Thursday, January 31, 2019

Rugby on TV : Jan 31-Feb 7

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THURSDAY,  JANUARY 31

8AM - PRO 14 ROUND 14 HIGHLIGHTS - EIR SPORT 2
12:30PM - THE PRO 14 HOUR (R) - EIR SPORT 2
12:30PM - RUGBY TONIGHT (R) - BT SPORT 2
2:30PM - ULSTER V BENETTON (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 2
2:55PM - BELVEDERE V CISTERCIAN (L)  - LEINSTER SENIOR SCHOOLS - EIR SPORT 1, FREESPORTS
4PM - HAMILTON 7S HIGHLIGHTS - SKY SPORTS ARENA
6:30PM - SUPER LEAGUE 2019 PREVIEW - SKY SPORTS ARENA
6:30PM - IRELAND V ENGLAND (R-H) - SIX NATIONS 2001 - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT
7PM - BELVEDERE V CISTERCIAN (R) - LEINSTER SENIOR SCHOOLS - EIR SPORT 1
7PM - RONAN O'GARA INTERVIEW - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT
7:30PM - ST HELENS V WIGAN (L) - SUPER LEAGUE - SKY SPORTS ARENA
8PM - FRANCE V ENGLAND (R) - SIX NATIONS 2018
11PM - RUGBY TONIGHT (R) - BT SPORT 2

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 1

6AM - RUGBY TONIGHT (R) - BT SPORT 3
10:30AM - LEINSTER V SCARLETS (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 2
12PM - LEINSTER V SCARLETS (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 1
2PM - BELVEDERE V CISTERCIAN (R) - LEINSTER SCHOOLS - EIR SPORT 1
3PM - WALES V IRELAND (R-H) - SIX NATIONS 2009 - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT
3:30PM - FRANCE V IRELAND (R-H) - SIX NATIONS 2014 - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT
4PM - WALES V FRANCE (R) - SIX NATIONS 2018 - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT
4:45PM - IRELAND V ENGLAND (L) - WOMEN'S 6N - RTE TWO, SKY SPORTS ARENA
6:30PM - THE PRO14 HOUR (R) - EIR SPORT 2
7PM - IRELAND V ENGLAND (L) - U20S 6N - RTÉ TWO
7PM - FRANCE V WALES (L) - SIX NATIONS - VIRGIN MEDIA 1, BBC1
7PM - HULL KR V HULL FC (L) - SUPER LEAGUE - SKY SPORTS MIX
10:30PM - FRA V WAL POST MATCH REACTION - SIX NATIONS - VIRGIN MEDA SPORT

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 2

6AM - RUGBY TONIGHT (R) - BT SPORT 3

7:30AM - SYDNEY 7S (L) - SKY SPORTS ARENA
10AM - FRANCE V WALES (R) - SIX NATIONS - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT
11:30AM - THE PRO14 HOUR (R) - EIR SPORT 1
12PM - RONAN O'GARA : THE BIG INTERVIEW - VIRGIN MEDA SPORT
12:30PM - BELVEDERE V CISTERCIAN (R) - LEINSTER SCHOOLS - EIR SPORT 1
1PM - SCOTLAND V ITALY (L) - SIX NATIONS - VIRGIN MEDIA 1, BBC 1
1:55PM - CHEETAHS V SOUTHERN KINGS (L) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 2
4:30PM - IRELAND V ENGLAND (L) - SIX NATIONS - VIRGIN MEDIA 1
5PM - WARRINGTON V LEEDS (L) - SKY SPORTS MIX
5:30PM - CNN WORLD RUGBY - CNN
7:30PM - IRE V ENG POST-MATCH REACTION - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT
8PM - RONAN O'GARA THE BIG INTERVIEW - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT
9PM - FRANCE V WALES (R) - SIX NATIONS - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT
9:50PM - SYDNEY SEVENS (L) - SKY SPORTS MIX
11PM - SCOTLAND V ITALY (R) - SIX NATIONS - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 3

6:10AM - SYDNEY 7S (L) - SKY SPORTS ARENA

1PM - SIX NATIONS HIGHLIGHTS - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT
2PM - FRANCE V WALES (R) - SIX NATIONS - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT
2:45PM - WORCESTER V WASPS (L) - PREMIERSHIP CUP - BT SPORT 1
4PM - SCOTLAND V ITALY (R) - SIX NATIONS - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT
5:15PM - SIX NATIONS RUGBY SPECIAL - BBC 2
6PM - RONAN O'GARA THE BIG INTERVIEW - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT
6PM - SCRUM V - BBC 2 WALES
7PM - IRELAND V ENGLAND (R) - SIX NATIONS - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT
9PM - SIX NATIONS HIGHLIGHTS - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT
10PM - CHEETAHS V SOUTHERN KINGS (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 2
10:30PM - DONNCA O'CALLAGHAN : GAME OVER - VIGIN MEDIA SPORT

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 4


8:05AM - SYDNEY 7S (L) - SKY SPORTS MAIN EVENT

11:30AM - WORCESTER V WASPS (R) - PREMIERSHIP CUP - BT SPORT 1
12PM - GLASGOW V OSPREYS (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 1
3PM - CHEETAHS V SOUTHERN KINGS (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 2
4PM - WORCESTER V WASPS (R) - PREMIERSHIP CUP - BT SPORT 1
5:30PM - SIX NATIONS HIGHLIGHTS - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT
7PM - DONNCHA O'CALLAGHAN :GAME OVER - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT
8PM - AGAINST THE HEAD - RTE TWO
8PM - FRANCE V WALES (R) - SIX NATIONS - VRGIN MEDIA SPORT
10PM - IRELAND V ENGLAND (R) - SIX NATIONS - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 5


10AM - CHEETAHS V SOUTHERN KINGS (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 2

5:30PM - WALES V FRANCE (R) - SIX NATIONS 2018 - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT
7:30PM - FRANCE V IRELAND (R) - SIX NATIONS 2018 - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT
10PM - THE PRO14 HOUR (R) - EIR SPORT 1
10PM - FRANCE V WALES (R) - SIX NATIONS - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 6


12PM - SOUTHERN KINGS V EDINBURGH (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 1
1PM - CHEETAHS V SOUTHERN KINGS (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 2
3:30PM - SCOTLAND V FRANCE (R) - SIX NATIONS 2018 - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT
5:30PM - ITALY V SCOTLAND (R) - SIX NATIONS 2018 - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT
7:30PM - IRELAND V ITALY (R) - SIX NATIONS 2018 - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT
10PM - SCOTLAND V ITALY (R) - SIX NATIONS - VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT


THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 7

8AM - CHEETAHS V SOUTHERN KINGS (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 2
4PM - SYDNEY 7S (H) - SKY SPORTS ACTION
7PM - THOMOND PARK - DOCUMENTARY - EIR SPORT 1
7PM - HULL FC V CASTLEFORD (L) - SUPER LEAGUE - SKY SPORTS ARENA
8PM - LEINSTER V SCARLETS (R) - PRO 14 - EIR SPORT 1

L = LIVE
R = FULL REPEAT
T = TAPE DELAY
H = HIGHLIGHTS

Times generally refer to beginning of broadcast not kickoff
Check local listings for repeat showings
Feel free to let us know if something is missing! paganoblog@gmail.com

Front Five - 31.01.19

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

ICYMI click here for this week's
batch of Harpin Points, a series
of rambles on various rugby topics


"I think they are going to bring physicality, but smarts as well."


SkySports.com

“I thought that was it, I’m done, I’d not play again...You just don’t see yourself coming back from that.”


Mary Hannigan - Irish Times

"Felipe, in particular, has been really good for me. Telling me to get square at the line and be more of an attacking threat."


IrishRugby.ie

Semi-finalists last year, Michael’s are aiming to secure their third title at this grade.


DaireWalsh.com

It was the first time the English National Anthem ‘God Save the Queen’ would be played at Croke Park


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

Leinster and Ireland's Futures Are Entwined Ahead of This Crunch Year

Heineken Cup and Pro 14 holders Leinster will be hoping to continue as the dominant force in 2019, while the Irish national team will be looking to repeat their prior Grand Slam success and follow that up with a World Cup win. So, just how important is Leinster’s form to subsequent Ireland performances on the world stage?
When it comes to international sports, the performances of certain teams can often have a big impact on the success of their national side and there are few better examples than that of the current Leinster squad.
The squad for Ireland’s first two Six Nations games is made up of 16 Leinster players out of a possible 38 and while the form of Ulster, Munster and Connacht are also important, Leinster have been the clear leaders recently when it comes to providing players for the national team. As such, their great form undoubtedly stands Ireland in excellent stead, especially with the likes of England and Wales strengthening since the 2018 edition of Six Nations.





As you can see from this comparison of Leinster’s Pro 12 performances and Ireland’s Six Nations finishes, the mid-2010s showed a particularly distinguished correlation. [Original content - no source]

Sexton is key to the Six Nations/World Cup double
One recent worry was the injury that Johnny Sexton suffered but thankfully for Ireland, the Leinster man should be back in time to make the impact that world knows he can. While Ireland are talented enough to retain the Six Nations title without Sexton, it is difficult to envisage the Irish winning another Grand Slam – let alone a Six Nations/World Cup double – should he not be at full fitness.
With only three losses to their name so far, to go along with their 16 victories in all competitions, Leinster have been impressive this season, to say the least, and that positive vibe could well carry over into the tough run of Six Nations fixtures. Paddy Power has Ireland as favourites, but the fixture list shows they'll finish with the biggest threat to their Grand Slam – a trip to Wales.
That said, in addition to Sexton, Rob Kearney, Sean Cronin, Cian Healy, Jack McGrath, Sean O’Brien and Devin Toner all boast over 50 caps for Ireland. Further, a range of talented youngsters - Jordan Larmour, for example, is being touted as the future of both Leinster and Ireland only a year on from his international debut - also fuels the imagination for club and country and Irish rugby is undoubtedly in a great place at the moment. The side is boasting a balance between age and experience that has been known to herald many a serial Six Nations winner. The door to untold greatness remains open.

All remains to be seen

Ultimately, the 16 Leinster players are going to have a huge say in what could be the biggest year in the history of Irish rugby. It’s no coincidence that both club and national teams are flying high at the moment and all that could mean something very special when the World Cup final comes around in early November. Until then though, Ireland and Leinster have a lot of work to do - and accepting that the world has seen nothing yet is a great platform on which to build.


HarpinOnRugby.net

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Harpin Points 26 - Six Nations baby!!!!


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

6N - THE BEST OF TIMES

Before I began scribbling this post I spent a few minutes switching the look of this site plus all my social media avatars from blue to green, and since I'm doing that towards the end of January that can mean only one thing… SIX NATIONS BABY!!!!

So this week most of my Harpin Points are going to focus on “Rugby's Greatest Championship” (excellent riposte to the rebranding of the Trí Nations BTW) and what it means to me.

I have been following this tournament for more years than I care to remember, so long in fact that I knew it as Five Nations as a young lad.  I saw good times for Ireland and very bad ones too, but it has never been as good as it is right now.

Hopefully as Irish fans we haven't become so parochial as to be comparing Grand Slam wins...that pesky Leinster/Munster thing offers an all too easy path for some to argue over Declan Kidney's or Joe Schmidt's was the better achievement.

Well I really don't think it can be argued that Schmidt has had the better time of it overall.  And before anyone attacks me for saying that simply because I am a Leinster fan, I suggest they go back and look at all the defence I gave on these pages for Kidney before his departure from the job.

But when it comes to Joe it is not all about our success in last year's competition.  There were also two other titles.  There have been wins over all of the top southern hemisphere sides, including the ticking of that elusive All Black box. Twice. Plus a series win Down Under.  Plus enough consistency to reach number 2 in the world rankings.

And yes, don't worry, I haven't forgotten the one blot on the ledger, namely RWC2015.  But even there it's hard to deny that our biggest falling from that campaign, namely squad depth, has been greatly improved upon in the 2019 cycle, and judging by some of his squad selections for this 6N, he still has designs on making his pool even deeper still.

Naturally we are going to be favourites for this year's competition, but that by no means guarantees an easy path.  First, we host the English, on whom I will harp in a different point.  Then it's on to Murrayfield where it is very possible the Scots will be bouyed by a victory the previous week.  And should we still be in contention for a big prize going into the final week, sure we only have to play in Cardiff.

But the one thing I will say about this particular version of the 6N is that no matter how much we may love it, the shadow of the World Cup stretches back over it all the way from next September.  Of course all the contenders will be vying to do their best but should one or two get off to a bad start it will be interesting to see how it affects their selections going into the final rounds.

Let the games begin!!!


6N - FRIDAY NIGHT...SHITE?

Speaking of letting the games begin, the controversial Friday night kickoffs are back this year, this time in Paris where the Welsh come to town.

For me personally, this is great…I love having a game to look forward to at the end of a week, but that's because it is usually on the telly, and even if it's Leinster I have little difficulty in getting myself to the RDS.

When there is air travel involved however, it can be a very different story, and this is often why many complain about such timing.

One of my biggest bugbears about European rugby has always been the clunkiness of its calendar, and in an ideal world, for me anyway, the Six Nations, being easily the biggest prize on offer, should be played at the end of the season.

But I can also appreciate the desire to keep it in the springtime as it has been since the days of yore, though I might have a suggestion that could help avoid the Friday fixture.

The competition is played over 7 weeks anyway which means every team has two off weekends.  Instead of having three matches at a time, how about just two every Saturday all the way up to week 7 which would involve a ‘Super Saturday’ finale?

For example, this year's schedule could go…

Week 1 : FRAvWAL SCOv ITA
Week 2 : IREvENG ITAvWAL
Week 3 : SCOvIRE ENGvFRA
Week 4 : FRAvSCO WALvENG
Week 5 : ITAvIRE SCOvWAL
Week 6 : ENGvITA IREvFRA
Week 7 : WALvIRE ITAvFRA ENGvSCO

This way, we as fans get action every weekend, which in turn means sponsors get exposure at the same time.  Yes, I know the schedule of domestic competitions would be affected, but I'm sure they could adjust and besides, test and club matches often take place the same weekend anyway.

Just throwing it out there!


6N - ENGLAND

So we deny them a Grand Slam one year, then win one ourselves the next on their patch.  And with it being England and all, let's just say we Irish fans take that extra little bit of pleasure out of results like those.  Who among us has not at some stage suggested where they stick their chariot? 😜

And all that before even mentioning the name Eddie Jones.  Whether or not we needed more motivation to beat the English, he provides it every time he opens his gob!

It has to be frustrating for all involved in English rugby to see us doing so well; I very much doubt their back to back Six Nations titles look too favourably against our record, plus their RWC2015 was a lot more of a failure so the pressure to produce in Japan would be that much greater.

And over three or four years I'm not so sure they have ever really been able to settle on a best XV - naturally a lot of that has to do with injuries but also in key positions like scrum half and all along the back row they have had to use several different options which is far from ideal when you're aiming for some consistency.

But despite those difficulties, we can be sure of one thing; those recent results against us will mean our perennial motivation to beat the English will be matched by them when they get to Dublin, and it promises to be an epic struggle.  We will be favourites, but I believe every word when Jones says he has his lot focused on this match and nothing beyond.

I'll be devoting further Harpin Points to Ireland's upcoming opponents as the competition moves forward.


6N - WOMEN'S & U20S

While I do like the way the Six Nations organisers have raised the profile of both the Women's and Under 20s competitions in recent years, with television coverage throw in for good measure, I still wonder if the two groups, particularly the women, are getting the maximum exposure this way.

Does the Women's World Cup take place at the same time as the men?  No, and for good reason.  I wonder if the Six Nations could follow suit and stage their version at a different portion of the season?

And an even more radical suggestion; does it even need to be in the exact same format as the men?  Instead of one big round robin pool, how about a mini-World Cup style with two pools of three leading to semis and a final in a host nation that rotates every season?

Yeah I know I'm all about the maverick ideas this week, forgive me.  But that's kind of what these weekly rambles are for!!!

Anyway; best of luck to both the Irish Women's league and U20s squads over the coming weeks.  I'd love to have more time to cover them yet harp exclusively on the men I must for the time being.


CAN'T CATCH 22

OK the final Harpin Point this week isn't about the Six Nations, rather it's something that happened at the end of the first half in a Guinness Pro14 clash between Glasgow and Ospreys last weekend.

It looked like a horrible night at Scotstoun, with strong wind and driving rain throughout the match.  the Welsh region had it behind them in the first period, yet because they have relied heavily on a territory kicking game this season, they could only squeeze a 3-0 lead out of the advantage.

So when Warriors full back Ruairidh Jackson was preparing to take a 22 drop out in the 40th minute, he was much more interested in letting the clock run down than he was in restarting the match.

Of course, that makes sense. His team was going to have the wind behind them in the second half, and indeed as things turned out they finished ahead by 9-3.  But what interested me was the actual sequence of events before John Lacey blew the half time whistle.

First the Warriors tried to waste time by chucking the ball around to different would-be takers of the 22 drop out, before Lacey implored them to get on with it.  Then Jackson, rather than aim to take the kick long like one normally would in this situation, chose instead to faint at a little grubber forward, while never actually releasing the ball.

The result was the clock going red, him forcing an end to the half with the ball going out of play off an Osprey, and a mini-shammozle ensuing, To call it farcical would be an understatement - did Lacey handle it right?

It says quite clearly in Law 9 (Foul Play) that “A player must not…waste time Sanction : Free-kick”. There can be little doubt that's what Jackson was doing and since another aim of his was to avoid the opponents getting the ball, for them to have it via a scrum or a tap at the 22 would be a decent punishment.

The problem here stems from the 22 drop out itself. Is it me or are we seeing them less frequently as time goes on?   But anyway, the whole rigmarole of passing it around and second-guessing the opposition might be something the game can do without no matter what the clock might read, as it can get ridiculously messy. 

I haven't thought this through enough to have a list of possible solutions just yet, though maybe one would be get rid of the drop kick altogether and replace it with a scrum? 🤔


Many thanks for sticking with my latest Harpin Points until the end.   As the weekend gets closer we will of course be turning our focus towards Saturday's big match at the Aviva...stay tuned!!!  JLP

Front Five - 30.01.19

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

ICYMI click here for this week's
set of 80-word reviews from the Pro14


Rob Kearney remains a senior figure in Ireland camp but...Friday’s 60 minute return against Scarlets was noticeable for some uncharacteristic missed tackles.


Gavin Cummiskey - Irish Times

The unavailability of Ben Te’o for the opening Six Nations Test has...dispelled any notion that...England have uncovered the secret of keeping their best players fit.


Robert Kitson - The Guardian

Griggs has dismissed suggestions that his side’s amateur status puts them at a disadvantage for their Six Nations bow


Daire Walsh - Irish Examiner

New Zealand rugby is on the slow road to second-class citizenship unless the global game is shaken up.


Paul Cully - stuff.co.nz

“All of a sudden, people are taking photos of you in the street and there are paparazzi outside the hotel, which was very strange to me."


Murray Kinsella - 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

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

80-word reviews for weekend of Jan 25-27


ULSTER 17-17 BENETTON

Ulster started both halves brightly with Ludik going over in the first and Herring in the second, but both times the Italians were able to regroup and respond in kind. Getting the most out of their powerful wingers Benetton levelled the try count at two with Ian McKinley's placekicking giving them a lead going into the closing stages. Their stubborn D nearly held out until a Ross pilfer led to a penalty try from a collapsed maul for the draw. 

DRAGONS 7-8 MUNSTER

On a dreary drizzly day in Newport this was a battle of territory kicking and the home side had enough edge in accuracy and organization to lead 7-3 at HT thanks to a Fairbrother try. After the break Munster finally had a purple patch that led to a rake of penalties, a yellow for Screech and eventually a Kleyn try. While Dragon 10 Lewis impressed throughout, his missed penalty proved costly and the visitors brought the slender lead home. 

CARDIFF BLUES 8-7 CONNACHT

Cardiff had so much benefit from both home and strong wind advantage that they managed the game's first try (despite having TWO in the sinbin) courtesy of a fine finish in the corner by Lane.  But despite having the second half wind behind them, a series of errors meant Connacht had to wait until a 75m Boyle try to break their duck.  Conor Fitzgerald impressed off the bench but they probably should've come away with more than a losing BP.

GLASGOW WARRIORS 9-3 OSPREYS

On a Burns night of almost unplayable Glasgow gusts the Ospreys, who have relied on a territory kicking game all season, could only manage a 3-0 HT lead before their hosts pulled ahead with three 2nd half penalties.  A late Matawalu yellow gifted the visitors some space but during phases on the Warriors line, a very obviously illegal clearout from Olly Cracknell wasted the opportunity and the Scots were able to stay in touch with Conference A leaders Munster.

SOUTHERN KINGS 25-21 EDINBURGH

The first 78m had multiple errors, some scores, 1-1 in yellows despite way more Kings penalties though Edinburgh can't blame the ref without looking at themselves more.  I've saved my words for the incredible match-winning try by the home side.  Running from deep, sub Meli Rokua had the ball in one hand before offloading in mid-air while being tackled to Yaw Penxe who sprinted the rest of the way to score while somehow staying in play.  Outstanding.

Front Five - 30.01.19

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

ICYMI click here for our
Leinster v Scarlets writeup


Eddie Jones...has zeroed-in on Ireland’s aerial game, their work at the breakdown and willingness to take teams through a huge number of phases


John O'Sullivan - Irish Times

Defending champions Blackrock were made to fight right to the last minute to overcome Pres Bray


Irish Independent

"I hope that was just a once-off and nobody has to go through that again, because it’s silly."


Brendan O'Brien - Irish Examiner

"Everyone is excited. There is a lot of work to be done but we are ready to rock and roll on Saturday."


The42.ie

...he and Johnson, who will come together in March to try to resurrect Australia's test performance...will not be catching up over a coffee or beer.


Georgina Robinson - Stuff.co.nz

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, January 28, 2019

Leinster-22 Scarlets-17




For about ten minutes after the full time whistle the rugby gods mischievously threw a few gremlins into the RDS scoreboard making it show “LEINSTER-22 SCARLETS-27”, as if to remind everyone how the result could, and probably should, have looked.

And the crazy thing is that it wouldn't be that difficult to throw together a short ‘highlight reel’ for those who missed the 80 minutes which would give the impression that it was a standard Leinster home display where the only disappointment would be the lack of a 4th try.

You could start with our first five-pointer which came just before the break, a time when we've become infamous for troubling the scorers.  On a 5m lineout where I was fully expecting Scott Penny to maul his way over the line yet again, instead the Scarlets defended well though despite things getting a bit sloppy as it was sent out through the backs, eventually our centres Conor O’Brien and Rory O’Loughlin combined for the latter to get it over.

Try number two also began with a set piece from 5m out, this time a scrum. I have no way of knowing this but I reckon James Lowe looked at Dave Kearney's amazing finish in the corner against Toulouse and thought “that should be me” which, if true, would have made his finish in the same spot after an assist from Jamison Gibson-Park all the sweeter.

Finally there was the pick of our three scores when Vakh Abdaladze thundered past the gain line towards the Scarlets 22 and once it was recycled Noel Reid looked up and planted a cheeky little rugby league style grubber to stop just over the try line.  From the second it left Reid's boot, the visitor's Tom Prydie was favourite to tidy the situation yet somehow Barry Daly managed to nip around him at the vital moment and get it down.

So on that evidence plus the actual final score, you'd have no cause for concern, but it's when you start to fill in the missing blanks that the alarm bells start ringing.  For starters, there's the ten points the Scarlets left behind at the start of the half which would have made that scoreboard glitch look correct.

On our first attack after the break, outhalf Ciarán Frawley threw an over-ambitious long miss pass to the wide channel which was easily picked up by Paul Asquith, who ‘only’ had to run it to the line and get it down and bring his side back into the match, yet after inspection by the TMO it turned out he couldn't manage the second part.

Then just a few minutes later after spurning a few kickable penalty chances to go for the corner, they chose instead to go for the posts yet somehow Dan Jones managed to pull his effort wide.

And all this came after a first half when I can't for the life of me understand how the Scarlets managed to bring a duck egg with them to the dressing room.  We couldn't buy our way out of our own half for the first half an hour yet despite several visits to our 22, they just couldn't fabricate a score.

Here is where the paradox at the heart of this match lies.  For me, while Wayne Pivac and his coaching staff will have a lot to be frustrated about for his side's failure to score in those 40 minutes, a lot of it was actually down to an inability to break down Leinster's renowned defence.

Yes, yes, I know that sounds weird given how many tackles we missed on the night, and the experienced players were just as guilty as the youngsters; don't worry, I will get to that. But when a system that usually works over 90% of the time dips even 10% below that level, you're still going to see results and I reckon we did reasonably well overall to keep them scoreless before the break all told.

The defensive problems we did have seemed to stem from the point of contact.  We have to accept that the approach we take without the ball comes with a high element of risk.  Both Leinster and Ireland tend to stand up to ball carriers with a view to both preventing offloads and stripping the ball.

Given all the success both sides have had in recent times it is clear that putting so much faith in our technique can pay amazing dividends, at least the DVD session from Friday night's match can prove useful as a demonstration of what happens when the required accuracy just isn't there.

Time and time again when a strong-running Scarlet wasn't breaking past his initial challenger altogether, we were being pinged for a high tackle, in fact so often that we were perhaps lucky not to have seen a card for repeated offences.

And if you look back over situations where opponents have broken through our first line before, you'll see that more often than not our scrambling is able to retrieve the situation.  For me the key to this has been the positioning work done by the centres, and while much of the blame has been placed elsewhere, I feel this is why the Scarlets eventually did make it over our line.

You'll just have to believe me when I say I don't want to be defending Rob Kearney.  He definitely missed some tackles on the night and none of them looked good.  Tell you what - I'll even use one as the lead photo as proof that I know he made mistakes.

But let's look at that first Scarlet try and how it developed. Yes, he missed his man badly when Dan Davis (yet another rollout from the Scarlet Super 7 Showroom it seems) was open in the wide channel, but why was there all that space and should Rob have to rush in and handle that situation?

For me, that sequence actually demonstrates just how used we have gotten to the kind of defensive coverage offered by centre pairings all the way back to the Darce-Drico days.  On this occasion, the spacing was wrong, and the Scarlets are definitely a team that can hurt you when they spot it.

And in case you think I'm picking on The Centres' Union, the rare failings don't just come from there; the previous weekend against Wasps, Andrew Porter fell asleep at the pillar position allowing Robson to break through and score.

Of course those situations should be a concern, but we can't just look at them in isolation, even within just the one match.  For every line break that produces a score against us we must also remember the many long series of over a dozen phases that didn't.

And even going back beyond that error in coverage, that try scored by Scarlet 9 Kieran Hardy could be said to have been caused by a box kick from Gibson-Park that was way too long which made it more difficult for our defence to set.

So for now, rather than spend too much time pointing fingers at individual mistakes, until they happen so frequently that results suffer as a consequence, it might be better to appreciate what those same individuals manage the rest of the time.

The second Scarlet try is a lot easier to analyse IMO.  Even if Abdaladze hadn't just sprinted up the field on the way to setting up our third try, it was still a mismatch when he had the sprightly Johnny McNicholl running at him and again it was Hardy running a perfect support line which meant the match was still alive going into the final few minutes.

But to return to things positive for Leinster on the night for a moment, let the record show that we went 7/7 at scrums, 11/11 at lineouts, and kept the penalty count relatively low at 7.  Though while Ross Molony did put in a good shift helping produce those numbers, I wouldn't have given him man of the match.

To be fair to both him and eirSport's Liam Toland who gave the award, the flurry of strong tackles from Barry Daly in the closing stages came after the announcement was made, yet still I felt the winger had an outstanding night anyway up to that point, not just due to his fine opportunist finish either.

Honourable mention should also go to Scott Penny - perhaps he didn't get one of his trademark tries off a lineout maul but he definitely showed us other aspects of his game.  On a night when missed tackles were being highlighted, he just had one against his name as he easily led the category for those he made with 23, plus he placed a thundering hit of his own in the final minutes to force a turnover.

It wasn't the best outing by a Leinster halfback pairing at the RDS by a long stretch it has to be said, but again we have seen enough from both Hugh O’Sullivan and Ciarán Frawley to suggest tat given more game time they will improve.

And as if the previous 79 or so minutes weren't enough to suggest that Leinster were going to win this no matter what, the Scarlets had a final insult right at the very end.

Despite his try in the corner, James Lowe wasn't immune from the odd mistake on the night and while he is arguably the best in the game right now at the ‘leave and retrieve’ manoeuvre after being tackled, attempting it when we're looking to wind down the clock perhaps wasn't the best plan and he had it pilfered by Ed Kennedy.

That gave the visitors one final shot and finding a way through and after much persistence and recycling, Asquith did manage to get into our backfield yet his offload to the hat-trick-seeking Hardy had too much weariness in it and it went to ground allowing us to recover and put the fortunate victory to bed.

With the Six Nations about to start, plus the fact that Leinster's lead atop Conference B is now more than 4 BP wins (all four in the chasing pack failed to win in this round, and two of them played each other!!!), there should be plenty more chances for our next generation to gather more valuable experience before this season is out.

If we want to dwell on the mistakes from Friday night we can, but it's worth remembering we can also cite the Law of Swings and Roundabouts given we were a bit unlucky in the reverse fixture back in September.

Besides, now we're entering the portion of the season where the marquee matches come along pretty much every weekend, IMO all we can do is be happy with the four points, accept we were lucky to get away with one and move on. JLP


Later this week; 80-word reviews on Tuesday, Harpin Points on Wednesday then it's the telly post on Thursday before we start looking ahead to the big Six Nations kickoff, with of course Front Five every morning. Do stay tuned!

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Front Five -28.01.19

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 Leinster v Scarlets


"He will be better for having come through game minutes because he's just been a little bit shy in that. He will be well able to step up."


Cian Tracey - Irish Independent

"I love some of the amateur values that still exist in rugby. But I know it happens. I know it's happened to us."


RTÉ Rugby

This was a day for playing as little of the ball in your own half as humanly possible and forcing the mistake spheroid down the field to try and pull a booboo out of the opposition.


Three Red Kings

"We didn’t do the simple things well. We got beaten at the breakdown and couldn’t clear our lines.”


Steffan Thomas - Irish Examiner

The Rathmines school conceded far too many penalties throughout the 70 minutes and their indiscipline...cost them dearly here.


SOURCE 5

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

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