Thursday, June 13, 2019

Leinster Rugby 2018/19 - the writeup of all writeups

Joe Tomane in his first appearance for the boys in blue in our preseason friendly against Montauban

For the second season in a row, Leinster played the ideal number of matches any team would want in their campaign (I say 'ideal' rather than 'maximum' because we could have had a Pro 14 quarterfinal as well).  It may not have brought forth the same amount of trophies as 2017/18 but all in all it was a set of 32 contests that would have been the envy of most clubs across the continent.

I'm still not sure if I would have done one of these 'writeup of all writeups' posts had we lost to Glasgow, but it's probably best not to think about that too much.

For me we seemed to have a lot more 'meaningless' matches than usual; some that became that way because of our sheer dominance, and others because we had built so much of a lead on the Conference B table that getting a result in the Pro14 wasn't a priority for over two months.

So on we go - there was no writeup for the preseason opener in Montauban but every other contest in the campaign got the full Harpin treatment...

AUGUST/SEPTEMBER

Friday, Aug 10 - Friendly
Montauban 17-18 Leinster

Friday, Aug 17 - Friendly

"What we saw in Donnybrook on Friday was two different teams at different stages of preseason readiness and anyone who knows anything about rugby understands that the eighty minutes would have been very different had it taken place during the competitive season."


writeup = 'QUALITY FALCON RUGBY'

Fri Aug 31 - Pro 14 Round 1

"Put in simplest terms, we fell fifteen points behind when we shouldn't have before clawing our way back to victory when we shouldn't have."


writeup = 'FLOODLIGHT ROBBERY'

Sat Sep 8 - Pro 14 Round 2

"If the 2018/19 Leinster setup are going to learn anything from this 80 minutes, we have to ask ourselves a simple question...'We were short of victory by 3pts...was that completely down to the referee?', to which the answer would only be a resounding 'no'. "


writeup = 'LLANELLI LESSONS LEARNED'

Sat Sep 15 - Pro 14 Round 3

"Just like that, with the clock at 45:28, as the pre-halftime leavers are probably tucking into their burgers and pints, the now-recovered Sexton is popping over the extra two points for a 17-0 cushion at the break."


writeup = 'REWARDING SUPPORT'

Sat Sep 22 - Pro 14 Round 4
Leinster 31-7 Edinburgh

"I don't want all of these writeups to be 'Leinster love-ins' and I'll do my best to be critical when I think it's warranted, but once in a while I'd like to start one off by recounting a masterpiece move from the ‘training paddock’ as best as I can"

writeup = 'OPTIONAL EXTRAS'

Sat Sep 29 - Pro 14 Round 5
Connacht 3-20 Leinster

"Pretty much every carrier in a green shirt was met either at or behind the gainline by two tacklers in blue ones.  There was simply nowhere to go, and this applied in the 80th minute every bit as much as it did in the first quarter once Connacht started coming at us."


writeup = 'AGAINST THE GRAIN'

after 5 roundsFADIFFMP
LEINSTER157758220
SCARLETS1481123615
ULSTER119152-3315
BENETTON117138-2111
EDINBURGH97118-2111
DRAGONS83129-469
STH KINGS97169-726

OCTOBER

Sat Oct 6 - Pro 14 Round 6

"Last year at this fixture I embarrassed myself in the stands by spilling my pint. This time my mates will probably tell you that I did so by standing up and screaming “NO WAY!!!” over and over after Lowe’s dive to get the ball down. Maybe, just maybe, there was a colourful adjective between those two words."


writeup = 'LOWE POINTS'

Fri Oct 12 - Champions Cup Round 1


"What I particularly liked about this move was the way Robbie Henshaw fixed his runner, made him bite and nonchalantly shovelled the offload to Lowe in classic top-level centre fashion. Only it wasn't Henshaw doing all that, was it.  It was Tadhg Furlong!!!!"

writeup = 'UPGRADE'

Sat Oct 20 - Celtic Cup Final
Scarlets A 8-15 Leinster A
Technically Leinster did another double this season but we won't harp too loudly about it as one was the Celtic Cup which replaced the much-maligned British &Irish Cup. Still, there were a lot of positives from this campaign (though apparently not enough for me to do a writeup on the final!). For one thing the format of one seven-week block of matches is much better than playing them on the same weekends as the Champions Cup, but more importantly in was a great opportunity for next generation stars like Conor O'Brien and Scott Penny to get game time.
Sun Oct 21 - Champions Cup Round 2

"Toulouse were ready for us. We weren't ready for them being ready for us. But that the two points we were lacking to keep this winning run going were definitely on our side of things gives us every opportunity to come back even stronger."

writeup = 'FIVE STAR RUGBY'

Sat Oct 27 - Pro 14 Round 7

"I was delighted to see Joe (Tomane) score.  He has been the target of a lot of social media jibes in recent weeks.  A lot of it, in fairness, was justified because on more than one occasion moves seemed to break down when they reached him.  That said, a lot of those observations came with a hint of what I call 'import scapegoating' about them..."


writeup = 'TICKING BOXES'

after 7 roundsFADIFFMP
LEINSTER21810011829
SCARLETS2091634624
ULSTER170192-2221
EDINBURGH150173-2316
BENETTON148174-2616
DRAGONS116188-729
STH KINGS136238-1028

Pool 1 after 2 roundsFADIFFMP
TOULOUSE504738
LEINSTER7931486
BATH5557-24
WASPS3887-493

NOVEMBER

Sun Nov 4 - Pro 14 Round 8

"...the system errors were frustrating throughout but we've played like this many's a time over the years and ended up losing because the leaders we'd be relying on wouldn't step up and that's what made the difference for us."


writeup = 'KINGS FOR A DAY'

Fri Nov 23 - Pro 14 Round 9

"Even though the Scarlets also won with a bonus point on the night, this victory made the top of the Conference B table look even more ridiculous than it already did."


writeup = 'THE DIFFERENCE'

after 9 roundsFADIFFMP
LEINSTER30813817039
SCARLETS2592065329
ULSTER197231-3425
EDINBURGH193212-1922
BENETTON183220-3718
DRAGONS146233-8713
STH KINGS181307-12610

DECEMBER

Sat Dec 1 - Pro 14 Round 10

"78m - Leinster try #9 - Jimmy O’Brien...yet the squeeze from the reigning champions was relentless.  This time it was Max Deegan with a miss pass that found a ‘JOB opening’ out wide and this time he had work to do in applying the finish yet he made it look, yes, ridiculously easy."


writeup = 'SCHOOL OF RUGBY' 

Sat Dec 8 - Champions Cup Round 2

"Jordan Larmour...For him to draw a bead on the trajectory of the ball, take it and sprint under the posts with Semesa Rokoduguni on his tail was no mean feat whatsoever."


writeup = 'FLAG DAY'

Sat Dec 15 - Champions Cup Round 4

"I often say the job a number 8 does at the back of a scrum is one of the most under-appreciated skills in the game.   Everyone points to GAA for Rob Kearney's high ball prowess but can you think of a sport that prepares you for leaning forward, sticking your head between two arses and controlling a rugby ball at your feet while a scrum is charging ahead???"


writeup = 'CLIMATE CHANGES'

Sat Dec 22 - Pro 14 Round 11

"...you can rest assured that this is one of the precious few places on t'internet where an author will take Saturday evening's Leinster v Connacht match and compare it to a particular movie in such a way as to make the boys in blue seem like the good guys!"


writeup = 'DIE HA(RDS)'

Sat Dec 29 - Pro 14 Round 12
"Chasing an egg around Thomond Park did not lead to the final score.  It was a result that stemmed from an inability to cope with tactics that anyone with the smallest amount of rugby understanding knew Munster were going to deploy..."
writeup = 'SEEING RED'

after 12 roundsFADIFFMP
LEINSTER41720321449
ULSTER244273-2934
BENETTON243257-1431
SCARLETS296288830
EDINBURGH246271-2530
DRAGONS195333-13818
STH KINGS*200329-12911
* = 2 games in hand


Pool 1 after Round 4FADIFFMP
TOULOUSE116902617
LEINSTER138588015
BATH82116-345
WASPS89153-643

JANUARY

Sat Jan 5 - Pro 14 Round 13
"...the odds that the emerging talent pool was going to be evenly spread about the island were always long and with Leinster having the largest population and the most silverware, it's not that surprising that such a large percentage of them hails from there."

writeup = 'MIND THE GAP'

Sat Jan 12 - Champions Cup Round 5

"It was never easy and it took a mountain of hard work, but on Saturday this so-called ‘under strength’ Leinster squad put in one of the most comprehensive displays I dare say the RDS has ever seen."

writeup = 'SPECIALE DÉJEUNER'

Sat Jan 19 - Champions Cup Round 6
"In simplest terms we were resorting to a mostly running game, but when most of the carries come equipped with two teammates in perfect position to clear out, then each one is guaranteed to be profitable."

writeup = 'SLOW AND STEADY...' 

Fri Jan 25 - Pro 14 Round 14
"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."


writeup = 'GOT AWAY WITH ONE'

after 14 roundsFADIFFMP
LEINSTER47922725258
BENETTON280291-1137
EDINBURGH305296936
ULSTER268330-6236
SCARLETS3353231235
DRAGONS215363-14819
STH KINGS*242412-17016
* = 1 game in hand

Final Pool 1 tableFADIFFMP
Leinster - Q2048811625
Toulouse - q1491361321
Bath115152–3710
Wasps134190–924

FEBRUARY

Sat Feb 16 - Pro 14 Round 15
Zebre 24-40 Leinster

"...we started to see Conor O’Brien showing what he can bring to this level of rugby and probably higher.   Even in the minimum of space he can fight his way past a gain line, but when a set move affords him green grass ahead, his strong, upright style of running can be devastating"


writeup = 'IT'S NOT ALL BLACK AND WHITE'

Fri Feb 22 - Pro 14 Round 16
Leinster 59-19 Kings

"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."
writeup = 'SOUTHERN COMFORT'

after 16 roundsFADIFFMP
LEINSTER57827030868
BENETTON3623174546
ULSTER330337-745
EDINBURGH3563322442
SCARLETS3973692841
DRAGONS239454-21519
STH KINGS297554-25718

MARCH

Fri Mar 1 - Pro 14 Round 17
Leinster 19-7 Cheetahs

"...by God, this was a rough 80 minutes of rugby to watch.  So rough in fact that I didn't bother rewatching the final quarter and that's a rarity at Harpin Manor."
writeup = 'DAMP SQUIB'

Fri Mar 22 - Pro 14 Round 18
Edinburgh 28-11 Leinster

"Leinster are in a very unique situation, going into the final four regular season matches in the Pro14 knowing that even if we lost them all 100-0 we'd still finish in first place in Conference B to earn a home semifinal and the first weekend in May off.  This offers some interesting challenges."

writeup - 'RETURN TRIP'

Sat Mar 30 - Champions Cup Quarterfinal
Leinster 21-18 Ulster

"So that was it - victory for Leinster as most predicted but it could have easily gone the other way.  Ulster came with the right attitude and did themselves proud but in the end I think our experience in this particular competition served us well in the second half."
writeup - 'BODIES ON THE LINE'

after 18 roundsFADIFFMP
LEINSTER - Q60830530372
ULSTER3913712055
BENETTON3943563850
EDINBURGH3943613347
SCARLETS424416845
DRAGONS274511-23719
STH KINGS335613-27819

APRIL

Sat Apr 6 - Pro 14 Round 19
Leinster 27-27 Benetton

"Overall I find Max (Deegan) to be an extremely versatile player that seems to take great care in developing every aspect of his game.  After excelling at 8 since his rise to the Pro 14 side, he has been at “6s at 7s” only in the literal sense in recent weeks, and his man of the match award on Saturday was well deserved.

writeup = 'CHOPPING AND CHANGING'

Sat Apr 13 - Pro 14 Round 20
Leinster 24-39 Glasgow

"Basically my opinion on our lack of victories in this ‘midseason preseason’ is this : we have shown in the past that no matter what kind of form we bring into European matches, we can perform on the day."

writeup = 'SEVEN TRIES FOR FIVE BROTHERS'

Sun Apr 21 - Champions Cup Semifinal
Leinster 30-12 Toulouse

"after a run of disappointing results, Leinster certainly found a way to produce the goods when it mattered.  But despite the impressive display, it was clear at times that we had another level to reach for as well, and with Saracens awaiting for us in Newcastle, we will have to find it."

writeup = 'GEAR SHIFT'

Sat Apr 27 - Pro 14 Round 21
Ulster 14-13 Leinster

"You'll just have to trust me that I'm being sincere when I say I was delighted or them.  Of course no one likes to see their team lose but I have harped before on how Ulster have had some rotten luck in recent years so I couldn't begrudge them these celebrations."

writeup = 'ZOMBIE RUBBER'

after 21 rounds (final)FADIFFMP
LEINSTER - Q67238528776
ULSTER - q4414241763
BENETTON - q4744314357
EDINBURGH431436-551
SCARLETS5104704052
DRAGONS339599-26026
STH KINGS385735-35022

MAY

Sat May 11 - Champions Cup Final
LEINSTER 10-20 SARACENS 


"We started strong, they came back stronger.  That just about sums it up perfectly, doesn't it? No need for me to write anymore, right?"

writeup = 'STRONGER'

Sat May 18 - Pro 14 Semifinal
Leinster 24-9 Munster


"I think we can pretty much take it for granted that as long as James Lowe is with Leinster, he'll make a point of getting himself involved somehow against our biggest rivals."


writeup = 'COLLISION COURSE'

Sat May 25 - Pro 14 Final
GLASGOW WARRIORS 15-18 LEINSTER

"It's not that I thought that this was an easy victory, but watching the way Leinster set about the entire match put me in mind of one word : 'comfortable'. "

writeup = 'PARADISE WON'

The disappointment from Newcastle still lingers after less than a month as I put this post together, but overall there was more than enough to make all Leinster fans eager for 2019/20 to kick off. Leo, Stu & Dr Phil still at the helm, plenty of new players to bring through to regular spots in the senior squad, and of course a 7th league title and 5th star still to aim for. Bring it on. JLP

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