Sunday, February 24, 2019

Leinster-59 Southern Kings-19

Another eighty minutes, another comfortable win for Leinster Rugby.  I could express disappointment at the three tries we conceded, or I could suggest this margin of victory calls into question the value of having the Southern Kings in the league.

But both opinions are very unfair on our opposition.  As Leinster fans we have to acknowledge that we can't impose our own high standards on every team we face - not every operation has enjoyed both the continuous success and conveyor belt of talent that others have.

And here's a mad notion - maybe when other teams score against us we can give them credit rather than harping only on the mistakes we made?  Sure we made a couple of errors on the night but the chances still had to be taken and the Kings have shown several times since they joined the league that they can play when given the opportunity.  Besides, I seem to remember things being a lot closer when we played at their place back in November.

If I had any qualms about this match it would be on the timing; for one thing I'm not wild about both Leinster and Ireland playing the same weekend (of course I enjoy having extra rugby to write about but I'm thinking more in terms of fans wanting to go watch the games), and for another I thought 7:55pm was too late of a kickoff time.

But more than anything else this was another night of Leinster Rugby, we saw loads of tries, got to see even more from the upcoming batch of talent, and now we're in a position where any kind of win against the Cheetahs next Friday will seal us top spot in Conference B of the Pro14.  If you can't say 'Happy out' after those facts surrounding this match, then I don't know what to tell you 😉 .

All that leaves me is to tell the story of the match by describing the dozen five-pointers.


It began when we won a free kick off a scrum in our own half and it was taken quickly by Hugh O’Sullivan before a jinking run front Reid got over the halfway line and onto the front foot.  Strong carries from Daly and Lowe ept us going to the 22 with quick innovative distribution from O’Sullivan before Reid wrong footed two Kings defenders to saunter over the line with relative ease. 


The Kings had their distinctive skipper Astle on the bench but had to go to him early and he helped inspire his pack to go through some phases in our 22 before it went out wide to Springbok Basson whose footwork bamboozled McFadden to allow him over in the corner. 


Fair play to the Kings they continued their purple patch, with more phases in our 22 and putting penalties in to touch.  Eventually it was a snipe from scrum half Sarel Pretorius, who has previous in this league with the Dragons, that put the visitors into a shock lead, something Zebre never managed last week despite their heroic fightback. 


Noel Reid showed not only that he's a different type of 12 to Conor O’Brien, but he can also be effective and here a neat little grubber into their 22 forced the Kings to give us an attacking lineout.  From there some more strong carries got it to the line and with penalty advantage coming, Ed Byrne ducked his way impressively over the line. 


This time it was Molony, Mick Kearney, Doris and Deegan providing the gain-line busting muscle to get it to the line before Ed Byrne produced a virtual carbon copy of his first try, though the referee needed a couple of looks before awarding it. 


A neat McFadden offload gave Daly a hint of space at halfway and his kick forward into the 22 earned us another attacking lineout.  From there we went back to battering the Kings line before a couple of passes got it to Reid who went over.  I may be betraying my loose head roots here but I personally thought Reid should have just about pipped Ed Byrne to man of the match; for me he was most influential in our getting the BP sewn up before halftime.


O’Sullivan was a little late reading the pass coming off a Kings scrum and was forced to gamble on picking it off, one he lost.  This allowed their outhalf Bader Pretorius some open field to run into and he had his full back Beyers in support to go over and get the visitors back within five. 


Thankfully their third try got us to kick things up a notch.  Ross Byrne was the creator this time around, with a strong carry into their 22 before flipping an offload in the tackle to Daly who sailed over.


As if they were hell bent on a strong showing before being substituted, all of our starting front row, including debutant Ronan Kelleher, were involved in the heavy lifting leading up to this score, with Porter providing the final push, again with a penalty advantage. The Kings were only officially 'credited' with three penalties but I reckon it was out of mercy that the Kings didn't get a yellow card on the night for all the goal-line no-nos. 


A crooked Kings lineout dart gave us a scrum at halfway. From there a Ross Byrne kick pass found James Lowe who did well to stay in play before we got the ball to a central position at the 22.  Max Deegan spotted a lack of breakdown coverage by the South Africans and showed great strength after his pick and go to bring it all the way.  He has a good knack for nabbing five-pointers whatever back row position he plays. 


Conor O’Brien looked a little more subdued at 13 this week, though to be fair it was so easy for both Ross Byrne and Noel Reid to make breaks he was hardly needed. On his occasion he broke the gain line and although his offload to Rory O’Loughlin looked forward, it wasn't called and our sub scrum half Patterson gave good support to provide the finish. 


Yet again we created an attacking opportunity by kicking ahead into the 22 forcing the Kings to put it out, and from there we proceeded to bombard their try line with more phases before O’Loughlin did well to stretch out and get it down under the posts. 


Apparently the attendance was around 10k - that's low for the RDS but understandable given the opposition and the fact that many were bound for Rome.  When it came to stats on the pitch, given we enjoyed two-thirds share of both possession and territory then that makes all the others look equally lop sided.

We expected a big win, which we got, and I'm happy.  This match will be furthest from our thoughts when we get to May, but you'll have a hard time convincing me that matches like these aren't worthwhile  JLP

Stay tuned for our Italy v Ireland writeup which will post on Monday evening.

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