Monday, August 19, 2019

Leinster-47 Coventry-17

"The reigning Pro 14 champions and 2019 Champions Cup finalists may have been without their Irish World Cup contingent, but the Dublin production line showed that it is far from slowing down in the amount of talent coming through."

writeup on official Coventry Rugby site by Chris Wearmouth


To be fair, it wasn't totally Harry Byrne's Game as there were some good performances throughout the extended Leinster matchday squad; the title is more an excuse to reference an 80's TV show known for it's haunting theme music (and trust me, more 'actual' journalists of my vintage will be tempted by the headline as this lad's career progresses).  

But his performance on Saturday is as good a place to start as any, seeing how there's a good chance he'll be playing a part in Leinster A's Celtic Cup fortunes over the coming weeks, and all going well for his brother Ross in the Irish set-up, possibly the Pro 14 come the end of September.

Overall he showed more than enough prowess with the boot to suggest it is a family trait; nailing a number of decent conversions as well as pinning the visitors back with a number of long touchfinders.  

When it came to the English second-tier outfit's fortunes with the ball, they just could not come to grips with what most Irish fans would call our "lightning quick line speed"; although perhaps their coaches might suggest it was more our "tendency to stray offside".

But to their immense credit, they never stopped trying to find creative ways around our defensive system, and if they had a bit more luck with a bounce here or there, could have had more than the three tries they managed on the day - they never stopped playing until the final whistle.

Going back to the boys in blue purple, in my preview I expected great things of our starting back three of Daly, Adam Byrne and the returning Cian Kelleher yet while they did do well, it was actually the starting pack that worked best as a unit.

The front row of Dooley, Ronan Kelleher and Abdaladze did much of the heavy lifting , our locks (skipper) Ross Moloney and Josh Murphy pretty much owned the lineouts with or without the throw in, while the back row of Martin Moloney, Will Connors and Ronan Foley impressed in the loose and played a big part when the tackles needed to be made (yes folks, there appear to be even more quality 6s, 7s and 8s coming through the system).

So let's make our way through the game's ten tries shall we.  After about 15 minutes of the teams feeling each other out by way of kick tennis, Barry Daly finally bucked the trend and chose to run, weaving his way through a series of gaps in Coventry defenders putting us on the front foot around the 22 before a kick through just evaded his fellow winger Adam Byrne and instead we earned a 5m scrum.

From there it was just a question of which pick and go would have enough force and quality support to get it over the line and eventually the honour went to tighthead prop Vakh Abdaladze : 7-0.

By now Coventry had worked out that they needed to get creative to breach our defensive line and their 9 Will Flinn put a nice dink over the top before recovering himself and was only stopped by a Barry Daly ankle tap.  The broken play resulted in a Leinster penalty which Harry (might as well mostly go with his first name as we have so many Byrnes) dispatched all the way back into their 22.

From the lineout we hopped back on the phase train around the line with Josh Murphy this time the one to register the 5 points, with an easy enough conversion: 14-0.

We were now into the second quarter and once more it was a lineout in their 22 which set us up as Josh Murphy took the catch, more phases within 5m of the line and now Rowan Osborne (also had a decent outing - did well to get a start here seeing how he's technically behind 4 in Leinster's pecking order) used his backs and Harry's quick hands evaded the tackler putting Adam Byrne through and here the young outhalf added the extras with his most difficult conversion: 21-0.

Our lineout domination continued when we stole one of their darts in the 22 and on the ensuing phases Harry went himself to go under the posts for the score you see in the lead photo - in some ways he made it look easy, but in this case you could say it was more Coventry's would-be tacklers that did; 28-0.

The lead got to 35 soon after Connors and Foley combined well with strong running and offloads from halfway to get us near the line which set up Abdaladze for his second try - at this stage a repeat of our 60-burger against Moseley in 2015 seemed to be on the cards (was that really FOUR years ago??? 🤔).

But from the restart after try number 5 the Leinster D seemed to have the halftime oranges on their minds as our guests took full advantage cutting through the middle before their full back James Stokes went in under the posts making the halftime score 35-7.

My phone battery was about to die so I tried to leg it to my car (which was near Herbert Park) to retrieve my charger cable and I JUST about made it back to the ground in time for the second half kick off only Max Deegan had barged over for try number 6 by the time I actually returned to my seat.

Deegan's involvement of course meant that the expected bout of chopping and changing to the lineups had begun at the break.  This is my one and only teeny tiny bugbear with these preseason outings - to even some of the most frequent observers of Leinster Rugby, the matchday squads are less of a "Who's Who" and more of a "Who's That?" so maybe they could find a way to number the jerseys beyond 23 to make straightforward identification easier.

Or another solution could be one we've seen from Premiership visitors to these fixtures in recent years, namely selecting separate 1-23 squads for each half and publishing both lineups in the programme.  But like I say, it is but a small pedantic concern despite my harping on it for two paragraphs! 😜

Coventry seemed to adapt to the substitutions better, with Stokes arguably man of the second half, possibly having been rewarded for his earlier try by being moved to playmaker in place of Will Maisey and he played a part in both of two tries in quick succession courtesy of Junior Bulumakau and Dan Lewis.

Leinster's own outhalf switch had something of the opposite effect with Jimmy O'Brien taking the reigns in the closing stages as several trips to the 22 came to nothing but after over 20 minutes without a score, the match finally had one left in it as yet another close-range lineout saw Deegan catch, James Tracy peel off the maul and Ronan Watters getting it over the line to leave the final margin at a healthy thirty.

Once more I'd like to wish Coventry Rugby all the best for the season ahead; hopefully they can build on their impressive 9 wins last season to finish even higher in the RFU Championship and they certainly seem to have an impressive set up that could do it.

As for Leinster, all in all it was a good eighty minutes for the coaches to pore over their options for our Celtic Cup campaign which opens in Cardiff next weekend as well as the senior team's preseason outings against Canada and Northampton.  But as far as the crowd over well over 2k at Energia Park Donnybrook was concerned, the day's rugby was not yet over.


Having liveblogged my way through the men's match, I wanted to sit back and watch the girls in blue open the defence of their interprovincial title and what an entertaining eighty minutes it was.

Two important points need to be made - first,  I have to put my hand on heart and admit that I feared the crowd for the second match would be very much inferior to the first; I could not have been more wrong.  If anyone in the grandstand did leave before the women kicked off at half five, they were definitely replaced and thanks in part to some extremely vocal Connacht support, the resulting atmosphere was if anything even more raucous than the curtain raiser.

Next I want to be at pains to point out just how misleading the final score was.  Perhaps Leinster were that bit more organised and experienced when chances were created, but the fact remains that the Connacht women were extremely unlucky not to register even the one try as their pack had a massive nudge in the scrums (especially in the first half) and they threw the kitchen sink at their hosts' line in the closing stages.

If any sequence summed up both the atmosphere and the action itself it was this one minute of footage I managed to snag on my phone towards the end.   After a prolonged series of attacks on the Leinster line it was eventually intercepted by Meabh O’Brien who ran the length of the pitch for a decisive score and as you can see it raised the roof of the grandstand.

On the individual players, I'd love to have the time to cover the women enough to know more of their names but I did recognize most of the senior internationals, like Sene Naoupu who was captain and played at 10.  She did well though it looked like she probably needed more time in the playmaker role after playing in the centre at the highest level for so long.

In the pack I am always impressed by Lindsay Peat, probably having been a loose head myself back in the day, but I also have to say her determined attitude was matched throughout by her fellow prop Linda Djougang.

But the most important question of the day, namely could the women and men play side by side on the schedule and provide the same level of top entertainment for onlookers, the answer was an absolutely emphatic yes.  Just look across the water where all the top US sports go on for over three hours for just one contest - this provided two in just over four and the crowd remained involved throughout.  

As for the final leg of the triple header, namely Leinster's U19 men against Ulster, well I'd love to say I was able to hold out for that one as well but alas I was needed elsewhere.  Might be a stretch to expect everyone to stay for the three matches but definitely no harm in staging them together anyway and this is definitely something that can work again for Leinster Rugby, and not just in preseason either, I'd wager.  

Next up for Leinster is another Saturday triple header of sorts, only in separate locations and in one case a completely different time zone.  Like I said earlier the Celtic Cup side has their opening fixture in Cardiff although given it kicks off at 2:30, the result might get lost in the media attention surrounding the big RWC warmup as Twickenham half an hour later.

The Senior Women have their second interpro kicking off in Belfast at 7pm while the men have their unusual outing against the Canadian World Cup squad in Hamilton which starts at 8pm our time.

As you can see, despite all the RWC2019 hype building with each passing day, the Leinster season train has also left the station, we'll be doing our best to stay on board throughout; hope you'll stay with us!  JLP

Later this week here at :

Tuesday - Guest posts
Wednesday - Podcast (featuring interview with Ciarán Duffy)
Friday - England v Ireland preview (video)
Sunday - a selection of online comments after England v Ireland
Monday - England v Ireland match writeup
Every morning 8:30am - Front 5
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Stay tuned!!!

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