing the ball and Murray kicking it to nobody!!!! Cool heads needed for Wales and especially England.

Aoibhin Kenny

A grind but job done sexton and Murray played well today can't knock this level of a win against the French

Noel Hewson

Could have been 40 - 9 had we taken our chances. By miles the better team but didn't make it count. Need to be far more clinical

Colm O'Donoghue

McGrath is starting to look a bit tired, good job Healy is coming into form. Can't help but think Sweetnam or Byrne would add something to the team.

Michael Waldron-Healy

A tough game but the Irish team had the smarts to change tactics when needed, withstand the inevitable onslaught and pull away at a crucial time to take a two score lead.

James Griffin

Think Ireland should of kicked 6 points in 1st half rather than looking for bonus pt 2 early. Gr8 win all the same

Alan Eastwood

Conditions were awful, too many penalties conceded but a win is a win. Learn from it and move on, two tough games left

Michelle Tobin

Many thanks to all who offered opinions.

Look out Monday for our match writeup JLP


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