It has been a long, long week. Not only have I been harping on rugby as usual but since July I have done a weekly pod with Keego on the US Presidential Election so unless you've been living under a rock for the past few days, you'll know that makes this a busy time.
So this probably helps explain my confusion over Sunday's match at Liberty Stadium...am I having deja vu? Didn't we just have a relatively comfortable maximum point away win against a Conference A rival wearing black with our skipper Rhys Ruddock barging his way to the Player of the Match award???
I guess that means it's ok if I do my writeup in similar fashion, namely summarizing the match in 10-minute gaps as I rewatch, so here we go...
Very strong start from the Ospreys, looking determined to bring the physicality straightaway and having kicked off they made our first few attempts to exit our own 22 very difficult indeed.
When a Luke McGrath box kick was knocked on by Cian Kelleher, the home side got a good nudge at the scrum, winning a penalty and putting the kick deep in our 22. From the lineout there was a classic Welsh super maul with back joining in and with Scott Penny judged to have collapsed it, the ref had no choice to award both yellow card and penalty try.
They then won another pen directly from the restart so it was the perfect opening spell for them - the only question now was how Leinster would react.
We tried to get things going, but the Ospreys were well set to make life difficult for our attack, hardly surprising with the likes of Dan Lydiate involved. Harry Byrne has shown in his short career that given time he can be devastating in many different ways, so they were doing their best to deny him that time.
So we besically needed a big play to get us going, and who better to provide it than Rhys Ruddock. After a host of Osprey phases threatened to extend their lead while our number 7 was off the park, leave it to our skipper, normally a 6 but latest at 8, to do the work himself by latching on to the ball at the breakdown and winning a penalty.
And when our hosts were pinged for collapsing our maul at halfway moments later, Harry put a beauty of a touchfinder deep into their 22 so we were finally in business. Ross Molony, making his 100th Leinster appearance, rose to take the catch, our maul rolled its way towards the line, and eventually Tracy dragged it over the line, with help from Ruddock & Josh Murphy.
To make things worse for the Ospreys, this was done before Scott Penny's return, and he trotted on as Harry levelled the scores with the conversion.
The Ospreys continued to try to pressure us, and after we needed a great intervention by full back Jimmy O'Brien after a fly hack pinned us back on our own line, it looked like they were primed to come back at us yet again.
But when a lineout of their outside out 22 was overthrown, we got ourselves a bit of broken play and boy, did we make the most of it. It fell straight to James Tracy who charged ahead towards halfway. It was quickly recycled and a precision long pass from Harry set up an overlap on the far wing which O'Loughlin and Jimmy O'Brien used to perfection allowing Dave Kearney to get us in front.
Harry had nailed the touchline conversion, giving him about a gagillion succesful placekicks in a row, but then he proved himself to be human when he missed a much easier penalty shortly after.
But then a neat switch move from Tommy O'Brien back to Kearney on his inside got us to the 22 and again there was quick recycling, including a wonderfully improvised shovel pass from Michael Bent, that got it to a 2-on-1 overlap outside. When it arrived at Scott Penny he considered offloading to kelleher before rightly trusting his own strength to get it over.
All of a sudden we had not only wiped out the Ospreys' hard earned start but the match was beginning to look as though it was out of reach and it wasn't even halftime.
Much like the first, the second half saw us take a while to get going. The nearest this portion of the match came to a score was when Ospreys full back Cai Evans attepted a penalty from almost halfway but while he had the distance the accuracy wasn't great and it drew wide of the posts. Meanwhile the blitzing home defence continued to inflict us with a dose of knockonitis.
As the match entered its final half hour, it was getting increasingly important for us to bag the bonus point try. After a series of phases was getting nowhere for us at midfield, Scott Williams was pinged for a high tackle on Rory O'Loughlin and this put us into their 22.
Our maul got us to within 5m of the line until sub prop Tom Botha was judged not to have rolled away so we had a call to make - (a) take the scrum, or (b) go for another lineout? How about (c), tap and go instead. Dan Sheehan did the honours and got just short; eventually it was Peter Dooley finishing the job in every sense.
The match really fizzles out from here. The biggest events in this portion are David Hawkshaw finally getting a decent spell of gametime after a long bout of injury troubles, and also Tommy O'Brien being limping off with troubles of his own, a shame since he and O'Loughlin were proving to be an impressive centre pairing.
The highlight of the final ten minutes was, not for the first time, the Leinster defence. It really is impressive how a system that requires perfect sync among all 15 wearing the same jersey can actually improve when up to 8 of them are swapped over with the bench.
Credit to "Those Pesky Birds™" for keeping at it all the way to the end but our boys were simply not having it and the 73-minute shutout was as impressive as the BP in my book. In fact, you could also make the point that officially they never actually dotted down over our line at all on the day.
Hard to add much more really, our winning streak rolls on, and we've actually managed to improve on our points total from the same stage last season (courtesy of that narrowest of narrow wins at Zebre) so all I can say to the lads is, "more of the same, please!!!"
I will double down on my opnion expressed last week about Rhys Ruddock. He is in phenomenal form, with the ball as he muscles his way to gains every time, without thanks to endless tackles and jackles, and overall with top notch leading by example. Pretty much everything you want from a skipper.
My only caveat is that we are absolutely stacked with back row talent at the moment, so to say "he simply MUST be put into the Irish set up" is, for me anyway, a gross over statement. I suppose everyone has an answer to the question "who would you leave out of the squad, then?" but it certainly won't be an easy answer. For now, I guess we just have to be happy that Leinster are getting the full benefit of his talents. On to Round 6!!! JLP
Rhys Ruddock. You don't see that leadership in many people in any walk of life.— Catherine Kavanagh (@KavanaghCk) November 8, 2020
7-26 FT That’ll do, fantastic performance by the pack especially. 👏🏼 #OSPvLEI 💙— JackieMc (@Jackiem23) November 8, 2020
Wow, Leinster concede an early penalty try, then hold Ospreys scoreless for 73 minutes, while scoring 4 of their own. That is an impressive performance! #OSPvLEI— Brian Nisbet (@natural20) November 8, 2020
Good start by O's but once Leinster defence settled there was no breaking them down, and we took enough of our chances for another BP. Not Harry's best day but a good test for him and other younglings. RR another strong outing from 8. Happy out. #OSPvLEI— Harpin' On Rugby 🏉 (@HarpinOnRugby) November 8, 2020