Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Eurowatch : Sale v Exeter (8-0-review)


Leinster have Exeter Chiefs, Montpellier and Glasgow Warriors
in their Rugby Champions Cup pool and we'll be keeping tabs
on them all over the coming weeks with our 80-word reviews


Just under 6 minutes to the first break in play, just over 30 to the first score.  It was 43 until the only try, after Lachie Turner spotted a [suspiciously created] gap in a breakdown to canter over, and the night’s scoring was done on 58m after a de Klerk penalty.  The remaining ‘action’ was mostly prolonged kick tennis and bouts of boshery.  Exeter survived a late Townsend yellow to defy their 5-day turnaround with a handy away win.

Front Five - 31.10.17

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

ICYMI click here for our
Ulster v Leinster writeup

The world governing body announces its recommendation for the 2023 host on Tuesday morning.

Irish Independent

Garry Ringrose...was among the reduced Leinster squad...as he continues his return from shoulder injury, as was long-term absentee Tom Daly.

Ryan Bailey - The42.ie

It’s not because Erasmus is the boss that you won’t hear the players say a bad word about him.

Charlie Mulqueen - Irish Examiner

A replacement is set to be named within 24 hours...from a handful of players such as Nizaam Carr, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Paul Schoeman or even Toulon veteran Duane Vermeulen

Brendan Nel - SuperSport.com

He is certainly a new breed of Number Eight with speed and agility to match his power.

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

Monday, October 30, 2017

Ulster-10 Leinster-25


If all you knew about this match was the things that went wrong for Leinster you'd insist that the final scoreline had to be the other way around.

Lineout darts were going astray, tackles were being missed, try scoring opportunities were being butchered [sadly by the same player], kicks were going out on the full, we shipped a yellow card, we had to go to our bench twice in the opening twelve minutes...when it's all put together you can only conclude that it's just not to be your day.

But then you look at what happened on the Ulster side and things take a completely different turn.  And I want to make it clear that my pointing this out is absolutely nothing to do with wanting to mock or ridicule, even for supposed 'banter'.

What I actually want to do is briefly highlight the horrendous run of bad fortune our northern neighbours have had over the years.  They are the province that has gone longest without silverware [2006 Celtic League when there were no playoffs and they pipped Leinster by a point thanks to a late David Humphreys drop goal in Swansea] and since then it really has been a case of Murphy's Law for them.

Some of the individual cases shouldn't really be brought up on these pages for varying reasons, but when put them all together it's hard to dispute that since that league triumph Ulster have been denied a host of talent, and given how Irish Rugby is structured meaning you have limited playing time for your best players anyway, it is bound to have an impact on performances.

This unlucky streak was compounded in 2013 when, having managed to get themselves to the top of the Celtic League ladder, they had to concede the Grand Final home advantage due to capacity restrictions, and to make thing even worse, they end up facing the very team who calls that alternative venue home.  All just a year after getting to a second Heineken Cup final only to lose badly to...well, I won't say it.

Of course we've had our own setbacks over the same time period but on nowhere near the same scale, and the trophies certainly helped.  Again, I don't say this to gloat, rather to show appreciation for the fact that Ulster fans still remain so loyal to their province.  Some came away from the Kingspan choosing to highlight the booing of placekickers on the night...for me, that doesn't even come close to defining the true Ulster faithful who stand up for their heroes every chance they get.

And they certainly started this latest iteration of the oldest interprovincial brightly.  My biggest concern from Leinster's starting lineup was that we were vulnerable defensively down the middle and sure enough the game was barely a minute old when a cut back pass to Luke Marshall breached our front line of tacklers, yet not for the first time this season, our scrambling was good enough to snuff out the danger with a jackling penalty courtesy of James Tracy.

From there it seemed the pattern was set for the match...Ulster would do a good thing only for it to be undone by a bad one by them and/or a good one by us.  Meanwhile when we made a mistake, either the home side would respond in kind or one of our players would do something impressive to bring us back.

Take the opening quarter, for example.  Ulster had the ball for much of it yet could only turn it into a 3-0 lead.  When Leinster eventually saw some possession and territory we came within an ill-advised kick pass by Gibson-Park [more on him later] of a score before Jordan Larmour, on for Noel Reid after impressing for the B&I Cup side last week, sold Iain Henderson [who otherwise led the match with 23 tackles] down the river before powering over at unstoppable speed.

All credit to the Ulstermen; from there they enjoyed an even better purple patch, with more neat work along their strong backline getting rookie scrumhalf Aaron Cairns over only for it to be held up.  From the resulting scrum however they got a decent shove on for Sean Reidy to take it and barge his way over the line to pinch back the lead for his side.

Now it was our turn to crawl our way back and while we weren't to breach their line again before the break, we did earn a couple of penalties for Ross Byrne to knock over and get us back in front.

Given the final scoreline, it has to be pointed out how evenly the match was poised as late as the 55 minute mark.  Yes, we were in the lead, but only by three points and as Ulster managed to get the ball into the wide channels where they had numbers, Dave Kearney copped a yellow card in similar fashion to Niall Scannell for Munster against us a few weeks back.  So with the extra man, it looked very possible that the home side could find the extra space to nudge back in front.

But it was right from the start of that ten minute spell where things begin to really unravel.

The penalty from the Kearney no no was put into touch and Rory Best, on his 200th appearance for his province, got tagged for a crooked dart that wasn't his first on the night.  So we take the scrum and pin them back in their own 22.  Then Rob Herring, just on for Best, throws his first dart too long and we retrieve; with a narrow lead away from home we're happy enough to kick it back to them.

Eventually an ironic cheer goes up around the Kingspan Stadium as a lineout is successfully taken but then prop Rodney Ah You, who had made some noteworthy hits earlier on, lost the ball himself as he was tackled and it fell to the feet of Devin Toner at the halfway line.  It looked as though his instinct was to scoop it to a player close to him but he was getting a shout from his captain and he was composed enough to get it over to him.

I always figured Sean O'Brien could do well with the captaincy.  A bit like Peter O'Mahony at Munster I thought it might take him a while to forge a diplomatic rapport with officials, but in the area of leading by example there could be no question, and right here is where he showed it.  It's not much good calling for the ball if you don't have a plan to do something with it, and it seems that Seanie knew exactly how to exploit the numbers matchup that faced him in the wide channel.

Cool as you like he sets off letting go a pass to Adam Byrne in support at just the right moment and stays with his winger to get it back.  Then even cooler as you like he throws a cheeky dummy to take another Ulsterman out of the equation before shipping it to Luke McGrath who makes a beeline for the corner.

Was the final pass forward?  Maybe it was worth a look, but for me, it would have been harsh to call it.  Superb work that makes me even more certain that The Tullow Tank should move up our captain's pecking order ahead of Sexton [not because J10 isn't able, rather he has enough on his plate when he plays].

So there we were, two scores ahead despite being a man down.  From then on we pretty much coasted home, thanks mostly to another solid outing from the bench, many of whom combined for a third try close to full time - after Richardt Strauss was held up over the line, it was our turn to make the most of a 5m scrum with carries from Conan, Healy and Molony before Luke McGrath bagged his second - a great return from the scrum half that further cements his status as Leinster's number one number nine.

On Jamie Gibson-Park....I've said this before and I'll say it again - it's not that I feel he's a bad player.  In fact, after it was known he was coming to Leinster I watched him play several times for the Hurricanes and I know he can play.  He just hasn't been able to adapt to the way we play the game here.  There were certain ways we did things even before Joe Schmidt established his micromanaged systems - and when I watch JGP, particularly when he starts, it often looks as though he's trying to zig when his head is telling him to zag.

And now he has been here for more than a full season, he might feel the pressure to impress starting to weigh on him, leading him to make rash decisions.  In the early stages when we had our first chance deep in their 22 he chose to kick pass to Adam Byrne when a few more phases could have been more productive, then in the second half with the line at his mercy he chose another more difficult option rather than go himself, and it certainly didn't help his cause that his replacement went on to score twice.

But back to the positive, on the Leinster side I said before the match I'd be looking for a good outing from Rob Kearney and I have to say he did well - the run backs often got us on the front foot and he seemed to use the ball intelligently.  And despite the poor night overall for the Ulstermen, I am always impressed by Jacob Stockdale out on the wing, as I'd say was the onlooking Ireland coach.

So a second good away win on the bounce for Leinster, and with exactly a third of the regular season gone in the Pro14, it now looks like we could be scrapping it out with the reigning champion Scarlets for top spot in Conference B.  Looking ahead on the schedule, however, I see we play them twice smack bang in the middle of the Six Nations, ironically either side of Ireland v Wales clash so it won't be with full squads.  Can't have everything, I suppose.

And I certainly hope you don't think I'm ruling out the Ulstermen from contention, or even Edinburgh for that matter.  What about the Dragons and the as-yet-pointless Southern Kings?  Well, I guess stranger things have happened.  Happy Hallowe'en everyone.  JLP

Front Five - 30.10.17

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

ICYMI click here for a selection of online comments
after the fulltime whistle of Ulster v Leinster

As Devin Toner turned, bent down and picked the ball up, O’Brien immediately saw the possibilities.

Gerry Thornley - Irish Times

The Wolfhounds overcame sweltering conditions...to brush aside an Italian side that were fancied to reach the knockout stages.

Nigel Whittaker - Irish Independent

Marty Moore played a small part in a great win for Wasps at Northampton Saints.

RTÉ Rugby

Eben Etzebeth captains the side, eager to banish the memories of a disappointing November tour in 2016.

Brian Barry - Pundit Arena

😂😂😂😂 wtf? This is news to both Julian and I! #NotTrue #InNZTill2019 piss off with your rumours.

Mikey Traynor - Balls.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

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Online comments after Ulster v Leinster

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.

Very well fought win. Second half they weathered anything thrown at them and took their chances well. First win in 4 years there. Good win before they start breaking up for November games.

Damian Scott

O’Brien is immense!

Tom Clarke

Some mistakes by Leinster covered up by a poor Ulster performance.

Craig Williamson

Ulster were poor. Charles Piutau must be knackered - he's been carrying them for 2 seasons now.

Keith Geraghty

Ulster gifted us the game. Our strength in depth is unrivalled. Larmour was great, kearney snr solid enough, sob savage.

Gav Heg

Great win in a very tricky stadium to get a result and I think Lamour may have wrapped up try of the season already 😁

Paul Smith

This Ulster team can score tries so keeping them to one is an achievement. Took ours well, but feel like if JGP had just gunned for the line instead of throwing a needless pass we'd have had the BP.

Dónal Foley

The ineptitude of the 3 hookers selected for the autumn series at lineout time was scary

Garrett Mccolgan

Loved Seanie tonight. Totally outplayed them in the 2nd half. Did anyone agree Ross Byrne kicked too much and didn't execute well ? Great win lads.

Colin Campbell

Lets enjoy a great win!

Deirdre Kennedy

Leinster showing they're the best in the pro 14 and potential semi finalists in europe

Craig Boyd

Great win but really kicked the ball away far too much. I'm not a fan of Ross Byrne as his have evolves around kicking the ball. Plays to deep and creates very little because of that. In his defence he defends brilliantly and does kick very well. ( I just rather if we keep the ball a little more)

Chris McDonnell

Very good win against a team with a lot of very good players

Andrew Potts

Many thanks to all who offered opinions.

Look out Monday for our match writeup JLP

Front Five - 29.10.17

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

I notice NZ's Mitre10 Cup play matches
on Wednesdays and Thursdays
I wonder if that could work with the Ulster Bank League
for extra live TV coverage?

Ulster made far too many errors in the second half as they struggled to make any momentum

Belfast Telegraph

Michael Silvester's brace of tries in the final quarter-of-an-hour saw Dublin University seal a well-judged 30-14 win

Dave Mervyn - The42.ie

...Leinster’s 25-10 demolition of Ulster [was] in front of a sell-out 18,000 crowd in Belfast – there was 9,003 at Parc y Scarlets.

Andy Howell - WalesOnline

Having lost successive games in the Champions Cup, Vern Cotter sought a response from his charges and they duly delivered

All Out Rugby

Zebre thought they had done enough to win but Zeilinga came off the bench to score the winning points


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

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Front Five - 28.11.17

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

ICYMI click here for our
Ulster v Leinster preview

Rory Best is set to make his 200th Ulster appearance in tomorrow night’s Guinness PRO14 clash against Leinster at Kingspan Stadium.

RossFRU - Front Row Union

...once contact was made with Jack Carty’s head there was only going to be one outcome and Conway now has an anxious wait to see what punishment may lie ahead.

John Fallon - Irish Examiner

Dan Biggar won the battle of the fly-halves with Gavin Henson

Simon Thomas - WalesOnline

Dave Rennie’s side tightened their grip at the top of Conference A

Duncan Smith - The Scotsman

"He's also sad for leaving. we are happy for him - we're going to miss him and we're sad for the club - but we're so happy for him."

Patrick McCarry - SportsJoe.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

Friday, October 27, 2017

Preview : Ulster v Leinster

So...Leinster began this season with five wins out of six, and most teams would be happy enough with that.  But for fans [myself included] there was a lot of 'Happy with the win, but if we [insert failing here] in Europe we'll pay the price'.  Then we only went and reeled off two maximum point Champions Cup victories in succession.  Go figure.

But it's not like those failings didn't exist, and many of them feature in this particular selection.  Worried about a brittle defensive channel down the middle?  The Reid/O'Loughlin axis has often been the culprit, and in Belfast there will be Adam Byrne on the wing who also has issues in that department.  Worried about wayward lineout darts?  James Tracy chucked a couple in Glasgow and more besides before, yet he starts tomorrow.

I'm leading with those negatives not because I think they're match-defining, but they are definitely worth noting.  Now that's out of the way, time to look at the matchday 23 through another lens...the amount of returning talent to the squad.

Naturally the name Sean O'Brien leaps off the page, especially when it has the word 'captain' alongside it.  I think it's a role he can do well, though a bit like Peter O'Mahony his personality might mean it takes a while to fully grow into it.  He'll certainly do well alongside Dan Leavy and Jordi Murphy, two more who have had long-term spells on the sideline.

Another high profile returnee is Rob Kearney.  He's had a lot of false dawns fitness-wise recently and in the meantime Joey Carbery has become a regular in that 15 jumper, blue and arguably he's not far off the green one.  I'm not sure if it will be enough for Rob to simply get through this 80 minutes unscathed - we'll need to see some kind of stand-out play and running back kicks from the opposition is where I'll be looking the most.

Then we have the very welcome return of Richardt Strauss.  Whether we need an extra back rower or not, he does much of the work of one around the breakdown and we could be looking for his skill set in the closing stages when turnovers could literally decide the game.

Last week the bookies couldn't tell between us and Glasgow yet shaded it to the home side by a point.  This time they see absolutely nothing in it.  I see what they mean, though having said that, a victory by a decent margin for either team is also possible. 

If that fiery Ulster backline gets grabs the initiative in the early stages it could be a good day for the home fans.  But if the Leinster pack minds the ball when it matters as they have done of late, it will be those heading back down the M1 smiling.  Gun to my head I reckon the Ulstermen are missing too many key players in their squad, but if we do finish on top it shouldn't be by more than a few points.

One thing is for sure...Conference B is shaping up into a three-way battle involving the champion Scarlets and tomorrow's combatants at the Kingspan, so every point counts.  It definitely has the makings of a classic inter-pro.  JLP


Ulster: (1-8): Callum Black, Rory Best, Rodney Ah You, Alan O'Connor, Iain Henderson (Capt), Sean Reidy, Chris Henry, Jean Deysel;
(9-15): Aaron Cairns, Christian Lealiifano, Jacob Stockdale, Stuart McCloskey, Luke Marshall, Tommy Bowe, Charles Piutau.
Replacements (16-23): Rob Herring, Andy Warwick, Ross Kane, Kieran Treadwell, Robbie Diack, Jonny Stewart, Peter Nelson, Louis Ludik.

Guinness Pro14 2017/18 - Round 7
Saturday, October 28, 2017
KO 6:30pm
Kingspan Stadium

Referee: John Lacey (IRFU, 66th competition game)
AR1: Craig Evans (WRU). AR2: Leo Colgan (IRFU)
TMO: Olly Hodges (IRFU)
BBC2 NI: 6.15pm
Sky Sports Action: 6.15pm

Also this weekend


Connacht v Munster
Glasgow v Southern Kings
Ospreys v Dragons


Treviso v Edinburgh
Zebre v Cheetahs
Scarlets v Cardiff Blues

Challenge Cup Pool 1 Round 2 review

Enisei-STM 21 – 28 Dragons

Dragons were victorious in their 50th Challenge Cup game, they’ve played more than any Welsh side.  They took the lead early on with two tries, scored by Hill and Rosser, both converted by O’Brien.  That would be it for the scoring in the first half as Dragons led 0 – 14.

Hallam Amos touched down at the start of the second half to put Dragons further ahead.  Enisei would respond with a try from hooker Stanislav Selski.  A penalty try for the Russians put them within one score, but Charlie Davies would get over the line Immediately after to ensure the win.  Anton Rudoi got a try late on, Kushnarev converted it to ensure Enisei took a losing bonus point.  

Bordeaux-Begles 20 – 21 Newcastle Falcons

Newcastle came from 10 points down to edge out Bordeaux.  Bordeaux went ahead 3 minutes in with a penalty from Hickey.  They would go 10 – 0 up within the first ten minutes when Tauleigne touched down.  Newcastle would respond with a try from Burrows.  It was Bordeaux who led at halftime, prop Sébastien Taofifenua got over to make the scoreline read 17 – 7.

Toby Flood began the comeback for Newcastle in the first minute of the 2nd half with a try that he converted.  A penalty from Hickey was the only score of the second 40 for Bordeaux.  Welsh got over the lline and Flood converted to put Newcastle ahead for the first time in the game, and the Falcons would see it out.  

Newcastle top the pool with 9 points, ahead of Bordeaux and Dragons on 6, Enisei sit bottom with 1 point.  

Get Post To Post on Facebook and Twitter: @PostToPostSport

Pool 4   -  Pool 3  -  Pool 2

Ciarán Duffy (@TheVoiceDepth) is a Leinster supporter and self-proclaimed ‘big cheese’ of Post To Post (@PostToPostSport).   He’ll write about anything rugby under the condition he gets to take it too seriously.
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Click "Write for us" in the sidebar to find out how.

Front Five - 27.10.17

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

ICYMI click here for our 80-word review
of the Mitre10 Cup semifinal between Taranaki and Tasman
keeping tabs on Leinster signing James Lowe

(Sean Cronin) was overlooked for provincial rival James Tracy, with whom he has been rotating all season in the Leinster front row and Ulster’s Rob Herring.

Simon Lewis - Irish Examiner

Aaron Cairns is poised to make his first start in an Ulster jersey on Saturday against Leinster

Richard Mulligan

Despite the distinctive club name, there is no financial support from Diageo and the club have found it difficult to get sponsors on board

Brian Lowry - Irish Independent

The ban originally didn’t include the Anglo-Welsh cup match with Saracens on November 5 as the panel deemed he wouldn’t likely be playing in that fixture anyway.

Sean McMahon - Pundit Arena

The Argentine...played 116 times for the eastern province and played a major role in Michael Cheika’s revolution before moving to Toulon in 2009.

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

Thursday, October 26, 2017

James Lowe watch : Taranaki v Tasman (8-0-review)


When Taranaki had the ball their solid scrum platform together with high tempo passing lost one interception try yet gained four regular ones. However when they were defending, they shipped 13 penalties overall, most of them kickable for Mitch Hunt including one on 64m which gave Tasman a 1pt lead they just about brought home.  Lowe impressed and was heavily involved in the Makos' 2nd try; Leinster fans wish him well both health- and success-wise in Saturday’s final against Canterbury.



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