Saturday, February 22, 2020

Front Five - 22.02.20

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

ICYMI click here for our
England v Ireland preview


...this was perhaps the most impressive performance to date considering they were facing the old enemy...


Dylan Ryan - Balls.ie

Cian Kelleher scampered home in the corner to secure the win, with replacement Harry Byrne's difficult conversion denying the home team a losing bonus point.


Jon Doel - WalesOnline

"We all have to be as physical as we ever have been."


Johnny Watterson - Irish Times

With the resources we have available (Joseph)’s the best guy for that spot.


Gerard Meagher - The Guardian

Connacht were dealt a massive blow early on when Finlay Bealham had to be stretchered off in what looked a serious injury. 


Anthony Redmond - SportsNewsIreland

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, February 21, 2020

Preview : England v Ireland

graphic includes late change 
I don't think I've ever seen these levels of optimism among Irish fans heading into Twickenham, and that includes 2018 when I was running purely on green-goggled optimism in my preview saying we'd win by one point.

Time and time again over the past couple of weeks I have heard comments from different sources online and off saying this seems to be a team that can get a result over there.  And that is definitely good to see, especially when you consider how little it took to bring the doom in gloom before.

It certainly doesn't hurt that the English will be without the Vunipola  brothers (although naturally all our best wishes go out to their family in Tonga), nor that they have hardly set the tournament alight in their opening two matches.

On our side of things we managed nine points from ten available in the first two rounds, with our form on an upward curve despite a number of enforced changes of our own.  So it's not as though the optimism isn't justified, although the bookies' prediction of a 7-point home win serves as a reminder that there will be much work to be done to earn Andy Farrell a Triple Crown just three matches into his tenure.

For me, the weakest point in the English side has to be Ben Youngs at scrum half.  He even had a shocker when they did us at the Aviva last season and if we can turn up the heat on him early, it could give us some quality attacking positions.

On the performance front, great and all as CJ Stander has been we certainly can't rely on him turning in yet another gong-winning display.  That said, both of his back row team-mates O'Mahony and van der Flier have also been quality, and with Caelan Doris no doubt chomping at the bit to add to his eventful three minutes of test rugby, we have plenty to counter their quality at the breakdown.

Elsewhere England also have plenty of threats and our D will have to be at its best to keep out the likes of May, Tuilagi and of course Andy's offspring.  I always say it but our centres will be as key without the ball as with it, and I'm confident Messrs Aki and Henshaw are up to the task.  Using Joseph on the wing is an interesting move - we'll see how he is used though I'd say Andrew Conway is more than up to the task against him.

Naturally much depends on our approach and how Conor & Johnny carry it out.  Against Wales we went wide on the first possession and won ourselves a 5m scrum before all the fans had settled into their seats.  That doesn't mean exactly the same plan will work of course, but something that sows similar seeds of doubt might.

Much like the other changes we have seen from the original selection v Scotland, I really don't see Toner starting and Dillane being added to the bench having any kind of negative impact on our plan.  The fraction we'll lose in ball carrying will be added back in at lineout time and we certainly know what it's like to go to Twickenham with sub standard set pieces.

This match should be close.  It should be physical.  It should have a controversial moment or six throughout - while I'm not wild about knocking the ref before a ball has been kicked, I have scratched my head more than once at Jaco Peyper decisions before.  We need to find a level above that we have shown up to now, and I believe we can, so I'm going for a 2-4 point Irish win.

Bon voyage to all those travelling over; here's hoping I'm right!!! JLP

PS - as always, best wishes to the Women and Under 20s as well this weekend, and also to the provinces in Pro14 action.  Check out our Ospreys v Leinster preview here.

#ShoulderToShoulder

England : 15 Elliot Daly; 14 Jonny May, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jonathan Joseph; 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs
1 Joe Marler, 2 Jamie George, 3 Kyle Sinckler; 4 Maro Itoje, 5 George Kruis; 6 Courtney Lawes, 7 Sam Underhill, 8 Tom Curry.
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Charlie Ewels, 21 Ben Earl, 22 Willi Heinz, 23 Henry Slade.

Guinness Six Nations 2020 - Round 3
Sunday, February 23, 2020
KO 3pm
Twickenham

Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant 1: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant 2: Alexandre Ruiz (France)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

Preview : Ospreys v Leinster


Is it possible for there to be TOO MUCH rugby for us to watch? 

On paper a full programme of Six Nations Men, Women and Under 20 plus Pro 14, Premiership AND Super Rugby looks like a banquet, yet with us, like, you know, having lives n stuff, it makes for a lot of tough decisions.

And those decisions get even harder when two matches I really want to follow are on at the same time!!!  The Irish Under 20s have a massive triple crown decider tonight against their English counterparts, yet it is on at the same time as Leinster play the Ospreys!!! 

By the way - yes, I'm totally aware my gripes above are a classic example of a "first world problem" for me, but I bring it up because I also wonder is it a problem for the game's organisers because I doubt I'm the only one who can't get train my eyes on every match when they are scheduled so close together, which may be a concern to sponsors.  Mini-rant over.

On the actual match in question...from the standpoint of the league in general, this should be a massive contest, given how the teams have 10 titles between them.  I always say this is the Celtic League's premier "organic rivalry".  However from the standpoint of this season's Conference A standings, this should be as close to a guaranteed away win as you can get in rugby union, with the Welsh in last place with just 2 wins while Leinster sit 15pts clear at the top with a 100% record.

As with most things, the reality lies between those two extremes.  During the week in the latest Harpin podcast, Conor Cronin & I discussed the fortune of each Pro14 club and when it came to the Ospreys, we agreed that while things haven't been going great for them in recent seasons, their win over Ulster last Saturday was a massive boost, plus they definitely have the ability to at least overtake both Dragons and Zebre above them.

When you factor in the change in venue from Liberty Stadium to Neath RFC plus a much-changed Leinster lineup, there are just about enough variables there to suggest this match may not be as straightforward as many think. 

I also see some challenges for us in the back row battle, something I don't often say given the wealth of talent at Leo Cullen's disposal.  It's just that with Murphy, Penny and (the always excellent just better at 6) Ruddock not having that much time together and Ryan Baird, who in his few appearances has mostly played at lock, on the bench wearing 20, this could arguably be the "weakest" back row we've fielded all season.  Meanwhile the home side's 678 combo of Lydiate, Cracknell and Baker seems to be their strongest area.

OK maybe I am stretching things a tad looking for weaknesses on our part but still believe there's a valid case there that nothing will be straightforward tonight.  There are of course plenty of positives in the Leinster lineup so what say I harp on some of them...

The weather forecast for Neath this evening shows a bit of wind and rain though nowhere near Storm Dennis proportions, which is bad news for last weekend's Leinster back three of Ferg & The Kearneys, and good news for Hugo Keenan, Cian Kelleher & of course James Lowe who line out this time.  Tries in the Cheetahs mudbath were only ever going to come from forwards, so if Ciaran Frawley has a similar outing that shows good decision making and technique, there could be  a lot more chances for his back line.

In midfield, the "COB-JOB" pairing is reunited (with TOB waiting in the wings for good measure) and all have done well this season, albeit under the radar in a squad doing extremely well all round.  Much like our back row, they have a great opportunity to stand out in this match and I'll be looking at Conor in particular to bring the strong running and carrying I know he can.

Despite the slagging I gave to Sean Cronin for his late mishap at the weekend in my writeup, I'm surprised to see him on the bench yet again.  With Bristol Bears borrowing Bryan Byrne, this selection means that Nugget is now officially our third choice hooker.  Of course I mean no disrepect to James Tracy in this - he has played really well and is just as deserving of a start, it's just that having been Ireland's primary Best backup for so long this seems a long way for Seanie to fall.  Hopefully he'll have enough opportunities over the rest of the season to play his way back and we'll definitely be all the better for it.

So when it comes to a prediction, while I believe we can do enough to get win number 18 tonight, I'm not sure if I agree with the bookies that it can be by as much as 10 points.  With all the caveats I list above, I think we need to get points on the board early to stay ahead by more than 7 by the end - if we take too much time to settle it could be a whole lot closer.  So I'll back the lads to come out on top by 4-6.  JLP

#COYBIB

Ospreys : 15. Cai Evans 14. Hanno Dirksen 13. Owen Watkin 12. Kieran Williams 11. Luke Morgan 10. Luke Price 9. Aled Davies
1.Nicky Smith 2. Scott Otten 3. Simon Gardiner 4. Adam Beard 5. Bradley Davies 6. Dan Lydiate > capt 7. Olly Cracknell 8. Dan Baker
Replacements 16. Sam Parry 17. Gareth Thomas 18. Gheorghe Gajion 19. Lloyd Ashley 20. Sam Cross 21. Shaun Venter 22. Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler 23. James Hook.

Guinness Pro 14 2019/20 - Round 12
Friday, February 21, 2020
KO 7:35pm
The Gnoll, Neath
Referee: Stuart Berry (SARU)
AR1: Aled Evans (WRU)
AR2: Ben Breakspear (WRU)
TMO: Tim Hayes (WRU)
Live on eir Sport 2, Premier Sports 1, TG4, Super Sport 1 DAZN, pro14.tv.
Deferred: S4C Sunday 22:40

Front Five - 21.02.20

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

ICYMI click here for our latest list
of upcoming rugby on Irish TV


...this 11th Six Nations campaign could be truly special for him, as the prop is currently on course to win his 100th cap on the final Saturday in Paris.


Gerry Thornley - Irish Times

An all-new Leinster back three sees the blockbusting James Lowe return on the left wing


Murray Kinsella - The42.ie

It's a big evening for Olly Cracknell, who...made 24 tackles against Ulster in an outstanding personal display. 


Mark Orders - WalesOnline

“They are a quality trio, that all add huge value to our squad with their own individual skills and experience”


Anthony Redmond - SportsNewsIreland

Ireland should have the power up front to cope with England and if they can sustain that for 80 minutes, they could pull off a huge victory.


Irish Independent

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

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Rugby on TV : Feb 20-27

Rugby on TV is brought to you by
the IrishRugby TV YouTube channel


One of the busiest TV weekends of the season

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 20

6PM
MUNSTER V SOUTHERN KINGS (R)
PRO 14
EIR SPORT 2

8PM
LEINSTER V CHEETAHS (R)
PRO 14
EIR SPORT 2

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 21

6AM
CRUSADERS V HIGHLANDERS (L)
SUPER RUGBY
SKY SPORTS MAIN EVENT
SKY SPORTS ACTION

7PM
ZEBRE V MUNSTER (L)
PRO 14
EIR SPORT 1
FREESPORTS

7PM
 OSPREYS V LEINSTER  (L)
PRO 14
EIR SPORT 2
TG4 (7:30PM)

7PM
SALE SHARKS V LEICESTER (L)
PREMIERSHIP
BT SPORT 1

7PM
CASTLEFORD V WAKEFIELD (L)
SUPER LEAGUE
SKY SPORTS ARENA

7:20PM
WALES V FRANCE (L)
U20 SIX NATIONS
BBC 2 WALES

7:30PM
ENGLAND V IRELAND (L)
U20 SIX NATIONS
SKY SPORTS MIX

9:30PM
PRO 14 HIGHLIGHTS
TG4

9:35PM
EDINBURGH V CONNACHT (T)
PRO 14
EIR SPORT 2

10PM
OSPREYS V LEINSTER (R)
PRO 14
EIR SPORT 1

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 22

3:40AM

MELBOURNE REBELS V SHARKS (L)
SUPER RUGBY
SKY SPORTS ACTION

6AM
CHIEFS V BRUMBIES (L)
SUPER RUGBY
SKY SPORTS ARENA

8:10AM
REDS V SUNWOLVES (L)
SUPER RUGBY

SKY SPORTS ARENA

1PM
STORMERS V LOS JAGUARES (L)
SUPER RUGBY
SKY SPORTS ARENA

1:30PM
ITALY V SCOTLAND (L)
SIX NATIONS
VIRGIN MEDIA ONE

3:10PM
BULLS V BLUES (L)
SUPER RUGBY
SKY SPORTS ACTION

4PM
WALES V FRANCE (L)
SIX NATIONS
BBC 1
S4C
VIRGIN MEDIA ONE (4:30PM)

7:30PM
ULSTER V CHEETAHS (L)
PRO 14
EIR SPORT 1

9:35PM
GLASGOW V DRAGONS (R)
PRO 14
EIR SPORT 2

11PM
SIX NATIONS HIGHLIGHTS
VIRGIN MEDIA TWO

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 23


11:45AM

WALES V FRANCE (L)
WOMEN'S SIX NATIONS
S4C

12:15PM
ENGLAND V IRELAND (L)
WOMEN'S SIX NATIONS
SKY SPORTS ACTION
SKY ONE
RTÉ TWO (12:30PM)

12:30PM
EXETER CHIEFS V NORTHAMPTON (L)
PREMIERSHIP
BT SPORT 1

2PM
 ENGLAND V IRELAND  (L)
SIX NATIONS
VIRGIN MEDIA ONE

5:10PM
CARDIFF BLUES V BENETTON (L)
PRO 14
S4C (5PM)
EIR SPORT 1

5:10PM
SCARLETS V SOUTHERN KINGS (L)
PRO 14
EIR SPORT 2

6PM
SIX NATIONS HIGHLIGHTS
BBC 2

6PM
SCRUM V
BBC 2 WALES

11PM
SIX NATIONS HIGHLIGHTS
VIRGIN MEDIA TWO

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 24


6:30PM

PREMIERSHIP HIGHLIGHTS
BT SPORT 2

8PM
AGAINST THE HEAD
RTÉ TWO

11PM
PRO 14 HIGHLIGHTS
BBC 2 NI

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 25


1:10PM

THE SUPER LEAGUE SHOW
BBC 2

7PM
OSPREYS V LEINSTER (R)
PRO 14
EIR SPORT 1

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 26


7PM
THE PRO14 HOUR
EIR SPORT 1

8PM
RUGBY TONIGHT ON TOUR
BT SPORT 1

9:30PM
THE BACK ROW
EIR SPORT 1

10PM
INSIDE SUPER LEAGUE
SKY SPORTS ARENA


THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 27

4PM
THE PRO14 HOUR
EIR SPORT 2

7PM
HULL KR V CASTLEFORD (L)
SUPER LEAGUE
SKY SPORTS MAIN EVENT
SKY SPORTS ARENA

8PM
SCARLETS V SOUTHERN KINGS (R)
PRO 14
EIR SPORT 2

9PM
RUGBY AM
FREESPORTS

10PM
THE LINE-OUT
VIRGIN MEDIA ONE

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 - 20.02.20

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

ICYMI click here for our latest podcast
where I talk to Conor Cronin about the Pro 14
as it passes the halfway stage


There is a single change on the bench with Caelan Doris replacing Leinster's Max Deegan to earn his second cap


Irish Examiner

Ireland will hope this game won’t have the controversial overtones of a couple of previous games over which he presided.


John O'Sullivan - Irish Times

Last season, the hooker enjoyed his best season to date in the Leinster shirt, playing 16 times and scoring six tries


Ryan Corry - LeinsterRugby.ie

...he is in the middle of a two-week stint with the club where he was previously an assistant to fellow Kiwi Vern Cotter


Ruck.co.uk

"He’s a proud Irishman. He talked about his Irishness."


Garry Doyle - 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

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

PODCAST : Ep 38 : “Pro 14 mid-season round up” featuring Conor Cronin (@ccbooms)




This week my Back and Forward chat is with Leinster fan and frequent Harpin contributor Conor Cronin, also known as @ccbooms on Twitter.  With the Pro14 regular season having just passed the halfway stage we went through the league team by team to see how their campaigns are going so far.  Conor also gives some thoughts on Leinster’s wet windswept win over the Cheetahs last Saturday, as well as looking ahead to Round 3 of the Six Nations.

Front Five - 19.02.20

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

Not sure what's worse, complaining about cheating
immediately after a match or complaining
about cheating after waiting a week...


...such are the high standards that he set for himself he is invariably going to be judged on them.


Cian Tracey - Irish Independent

It now means that England will be missing both Vunipola brothers for the game


Joshua Freeman - Huge Rugby

"I won’t speak about names this stage but there are guys who will leave the club."


Charlie Mulqueen - Irish Examiner

Young has been linked with a return to Wales, with the Ospreys a possible destination.


The Rugby Paper

"It’s clearly obvious that Furlong has hammered across the scrum. It’s created instability from left to right, but we’ve got to deal with that."


Alex Bywater - 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, February 18, 2020

Front Five - 18.02.20

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

ICYMI click here for our
Leinster v Cheetahs writeup


"I'm convinced that if you pick him now, there won't be much more back-row debate in the coming years, things will fall into place."


Cian Tracey - Irish Independent

"They make good decisions at the right time and try to keep their team on the front foot."


SkySports.com

...professional rugby players are keen to see the current tier system in rugby removed in order to provide emerging nations with more meaningful games


Murray Kinsella - The42.ie

...a local resident accused the council of entering into a "reckless" agreement and asked if there would be an "independent inquiry"...


BBC Sport

The women’s final will take place on Sunday, April 26 with the men’s final going ahead on Saturday, May 9.


Michael Corry - Pundit Arena

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, February 17, 2020

Leinster-36 Cheetahs-12



In one way, the above picture is perfect for describing Saturday afternoon in D4 and in another, it's totally useless.

As you can see, it clearly shows how bad the conditions were.  Storm Dennis proved to be a menace as our weather apps and the fear-mongering clickbait tweets had been warning us throughout the week.  And as an added feature, he waited until the moment the players took to the RDS pitch to release the serious rain, only switching it off again with the clock in the high seventies.

But what the photo doesn't tell you is that 8,000 plus rugby diehards braved the elements to watch the match unfold.  That's not a great figure by Leinster standards, but it's way above the median when it comes to the league.  The only reason the stands look in the photo more like those at Toyota Stadium Bloemfontein or Liberty Stadium Swansea for Pro 14 contests is that those at either end were closed for safety reasons, with ticket holders allowed to move to covered seating where the regulars were more than happy to "skooch" as needed.

So with high winds, a slippery surface and bar of soap for a ball, despite Leinster's perfect start to the season I couldn't help but have serious concerns about our ability to dig as many as four tries out of the muck over eighty long minutes, not to mention the very real threat of injury.  And when the Cheetahs' kickoff was allowed to bounce in our 22 before sailing out over the dead ball line for a scrum back, Leinster had an idea of how things were going to progress before even dirtying their alternate purple jerseys.

Yet while many of us have played in these conditions, this was far from a Sunday morning match down the park where scrums are more an opportunity to rest and kill the clock than to serve as an attacking platform.  These guys won't be joking about an 80-minute mudbath on Monday morning - they're professionals who will be evaluating their performances at that time (although in Leinster's case they might have a little giggle at Sean Cronin's expense, more on that later).

So it was interesting to see how they set about chasing the five league points on offer, and on the very first bout of possession from the scrum at halfway, Ciarán Frawley planted a perfect touchfinder into the Cheetahs 22 - one of many great decisions the young outhalf was to make on the day.  Were the conditions not so knockon-friendly he could easily have been man of the match.

Yet for the opening quarter the continuing downpour made any type of attacking rugby more of a challenge.  I abandoned my attempts to both tweet and take notes through the raindrops on my laptop screen after a few minutes (still nearly cost me) but the players had to find ways around rushing defenses without knocking on, failing on several occasions in the opening exchanges.

Eventually after a Leinster maul snaked its way deep into the visitors' 22, Max Deegan broke away and got it just short of the line.  There was already a penalty advantage yet in the series of phases that followed it sounded like referee Ben Whitehouse spotted another three infringements by defenders before Will Connors found a way to bounce off would be tacklers and crash over, with Frawley adding the extras.

So the seal was broken but the now nearly-horizontal rainfall kept producing outcomes you rarely see at this level, like an attempted clearance from Rob Kearney that was headed straight for the wonderfully-named Rhyno Smith - had he caught it, a try was on the cards but to an ironic RDS cheer it slipped through his fingers and into touch.

Finally the South African penalty count was too much and a no-arms tackle saw prop Charles Marais sent to the naughty step allowing Frawley to add three to our lead.  A few mistakes back and forth later, Deegan was breaking through to bring us close to the try line again, this time with the aid of his outhalf's quick hands, and after more error-free picks-and-go it was Michael Bent who got it down - not a bad way to celebrate his return from injury.

With two tries in the bank, the bonus point became an expectation rather than a hope. Another who was lining out for Leinster for the first time in a while was hooker Rónan Kelleher, although he managed a test cap or two since his recovery.  After burrowing his way to jackle a penalty in their 22, he went on to find his jumper in the lineout (far from a given on this day in particular) and he proceeded to take it all the way to the line from the maul in trademark fashion, giving us a handy 22-point cushion at the break that could have been double had the weather been more clement.

There was a bit of deja vu at the start of the second half as Frawley's kickoff also led to a midfield scrum but his fellow halfback Luke McGrath soon had us back on the attack thanks to a show and go (not sure the giant lock JP du Preez could see him from way up there let alone tackle him) that got him deep into their 22.  After the support arrived we settled into more phases around the line before Rhys Ruddock nailed down the bonus point try.

Even the vastly experienced Ruan Pienaar had been unable to make a mark for the Cheetahs, and an attempted box kick that went out on the full summed up their afternoon.  A clever little chip from McGrath then nearly found Tomane in the 22 but Rhyno got it clear over the dead ball line.  This was never going to be a day for backs scoring five-pointers, truth be told.

Eventually it was another 5m lineout that got us over as Kelleher looked as though he'd do a replay of his early try only for him to transfer it to (or maybe have it nicked by?) Will Connors who got it down for his own second.

Often I think it's lazy to give MotM to someone who got more than one try.  And it wasn't just Frawley in contention on this day - McGrath, Deegan, Ruddock and Kelleher were among the standouts for Leinster.

But while I often harp on how we should cast doubt on tackling numbers, it's hard to ignore that on the day, when only two boys in blue purple broke double figures, Ruddock was second for Leinster with 10 while Will Connors had a whopping 18.  That's almost 20% of our tackles made by less than 5% of the squad.  He's heading towards CJ Stander territory when it comes to receiving match gongs but it's hard to question any of them.

When you win any match by a wide margin, the sporting thing to do is to acknowledge any positives you can find from your opponents.  But while it can definitely said that the Cheetahs didn't give up in the final quarter and actually produced a dozen unanswered points in that time, I'm not sure if that's anything to write home to Bloemfontein about.

For one thing, with knockout rugby for Leinster and Six Nations rugby for Ireland bound to be occupying our minds, I for one can't have too many complaints about our going down a gear or two in the closing stages.  And for another, if I were a Cheetahs fan I'm not sure how impressed I'd be with my team only springing to life once 36-0 down?

Still, they did produce all the good rugby towards the end, although their first try came after a thoroughly frustrating series of scrums on our 5m line.   At one point there was actually a Leinster fan screaming at the ref to award a penalty try!  But he did show a yellow card to Sean Cronin and eventually sub tight head Luan de Bruin got the ball over, although honourable mention should go to number 8 Jasper Weise who came close several times in the sequence.

They added a second courtesy of Aidon Davis right at the death and they might have gotten more were it not for what I thought was a ridiculous yellow card shown by Whitehouse to their centre Benhard Janse van Rensburg.

On a few occasions throughout the match, the Welsh ref used the phrase "common sense" when explaining his judgement.  Like after one of many low-trajectory restarts was knocked on only to be picked up by a team-mate, he took the conditions into account and opted for scrum back rather than a penalty.

So when both van Rensberg and McFadden went into "slide mode" at midfield for the same loose bar of Dove ball, the collision may have sent our winger's hurtling to the ground as though it were a tackle in the air, but I really do believe both were entitled to go for it.  And as he flashed the card the ref even said "he doesn't attempt to gather the ball" despite the fact that he actually does gather it intentionally (seen in pic taken shortly after the lead one was).

That only leaves me to describe Nugget's Golden Moment towards the end, and hopefully he'd understand I only draw attention to it because, well, how could I not?  The match was won, the clock was ticking down, and the way things were going, a lineout deep in their 22 looked like it could well lead to a sixth Leinster try.

And it's not as though things were straightforward for either team at this set piece all afternoon.  The visitors had the Toner-sized du Preez successfully thwarting our plans throughout, while on their own throw they kept challenging Dennis with long darts and losing. But as it turned out, during all those failings, poor Seanie was saying "hold my beer"...

Honestly, this could have happened to anyone, and I'm pretty sure he is well able for the slagging;  besides, my humble scribblings will be nothing to what he'll be getting from his team mates.  All it took was a tiny slip from his grasp and a tiny portion of the ball to hit his head in the back swing and anything was possible.  Definitely one for the "one day even he'll look back on this an laugh" file.

So not long after that bit of comic relief the Cheetahs got themselves into double figures on the scoreboard and Dennis mercifully rewarded the crowd with clear skies as they left the RDS.  And having gone into the weekend being mindful in my preview that Ulster weren't beyond catching us in Conference A, this result plus that from Swansea makes me much less so.

Even though we're only just beyond the halfway point in the regular season, if we blow a 15-point cushion (not to mention an advantage of 158 in points difference) from here we certainly don't deserve to win anything, let alone a home semifinal.

Still, there are some tricky enough matches ahead; the Ospreys have just had a confidence-boosting win and Glasgow are never shy coming to Ballsbridge, but of course the big one is at the beginning of April.  We may have made relatively light work of the Pro14's Cheetahs, but whatever the weather, things won't be quite so straightforward against the Premiership's Cheaters.

Cheap shot?  Perhaps.  Pun I could possibly let go once I thought of it?  Never. 😜 JLP


HarpinOnRugby match writeups are brought to you by 



#CommittedToTheGame  

Blog Archive