Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Front Five - 31.12.19

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

ICYMI click here for our
Munster v Leinster writeup

"When you’ve got an injury, I think mentally you’ve got to be in a good place, first of all, and that is reflected in your demeanour."

Brendan O'Brien - Irish Examiner

 "We have got 24 or 25 fit to select from for a 23-man squad."

John Fallon - Irish Independent

"There are a few things that the coaches want to change. It’s making sure that everyone is on the same page."

John O'Sullivan - Irish Times

A game of two halves we thought and to some extent it was but it was more a game of two defences and of contrasting tactics on handling the conditions.


"...a man noted for wit and humour and someone that’ll go toe to toe with the best looseheads in the history of the game"

Pat McCarry - SportsJoe.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

Monday, December 30, 2019

Munster-6 Leinster-13

You certainly can't blame this result on Frank Murphy.  Sure, his being from Munster wasn't the best look, nor was the fact that he reffed the same match last season which proved so controversial, nor was the way he was on a first name basis with the players as if he was an Under-12 coach asked to hold the whistle on a Sunday morning.  Yet the unified online anger against him (ranging from "He might as well have a red jersey on" to "Yeah, Frank, we get it, you're trying to be neutral") suggested his decisions really couldn't be linked to the outcome.

You can't blame this result on the conditions either, for the simple reason that both sides had 40 minutes with the wind at their backs.  It was a reality that needed to be handled, and Leinster did it better; I'd even go as far to say that had we been against the wind in the first half it wouldn't have made a difference.

I'd love to find a way of laying some kind of blame at eirSport TV, but only because I'm a finicky fan who likes as many stats as possible to help me analyse what's going on.  Once you get used to features like a "phase counter" graphic, you always expect them, and they are especially missed in low-scoring contests like these where there are key series of possessions that are heading towards the 40 mark.  It's challenging enough to keep track of who's carrying, who's tackling, who's clearing and who's fouling without trying to keep count of every breakdown as well.

I wouldn't even go as far as to blame the result on Munster's performance either.  They were definitely missing a spark at half back, especially for the first hour or so, but that said Leinster were making (or being forced into) enough offensive mistakes on their own to suggest the seven points that proved the difference at the end could have been found somehow, perhaps with a fully fit Murray/Carbery combo pulling the strings.

So what do we blame it on - the boogie?  Well yes, I suppose, if you want to use that word to describe Leinster's defending, which returned to the levels of consistency and organisation that has brought us similar tight away wins at Zebre and Lyon so far this season, offering a clear response to any concerns we might have had with Ulster's late try-spree last weekend.

As I watched this match the first time as a fan, I saw several different ways we could have thrown away our early lead, especially when Jack O'Sullivan jackled a penalty in our 22 at the 78 minute mark following immense pressure on our scrum.  But watching it again as a blogger who has written up all 24 of these contests throughout the 'Onesies', I couldn't help but be impressed by the blend of determination and confidence in the boys in blue without the ball from kickoff to the final whistle.  Full strength or no, you don't keep Munster tryless at Thomond Park without earning it.

Another thing I noticed on re-watch was that it looked to all intents and purposes that everything Leinster did was pre-planned.  Use the wind in the first half to build a decent lead, then trust your defense to bring it home.   While that might have been a very rough outline of the actual approach adopted by Leo and co, it's a hell of a lot easier typed than done.  Yet there we were getting over their line before the clock reached double digits.

The first to struggle with the windy conditions was former Leinster scrum half Nick McCarthy.  I'm assuming he practiced his box kicking in the warmups with some success because otherwise it would have been crazy to keep going back to them the way he did.  First, one would go too long, and when he tried to course correct the next one, it would just go straight up and down.  The happy medium could not be found - the only question was if Leinster would be able to capitalise.

While McCarthy was failing to clear, Ross Byrne was having great success with exerting pressure via territory kicks that kept the home side pinned back.  One such exchange gave Leinster an attacking lineout right on the 22 and after Devin Toner hauled the dart down and James Tracy cradled the ball as the maul edged forward, a neat set play from Rowan Osborne > Conor O'Brien > Ross Byrne > James Lowe got us all the way to the Munster line.  Just a few phases later Ed Byrne was being bundled over and there was our lead.

Now our task was to build on it.  Although the score suggests otherwise, there were some big moments from Munster throughout the match, but their only problem is that they were scattered throughout - making hay each time proved nigh on impossible and sometimes they actually regressed.

One such moment was a trademark jackled penalty from their tenacious openside flanker Chris Cloete that really got the crowd going.  Unfortunately for them, his desire to repeat the feat minutes later resulted in a penalty the other way for no clear release, allowing Ross Byrne to extend the lead to ten.

The greater our cushion, the easier it was to keep turning the Munster D as much as possible, and McCarthy continued to struggle with his clearances.  Just past the half hour mark a red hand on a blue arm in a lineout resulted in another three point chance for Byrne and we were now even further in front.

You expect the home crowd in any match to be vocal for the slightest infraction, and of course this counts triple when it's this venue and these opponents.  So you can be sure Frank Murphy got an earful when Ross Byrne tried one territory kick too many, having it blocked and then trying to make amends by impeding Rory Scannell's attempts to snatch it back.  It turned out ok for the home side, however, as a knockon and a scrum penalty later finally saw JJ Hanrahan get the chance to get them on the scoreboard just before halftime.

Any other season, if I was told not only were Leinster going to remain scoreless for the second half, but Conor O'Brien was to spill the second half kickoff giving Munster an attacking scrum right from the word go, only a fool would assume anything but a home win.  But with this Leinster D, anything is possible.

Munster did make points from this attacking situation, but it was just the three, and it took all of five minutes after a Doris steal at the breakdown relieved some pressure before Josh Murphy was pinged offside.  So now the lead was brought back down to a converted try - what Leinster needed was a way to do better against the wind than their opponents had before the break.

The next series may not have earned us any points, but it did serve to take the sting out of any momentum Munster may have gleaned from that early advantage.  We started just inside our own half and by the time Ed Byrne knocked on, another 5 minutes had been eaten off the clock and we had gotten all the way to their 5m line with several gainline busting carries, along with patient consistent recycling from young Rowan Osborne at 9, a late replacement for Jamison Gibson-Park.

By the time Munster emerged from their own 22, there was half an hour left.  We were not to return to that end of the field.  Again I was denied a graphic for this but I'd be confident enough saying the territory stat for the final quarter would have been 100% in the home side's favour.  A series of excellent kicks from first Rory Scannell and then Joey Carbery had us under the kosh on several occasions and much like us in the first half, it was up to Munster to take advantage.

And it's not like we played perfect rugby in this time either, although most of our no-nos were when we had the ball.   Often it was James Lowe doing them with a miskick out on the full here, and a poor decision to offload in his own 22 there, putting us back under pressure needlessly.  For a player like him however, that's not really a damning criticism because you know now only will he be determined to make up for it the next time, you also know he'll make good on it.

But time and time again whether the pressure was applied by territory kicks or our own mistakes, we were able to withstand it.  When it was our lineout throw deep in our 22, we managed to do enough to exit (even when it was Hugh O'Sullivan's first assignment after replacing Osbourne from his own 5m line).

And when it was a case of Munster cranking the invisible phase counter towards the 40 mark, time and time again we had at least one tackler to meet each and every one out runner.  Occasionally, we met them with two and when that happened, the gainline was driven back considerably, most of all on 75 minutes when a Cronin/Connors combo clobbered Darren O'Shea before the prolonged series was ended with Connors again hitting low before his skipper Scott Fardy jackled his way to the penalty.

Like I said earlier, while this should have been the match clincher, we were to offer them yet more chances in the closing stages but thanks to Ross Molony's lineout steal and clever clock-killing by O'Sullivan, we managed to lock down win number 13 from 13 this season.

Caelan Doris was awarded man of the match and was certainly a contender but not for the first time this season, he had tough competition.  Connors put up more insane tackling numbers (23, none missed), both our scrum-halves belied their lowly position on Leinster pecking order, and I'd like to give a special mention for James Tracy, who with Rรณnan Kelleher shining as a rookie before his injury and Sean Cronin returning to action behind him, has done very well in recent weeks IMO.  Jack O'Donoghue was probably the pick of the bunch from the home side.

But once again, it has been all about Leinster's defence.  Even against Ulster last week, we were able to keep them at arm's length when we had to, but this display, given the opposition, location and conditions, needed that little bit extra and we went out there with a lot.  I'm not sure what more I can say about a start to the season like this one, other than "more, please!".

And so we come to the end of a decade of Leinster rugby, on all of which I have harped week-in, week-out.  It began on January 16, 2010 with a Heineken Cup victory at the RDS over Brive, continued with a series of peaks and troughs, though definitely more of the former and I certainly can't think of a better way to end it. 

Here's to Leinster & Ireland rugby continuing to thrive on into the 2020s because despite the odd disappointment, it really has been thriving for the past ten years - I should know, I've watched it all!!! Onwards and ever upwards.  Have a Happy New Year folks.  JLP

HarpinOnRugby match writeups are brought to you by 


Front Five - 30.12.19

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 Munster v Leinster

"...he racked up 23 tackles – three of which came in a jaw-dropping 22-second window as Leinster batted Munster back from the five-metre line."

Sean Farrell - The42.ie

"This really shows the women's game is growing."

RTร‰ Rugby

Rob Kearney’s omission from Ireland’s training squad was the clearest indication yet that Farrell is eager move on from some of the old guard.

Cian Tracey - Irish Independent

"To get him out onto the pitch and through 25 minutes of play, from that perspective was a real positive from our side."

John O'Sullivan - Irish Times

The uneven thin hoops are really bold, but the striking gold bars across the middle really elevate it – a unique and instantly recognisable design.

Rugby Shirt Watch

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

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Online comments after Munster v Leinster

A selection of the “keyboard warrior” reactions after the full-time whistle of our featured matches of the weekend.

If you’d like to contribute stay tuned to
our Facebook page for our “Feel free to leave your thoughts…” posts which show up around full time after Leinster & Ireland matches.

Sean Michaels I had been critical of the Leinster defence re the last couple of games but now I see it was just a cunning plan put out in readiness for this game. The boys in blue were superb and had an answer for everything that Munster threw at them. Wouldn’t want to pick any individual out as it was just an amazing team effort. Amazing to think of the calibre of players coming out of the academy, some of them looked like they should still be playing schoolboy rugby. The future looks very very bright indeed.

Derek McGee Clearly, Leinster's defence was under the microscope after an uncharacteristic off day against Ulster. Whatever was said/roared to them after that match, it was message received. A titanic effort from Fardy, Toner, Connors, Porter & Cronin when he came on. A word too for Rowan Osborne. Thrown in at the deep end unexpectedly but I thought he acquitted himself exceptionally well. Clearly, Munster were under orders to pressure the scrum half & Frank Murphy did little to protect scrum half play throughout the game (in fairness, he was equally negligent in this regard for both sides) but I thought Rowan dealt with the pressure admirably. A fine display from him & I look forward to seeing more of him as the Pro14 season goes along.

Conor Cronin What a result. Leinster played against the wind far better than munster did, they kept kicking into it, Leinster held onto it. You can't win if you don't have the ball.
And that defense.... Good grief you'd be driven demented trying to get through that. Tackle count must be huge but hearing 23 and none missed for Connors. What a player.
Huge credit as well to Osbourne, coming in to the starting line up on the day and played excellently. 13... Unlucky for some, But Leinster make their own luck

Andrew Potts That win was probably forged in the weeks when Toner was not in Japan. Those weeks working with the young lads and Fardy has really added an edge to the Leinster pack. They defended like dogs yet all the housekeeping was done.

Elaine Cully Young lads proving yet again the standard of Leinster acadamy is miles ahead of other provinces. Serious well done to Rowan Osborne who came in last minute. How many of those lads will Munster be looking for over the next few years!

Richard Collumb Great performance especially the defense in the last 10 minutes- strength in depth and mental toughness of this team is amazing.

Kevin Kelehan Highest risk of loss since the last Heino final, yet another win. Get your money on Ireland for the Six Nations

Noel Hewson Win streak continues. Great defence and unbelievable how many changes they can now make week in week out.

Gerald Williamson It was like a gladiators dogfight seeing who was going to come out on top. Great baptism for some of the new guys. That Leinster defence to keep out the Munster onslaught in the last quarter of the match was something else.

Paul Smith Last game of the decade and what a lovely way to finish it. Here's to the next 10, hopefully they'll be as successful. Allez Les Bleus !!!

Andy Comer No Munster try at home.
A tough and well fought battle.
Could hear the bones crunching on the Refs mike, no excuses or shame, a really good game.

DeeDee O'Malley Fantastic game, very exciting. You just have to love Cronin x

Richard Mifsud Last week, despite the big win, we rightly bitched about our D. Well guess what the boys were doing throughout the week ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿป‍♂️. It’s been described as scrappy and gritty by both sides but I tell you this both sets of players learned an awful lot about themselves last night not least the youngsters of which there were plenty on show. I for one absolutely loved the match (and result) but most importantly for me was seeing our youngsters stand up and fight (sorry ๐Ÿ˜œ) in a torrid environment. We managed the conditions far better than Munster did and that, coupled with our defence was the difference. I thought the ref was ok I thought the commentary team was ridiculously and unnecessarily biased and as far as the boys in blue are concerned standouts for me Caelan Doris, Will Connors, Josh Murphy, Ross Byrne, the Scott and Dev double act, the O’Brien centres and a special mention for Rowan Osborne...what a prospect!!! We end the decade on a high. Happy New Year everyone and #COYBIB

Noel Cuddy James Lowe is a great 6, 7, 12, 13

Ronan McManus Pick a cliche
"An armwrestle"
"one for the purists"
"winning ugly"


David Harold Good job the game wasn't played in the commentary box, otherwise leinster wouldn't have stood a chance.

Colin Mcconaghie Poor game from a neutral point of view, Munster very one dimensional and lacking any plan B

Louis Hoffman Two B teams.
Disrespect to the sellout 26,000 and all the fans watching on TV.
Enough, they have rested players so much that they cannot get into form from just playing.
The other 7 world cup quarter finalists did not ๐Ÿค”
Who is this David Nucifora anyway

David Ryle Great performance from the boys in blue.

Many thanks to all who offered opinions.

Look out Monday for our match writeup JLP

Front Five - 29.12.19

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

Defensive masterclass.

"All credit to Leinster, they kept us out. In the last 10 minutes, we just literally couldn't get over the try line.”

Simon Lewis - Irish Examiner

"...it feels like we’ve got three Champions Cup level games coming up."

Adam McKendry - The42.ie

As for Glasgow, a fifth defeat from nine games in the league leaves them in a difficult position

Stuart Bathgate - The Offside Line

Northampton returned to the head of the table after squeezing out Gloucester in an indulgent festive romp

Paul Rees - The Guardian

...if Ruddock feels he can take the Ospreys forward, a new position of performance director is likely to be created.

Andy Howell - WalesOnline

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

Friday, December 27, 2019

Preview : Munster v Leinster

"Anyone know what the recommended sanction is for ‘removing an opponent's scrum cap and throwing it at him’? I'm assuming someone thought to write that one down somewhere and give high-, medium- and low-end punishments for the benefit of citing commissioners? Seriously though, while it was far from the nastiest incident it defined the entire match.
'Seeing Red', HarpinOnRugby match writeup for Munster v Leinster, Dec 2018 

Much will be forgotten when this match kicks off in Thomond Park on Saturday evening.  What semifinal win back in May? What World Cup?  What 12 wins in a row?  Both teams are top of what conferences?

No matter what else is going on in a particular campaign, the partisan rivalry surrounding this great fixture has always meant it is shielded from anything else going on in the general rugby universe.  After eighty minutes, one lot will have bragging rights, the other won't, and that's that.

This particular installment of the ongoing saga, however, does have one bit of history that may be difficult to shift from the memory banks, namely the corresponding meeting last season.  This is because there are so many similarities between the two occasions. 

For example, both times, Leinster rocked up into Limerick with the word "perfect" being bandied about when describing them.  Also, both Scott Fardy and James Lowe return to the scene of their respective crimes last December.  But the biggest returning feature has to be that of Frank Murphy taking the whistle yet again.

In my writeup of last year's match I made it clear that I did not blame the game's lack of discipline on him, nor did I think for a second that there was any type of favouritism towards Munster on his part.  

The way I saw it, the home side set out to rile us up, we let them, and paid the price.  And I suppose if I didn't think it was his fault, I shouldn't have a problem with him being in the middle once again, yet I do.  IMO that was a match that needed to be forgotten, yet re-appointing him does nothing but give us analysts a pre-cut narrative from which to work.

Hopefully, nothing like last season's handbag-fest will happen again, because we all know these two provinces are more than able to serve up great contest without all those distractions, whether they have full-strength teams out or not.  

It comes as no surprise that a titanic struggle in the forwards is to be expected.  Leinster's backrow one-arm bandit has thrown up another top notch trio of Josh Murphy, Will Connors and Caelan Doris (with Scott Penny in reserve) but they will be severely tested by the equally capable Tommy O'Donnell, Chris Cloete and Jack O'Donoghue.  Frank Murphy will have his work cut out sorting out those breakdowns that's for sure!

And at halfback, while unlike last season the fixture is graced by neither Murray nor Sexton, Ross Byrne along with JGP should not be overawed by the occasion, and although JJ Hanrahan is no slouch, all eyes will be on the return of Joey Carbery to top flight action and he is sure to feature at some point of the contest.

But for me, the biggest matchup of all is in the centre.  Both Rory Scannell and Sammy Arnold have always impressed me for Munster and we have a young yet talented pair of O'Briens facing them in Conor and Jimmy, with another one, Tommy, on the bench.  Perhaps the tries may come from the likes of Lowe and Daly, and perhaps the big turnovers may come from the likes of Connors and Cloete, but I have a feeling when full time arrives it will be the performance of a centre, whether it be good or bad, that could prove the difference in this one.

The bookies can barely separate the two sides with their points spread, throwing a nod to the boys in blue but only by a point.  I do think we can prevail, partly because of a determination to get this defensively back on track after letting Ulster hit us for six last Friday.  That doesn't mean Munster will be lacking in determination however, and if we do finish on top I can't see it being by more than 3 to 5 points.

Best wishes to all those travelling and here's to a classic that is memorable for all the right reasons.  JLP


Munster: 15 Mike Haley; 14 Dan Goggin, 13 Sammy Arnold, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Shane Daly; 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Nick McCarthy
1 Dave Kilcoyne, 2 Kevin O’Byrne, 3 Stephen Archer; 4 Fineen Wycherley, 5 Billy Holland (C); 6 Tommy O’Donnell, 7 Chris Cloete, 8 Jack O’Donoghue.
16 Diarmuid Barron, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 Keynan Knox, 19 Darren O’Shea, 20 Jack O’Sullivan, 21 Neil Cronin, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Calvin Nash.

Guinness Pro 14 2019/20 - Round 9
Saturday, December 28, 2019
KO 6pm
Thomond Park
Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU)
AR1: George Clancy (IRFU)
AR2: Chris Busby (IRFU)
TMO: Olly Hodges (IRFU)
Live on eir Sport 1, Premier Sports 2, SuperSport 1, DAZN, pro14.tv

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Happy Christmas - see you on the other side!

We'll be back in time to look ahead to Munster v Leinster - have a great Christmas folks and many thanks for your support throughout 2019!!!  JLP

Monday, December 23, 2019

Leinster-54 Ulster-42

Happy Christmas Leinster fans; we got the perfect present!!!

And while a bonus point win at the RDS courtesy of 8 tries and a "fifty burger" would normally be more than enough, I'm not even talking about any of those facts, seeing how it was our 12th victory on the bounce this season.

The gift I'm referring to is the 42 points we conceded, since it actually gives us something to be concerned about for once!!!  I mean in all fairness, what's the point of analysing when your performances had been so good, especially on defence?

Seriously though, it really did feel strange seeing so many points at the Ulster end.  Full credit to our visitors of course, and they earned the point they brought back up the M1, but given that I've been harping about our defensive organisation particularly in the last half hour of matches, this is not the kind of scoreline we'd want to have too often if we plan to turn this impressive start into significant results at the business end of the campaign.

But that's enough of a pre-amble - as has become a tradition on this site, when there has been this much scoring, the best way to cover it is to go over the tries in sequence, and on this occasion I have even come up with a buzzword for this format - a "try-mline".  And no, I refuse to apologise for that - instead I'll just crack on...

2m Max Deegan 1st try (H Byrne conversion) 7-0

Bill Johnston had Ulster's first and second touches of the night; one being the opening kickoff, the other being the restart after this try.  Will Connors was tackled high exiting our 22, we worked our way up the field, breaking into their 22 courtesy of a strong Cian Kelleher run up the wing, and after a series of phases at the try line, Max Deegan's determination got it grounded to make it the worst possible start for the visitors.

8m Angus Kernohan try (Bill Johnston conversion) 7-7

Ulster had their first penalty before their third touch courtesy of a strong counter ruck by Tom O'Toole - this put them in our 22 and after we were pinged a couple more times they exerted enough pressure on our line to send it out wide to Kernohan who applied a decent finish.  A nice touchline conversion from Johnston levelled the scores.

15m Scott Penny 1st try (Harry Byrne conversion), 14-7.

Once more it was a Kelleher break that got us into the 22, only this time it was some neat work from debutant Tommy O'Brien providing him with the space.  Much like the first try we rumbled through some phases around the line before it was Penny getting the ball down.

17m Yellow card Matt Faddes.

Tommy O'Brien had more space to work some magic and while he did slip a bit as he was challenged by his opposite number Faddes, contact was made high and with the guidelines as they are, it was no surprise that the Kiwi was sent to the naughty step.

22m Scott Penny 2nd try (Harry Byrne conversion) 21-7.

Naturally the extra man made our gainline-busting and space-creating that much easier and on another quick-tempo advance up the field courtesy of the fast action from Gibson-Park and the smart ball usage of Harry Byrne, we made it to the line once more and it was Penny again getting it down.

27m Robbie Henshaw try (BP) (Harry Byrne conversion) 28-7.

Even with the caveat of the yellow card, this was easily the pick of the bunch.  Henshaw got the finish but this was all about Harry Byrne pulling the strings like a veteran. 

First a fizzed miss pass found Kelleher to get us into their half and after a couple of strong runs up the middle with quick recycles, the young number 10 kick passed one perfectly into Robbie's grateful arms to make the finish, and the try bonus point, look all too easy.  Tack on a sweet conversion from the touchline and Harry was well on his way to a deserved man of the match award.

35m Matt Faddes try (Bill Johnston conversion) 28-14.

It looked to be another strong attacking situation for Leinster with a scrum at the dead centre of the pitch but after Max Deegan took it from the base, his pass was a shade behind his scrum half and it bounced up into the welcoming arms of Faddes who beat two chasers to the tryline, although in Rob Kearney's diving attempt he proceeded to trip up McFadden.  A timely score that gave the visitors hope that something could be salvaged from this trip to Dublin.

39m Fergus McFadden try 33-14 (HT scoreline).

Harry Byrne did most of his good work with the boot but there were also some strong carries and one of them got us back to Ulster's line until Ferg, possibly a tad miffed that Robbie was in position to score on his wing earlier, was the one getting the determined five-pointer on this occasion.

44m Rob Kearney try (Harry Byrne conversion) 40-14.

Ulster skipper on the night Alan O'Connor was pinged for not rolling away at halfway and from the lineout we continued to find success breaking the gainline until another quick miss pass from Harry got it to Rob who forced his way over the line.  Yet another sweet strike from the outhalf added the extras.

48m Cian Kelleher try (Harry Byrne conversion) 47-14.

I watched this match from a seat in the Grandstand for a change as opposed to the media box, and when we won yet another penalty around halfway it looked as though the kick to touch would be heading towards us, so everyone in the area went through the standard PPPs (Pint Protection Protocols).

Turns out they were unnecessary, however, as Fergus McFadden spotted an overlap on the far wing before finding Henshaw with a perfectly weighted kick pass (so perfect that people around me assumed it was Harry) and when it was shipped to Kelleher, he had little trouble in beating his man (didn't hurt that it was Alan O'Connor in fairness) to bring it home.  It was just reward for the Connacht returnee who had been waving his arms furiously for such an opportunity most of the first half.

51m Angus Curtis injury.

I really hope the lad is ok - there was absolutely no malice in the tackle and it wasn't even high, it was just the way his left leg folded under him as he fell - the very definition of a "rugby collision" and it certainly won't have helped that a ruck immediately formed around him before Clancy blew his whistle (not the ref's fault either btw).

57m Craig Gilroy try (Bill Johnston conversion) 47-21.

After the lengthy injury stoppage, the match resumed with a Leinster scrum deep in our own 22 although it wasn't long before we were back down the other end looking for try number 8, and perhaps we were getting a bit complacent going through the attacking motions when Penny threw a pass which was easily read by Gilroy and you won't stop a winger like him when he snaffles one and gets a head start.

It's worth noting that the three tries we conceded in the first three quarters all came from situations where we had the ball - O'Toole's strong counter ruck leading to a penalty in the 22, Deegan's pass falling behind JGP and Gilroy's intercept - as opposed to actual holes being punched in our trademark defensive wall.

62m Max Deegan 2nd try (Harry Byrne conversion) 54-21.

Deegan strikes me as a perfectionist and given he was the intended recipient of the Penny pass that was intercepted, chances are he felt partly responsible so when we won a free kick at a scrum on the Ulster 22, he tapped quickly to bring it as far as the line and on a follow up 5m scrum, he took it on himself to bring it all the way over the line and ring up another Leinster "fifty-burger".

64m Greg Jones 1st try (BP) (Bill Johnston conversion) 54-28.

Some enterprising play at halfway by sub Ethan McIlroy forced Rob Kearney to concede a 5m scrum and a couple of phases later Jones was barging over the line to guarantee the visitors wouldn't be leaving the RDS empty handed.

73m Greg Jones 2nd try (Bill Johnston conversion) 54-35.

Everyone wearing blue goggles thought Cian Kelleher's collision with David O'Connor after a cheeky chip at midfield should have resulted in a penalty to Leinster, yet while George Clancy got the brunt of the stick from the RDS faithful for disagreeing, I have a feeling the rest of the rugby universe did too, so best leave it there.

Shortly afterwards Kelleher himself was pinged offside and that put the Ulstermen back in our 22 for a lineout and while it took them a few goes (for all the stick Clancy got for constantly calling penalties against us, we were actually lucky not to see yellow long before the 80th minute), eventually their lineout maul was able to get over the line courtesy of Jones again.  The way things were going, a second BP for Dan McFarland's men wasn't completely out of the question.

79m Will Connors yellow card.

I'm not as "anti-Clancy" as many are, but he did frustrate me on this occasion not so much because of his calls against Leinster, rather that so many of them were very late ("after the infraction" as opposed to "in the match").  After two such calls got Ulster from one end of the pitch to the other, stand-in skipper Josh Murphy got a warning so when Will Connors was deemed offside, he had to go.

80+2m Johnny Stewart try (Bill Johnston conversion) 52-46.

Again it took them a couple of goes and some more penalty help from us (Liam Toland in the eirSport commentary box sounded a bit too keen for my liking to see another Leinster man in the bin), but with the clock in the red sub scrum half Johnny Stewart did well to bring the ball all the way over the line to end the match on a positive-ish note for the visitors.

So then the Super Rugby-esque try-fest finally came to a close - and despite the alarming concession of 6 tries, the 5 match points were never in doubt for the boys in blue.  If anything this match offered support for my argument that the try bonus point system should switch from one where you need 4 tries to one where you must score 3 more than your opponents as it is in the southern hemisphere and France.  Had that been in operation here, the try BP would be lost amid all the late Leinster lapses.

But more importantly, this scoreline could well offer hope to the rest of the continent that our infamous blue wall can be breached in the right circumstances.  The first three tries may not have proven this, but certainly in the latter stages Ulster showed that backing yourself in the contact can reap some reward if you stick at it, which they certainly did and fair play to them.

Actually I remember Northampton last weekend were attempting their own counter-plan, particularly in the second half.  Their support players would not just clear out would-be jacklers, they would also be sure to hang on to them for that few seconds longer than usual to prevent them from getting into their next tackling position and thus possibly creating space.

Now I know that didn't exactly work too well for the Saints, but the fact remains that for all the rich rewards we have reaped with this season's perfect dozen start, we can be sure the rest of Europe will become more determined with each passing week to come up with the right combination to crack our code.

And who's next to have a go?  No less than Munster in Thomond Park next weekend.  As if that match needed any more drama about it (especially after last year), they will be extra motivated to burst our blue bubble.  Should be a fascinating derby.

Until then, thanks for sticking with my "try-mline" writeup, and be sure to have an absolutely awesome holiday - see you on the other side!  JLP

HarpinOnRugby match writeups are brought to you by 


Front Five - 23.12.19

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 Ulster

"I’m not going to put him on the field if he’s not 100 per cent right so we’ll make that call if the call is in our hands on Thursday."

John Fallon - Irish Examiner

Leinster were attacking in the 22 when, under pressure, Frawley unloaded a blind pass into the arms of Earls...Game over. Party started.

Brendan Fanning - Irish Independent

Declan Kidney...did not look a man about to enjoy a relaxing festive break.

Robert Kitson - The Guardian

Smith, capped 84 times by New Zealand, was shown a red card...in the 51st minute for an elbow-led fend

The42.ie (via AFP)

...but they still continue to be at the bottom as they were docked 35 points for a breach in salary cap 

Talking Rugby Union

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

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Online comments after Leinster v Ulster

A selection of the “keyboard warrior” reactions after the full-time whistle of our featured matches of the weekend.

If you’d like to contribute stay tuned to
our Facebook page for our “Feel free to leave your thoughts…” posts which show up around full time after Leinster & Ireland matches.

Richard Mifsud The perfect game for Leo and Co to have a good session on Monday BPW but conceded a load of tries. Great in the first 50/55 minutes barring conceding sloppy scores then we lost defensive cohesion and fair play to Ulster, they capitalised. I really thought our bench was going to do it’s usual and steamroller the last quarter but instead it went the other way. To sum up credit to Ulster for plugging away at 40-14 down, scintillating attack from us that had me salivating and a very poor final 25 minutes. Standouts for me Harry Byrne, Cian Kelleher, Tommy O’Brien, Will Connors and Scott Fardy (as usual). Would’ve liked to have seen more of Salanoa

Derek Tormey Really really sloppy. Awful defense all round. And the less said on Clancy, the better.

Sean Michaels This could almost be a repeat of my last post after the Northampton game “scintillating performance, but lapses in concentration re defence very worrying”, only this time around we should be a lot more concerned about the defence. Is it possible that Laissez-faire leadership is developing within the squad with a “ we’ve only got to turn up” mentality creeping in. Whatever the reasons Cullen & Co have got to get back to basics and start with the old mantra that if the opposition can’t score then they won’t win. At the beginning of the season the commentators were in awe about our famous blue line of defence repelling all attempts to breach it, so what’s happened since?

Derek McGee George Clancy. A gowl, to use his local parlance. A shambolic, embarrassing, one-eyed showing.

Martin Loughrey You know you're a spoilt fan when your team puts 54 on the opposition and wins by 12 points and you're still not happy. Great performance for the 1st 60 but the last 20 was pure dirt. The Ulster bench had far more of an impact than the Leinster bench did. One of the things Leinster pride themselves on is their depth. As I said though, we're spoilt. 5 points. Still unbeaten. Roll on Thomond...next week is a "must win". It can't be Munster that give us our first defeat this season.

Chris Costello Great result regardless

Noel Hewson Well 90+ points not much defence in the game. Leinster fell off the pace in the second half and will be disappointed with the try’s conceded. Still unbeaten in the season here’s hoping that still the case after the Munster game.

Cian ร“ Muilleoir As much as I dislike slating refs, it felt more like Clancy letting Ulster in than either of the teams on the pitch, but Ulster never let up and pushed hard for the full 80.

Still unbeaten in the season, and sterner tests await.

Baby Byrne was superb, but a special mention to Tommy O'Brien who put in a performance past his years.

Onwards and upwards.

Conor Cronin Score 40 and lose... That doesn't happen often. defense went very bad as the experience went off. That needs work! Crowd not happy with Clancy towards the end, though I'll need to watch back to see all of why. 12 for 12, ulster deserving of their points for the most part, let's move on to thomond

Gerald Williamson Well that was an entertaining game of rugby. Well there were over 90+ pts put on the board with Leinster defeating Ulster by 12pts . Some of the new young guns impressed especially from a Leinster perspective. Was really impressed by No 10 Harry Byrne who is going to give the brother Ross a run for his money. Johnny will definately be looking over his shoulder with the queue forming up including Ciaran Frawley for the No 10 slot. Leinster fell off the pace & got disjointed over the last quarter & allowed Ulster in to get the 40+ pts . Entertaining, but the quality of rugby played could have being better.

Paul Smith 1 word - Crazy. Great fun for the neutrals. Leinster were superb for an hour then totally switched off to do some late night Christmas shopping. At the end of the day it's another 50 plus points in the board and another 5 points in the bag, and in this conference that's really all that matters. A quick word on Harry Byrne too, who looks like another gem at 10 for Leinster.

Gavin Doyle ‪Season so far: Leinster played 12; won 12.‬ ๐Ÿ’™
‪30+ points v Treviso (A), Treviso (H)‬
40+ points v Edinburgh (H), Connacht (A), Northampton (A)‬
‪50+ points v Ospreys (H), Dragons (H), Northampton (H), Ulster (H)‬

‪Are we looking at a perfect season? ๐Ÿ˜ฌ

Cormac Mannion If that was a Super Rugby match, they'd be drooling over it. Only thing that worries me is we have found it too easy this season and I don't mean to be in any way disrespectful to the teams we've played but we will find it harder at the business end of the season.

Apart from that though, the young players really have looked fantastic this season.

Kathryn Keegan Entertaining game.  Harry Byrne great kicking display

Mark Hunter Well played Leinster. Better team on the night. Looked like another one sided show after 20 minutes and then Ulster decided to play. Won the 2nd half 28-21. Pity we lost the first half 33-14. Defensive coaches will be pulling their hair out. Hoping injuries to Lyttle and Cairns aren't as serious as first seemed.

Justin Leonard Where do Leinster pull of these players from, names and faces just keep appearing every week. Hope the Ulster lad who got injured is ok. Too many points conceded in the second half.

Barry O'Higgins So far this season, the only team to live with Leinster has been Zebre ( 3 nil to Leinster) !!!

Declan Farrelly Disappointing last 20 by Leinster

Dave Murray Harry Byrne is gonna be some out half for us.

(reply) Diarmuid Marrinan if we hold on to him!

Many thanks to all who offered opinions.

Look out Monday for our match writeup JLP


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