Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Harpin Points 7 : Matt Finshed, Timekeeping & 8-0-reviews

Every Wednesday we widen our focus beyond Leinster & Ireland rugby matches, offering views on broader rugby topics and themes


Watching the Dragons v Treviso over the weekend first reminded me of the Italians' win at the RDS in April, which in turn reminded me of the Dragons' triumph in 2015, arguably the most depressing day's rugby ever for Leinster fans in D4 with the only saving grace being that it wasn't on live TV.

That is generally accepted as the the straw that broke Matt O'Connor's back as Leinster coach, although there were a large amount of fans against him already despite delivering a league title in the first season and coming within a whisker of a European final.

As you can tell from that last sentence, I wasn't quite as "Anti-Matter" as many were from the start but I would only consider defending his methods if they were producing results and in his second season they certainly weren't; by all accounts he wasn't the most popular figure behind the scenes either so it was best for everyone that he moved on when he did, and thankfully his replacement did a smidge better.

Now we see him being let go by the Leicester Tigers after just one game of the new Premiership season.  Sure, that one game being a 6-40 thumping at Exeter might be below the standards required at Welford Road, but for a senior rugby coach to be let go after just one week things really, really have to be bad.  Not entirely sure what kind of path is left back for MOC, at least not as a number 1.

His loss, as you have probably heard, is Geordan Murphy's gain, and he seems to have all the hallmarks of a good head coach and there's no doubting he knows the Tigers setup inside out.  Here's hoping he gets a decent run to show what he can do so he can get the post on a more permanent basis.


It's not often I question Nigel Owens' decision making but in this week's first match writeup of the new Pro14 season I did have some concerns.

One in particular was to do with timekeeping.  When Leinster took the lead towards the end, he awarded the try but as Ross Byrne was preparing to add the extra points, Owens got word in his ear that the TMO was having a look at it.  Technically the clock should have stopped for this to happen and Byrne asked to wait, yet it kept ticking.

So when the kick finally went over, there was officially less than one minute left, so with our lead just one point he felt compelled to adjust the clock in order to allow for the delay from the TMO.  Where I feel he made a mistake was when he was sorting all this out with his fellow officials over the headsets while the match was still in progress.  IMO he should have stopped the game clock altogether before the restart and informed the two on pitch captains exactly how much time was left.

As it turned out the Blues got the ball well into our half before Rhys Gill had it wrested free which gave us a scrum advantage...Jamison Gibson-Park kicked the ball dead with the TV clock showing just 5 seconds left.  Many felt they should have gone back for the scrum, when it was possible that the Blues could have won a penalty to win the game.  However, with the arbitrary nature of Owens' time-travelling, you could make a case that his decision to call full time was correct.

My overall concern is that there are not proper protocols in place for this kind of situation, and if that's the case, there definitely should be.


I said in a previous edition of Harpin Points that I'm not really concerned about what pundits a TV network has in its studio for rugby matches...once I get to see the action, I'm happy.

That said, last weekend saw eir Sport's coverage being introduced to provincial fans so I guess it's worthwhile harping on their set up at least a bit.  For Cardiff v Leinster they had Tommy Bowe as host, with Luke Fitzgerald and Donncha O'Callaghan as panellists.

On paper, that seems like an ideal set up.  Bowe was always a 'safe pair of hands' in media appearances, with a smile never far from his face and his outlook upbeat to say the very least.  I thought he did pretty well considering this was his live debut and he should grow into the role.

As for the other two, I thought they have the makings of a good pairing, though it seemed Luke was the one trying to be animated and offering witty observations while DOC came across as more least when it came to their playing careers, I would have assumed them to be exactly the opposite.

Whatever the plan was, they should at least be given a few weeks to settle into a rhythm.  For my own personal taste I think Irish sporting productions try too hard to force their panels to fit into the 'O'Herlihy/Giles/Dunphy' formula instead of getting a bit more creative with the personalities they actually have, but if that's the way eir have chosen to go, I'm happy to leave them to it.

If I were to have any gripes about the Cardiff v Leinster coverage they would be more about the actual match itself when play was going on while we were being treated to the spectacle of front rows trudging onto the pitch and other similar oddities throughout.  But again, I'll give them a pass for it being week 1 and all.

But as always, by biggest beef with broadcasters has to do with forcing us to completely give over to their subscription service in order to watch the rugby.  They already get ad revenue in exchange for their investment...I don't see why they should be allowed to extort the viewers of the ads as well.  With TV3 becoming Virgin Media and a dedicated sports channel planned, this trend will no doubt continue.

PS as I sign off this point I'm just finding out that Channel 4 have won the rights to broadcast Ireland's autumn internationals for the next 4 years.

Throughout the season our final Harpin Point will feature the return of our 80-word reviews.  This week will concentrate on round one of the Pro14 but in future editions we'll cover upcoming European opponents for Leinster and test opponents for Ireland as well.

Ulster should be disappointed for not crossing Scarlets’ line especially as the Welsh region saw yellow twice in the final quarter but still this was overall a morale-boosting win to start the season.  John “Cojooneys” kicked all their points with the winning penalty going over right at the end. Henderson bossed the lineout, McCloskey was MotM and strong up the middle, and Gilroy, Speight and Kernohan all impressed on the wing.  Scarlets should be fired up next week v Leinster.

The teams looked evenly matched early on until a strong run from deep by MotM Sweetnam put Rory Scannell through for Munster.  Kilcoyne barged over for a second before halftime and a superb try-saving tackle by Shane Daly kept the visitors off the scoreboard in a brief purple patch.  By the latter stages Munster were easily the more well-coached season-ready unit and had the BP wrapped up by Hanrahan on 64m. New arrivals like Carbery looked settled in their cameos.

Ideal Galway conditions but far from an ideal start as Tommy Seymour touched down in only the second minute.  They added two more before HT but only as Connacht forged a 9-point lead with tries from Kelleher and Bealham plus Carty penalties.  However they couldn’t capitalise on a Hastings yellow on 58m and Ashe got the BP try for the shorthanded visitors before an in-form Hogg dropkicked them into a lead.   Ronaldson couldn’t take late opportunities to pinch it back.


Both teams had several internationals on show for opening night, though the score being 0-0 at 31m and 3-3 at 54m was more about rustiness than two giants cancelling each other out.  Eventually it was new Osprey George North showing his class powering over on the right wing. A spell of more turnover tennis followed before North broke clear again to seal the match points.  The wonderfully-named Blair Kinghorn grabbed a (just about) deserved consolation try and BP for Embra.

Rodney Parade should hold no fears for Benetton after their April RDS heroics and despite an early Howells interception try, easily assumed control with a brace from Zanni and one from Steyn.  Bernard Jackman will surely be counting on leadership from his experienced players but with Henson going through the motions and Hibbard virtually motionless, it could be a long season for the Dragons.  Rhodri Williams brought them within BP range late on but further match points were beyond them.

That's it for Harpin Points this week...our usual features will see out the week with upcoming rugby on Irish TV on Thursday and Leinster team announcement plus the Scarlets preview on Friday.  As always keep in touch with us via Twitter, Facebook & Instagram and be sure to enjoy your rugby wherever you are.  JLP


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