Sunday, January 31, 2021

Online comments after Scarlets 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.


Conor Cronin For me those 3 leaked tries were very soft, they were avoidable. But they don't take away from an excellent attacking performance, always looking for the right option, and when it wasn't taken, learning for next time they went forward.

I think Frawley is brilliant, and I've said before that leinster need to do the work to keep him.

Back to the top of the table where we belong, I'm happy out with that


Paul Smith A very professional job done tonight by the boys in blue. There was no stopping our driving maul and every time we got inside the 22 we were taking points before we left. Harry Byrne is getting better and better and Luke is playing some of his best rugby ever and was a superb captain making all the right calls. Any tine you past 50 points is a good night, and delighted to see both Hawkshaw and O'Reilly dotting down. Oh and welcone back Tadgh, great to see you in blue again.


Derek McGee Positives and negatives despite a very lopsided scoreboard. To get the negatives out of the way, the Scarlets tries were all very soft in one way or another. Some very lazy or sloppy defensive reads from Leinster that won't make for comfortable viewing in next week's video sessions. For such a one-sided game, to miss more tackles than an opponent you have dominated is not a good look and that is something that needs work amongst both the youngsters and the veterans alike. On to the positives: welcome back Tadhg! Also, welcome Jamie Osborne - quite the cameo! Delighted for David Hawkshaw and Max O'Reilly getting on the scoreboard too. Harry Byrne continues to excite and that dual pivot with himself and Frawley is a strategy that is really bearing fruit. Finally, I think we're really starting to see Dan Leavy play himself back into peak form: he's a phenomenon of personal belief coupled with natural talent and I think the best is yet to come.


Henry Sellars They expected Dave to do a number on them and failed to manage their D across the rest of the park. Really good shift by the XV and replacements. Wonder how many more will be name checked/selected through the 6n with injuries etc???


Martin Lynch Superb Work From The Kids . In The Middle Of 2nd Half All 15 Were Academy Players. Harry Looks The Real Deal .


John Mcgrath Am I alone in thinking that Ross Molony is the most underrated player we have

Brian Corr (reply to John Mcgrath) there’s a few, D Kearney, L McGrath (how’s he lost place in Ireland squad), M Bent


Bert McLoughlin We look a lot more fluid when we play with a playmaker at 10 and 12


Niall Smith Harry Byrne was excellent


Derek Carroll Great display. Lads did us proud. #Blue army ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Mel Cawley I think it will be a lesson for Max O'Reilly. He scored but he was caught out. This is what's great about the structures in Leinster. He has seen the limelight. He has profited from his strengths and his weaknesses he will work on. To clarify I am not complaining these are great opportunities and I believe they are well managed.


Many thanks to all who offered opinions.

Look out Monday for our match writeup JLP

Front Five - 31.01.21

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

Guess I was holding back with 
my Scarlets v Leinster preview


Leinster were utterly dominant throughout the match, enjoying 58% possession and 66% territory 


Matthew Southcombe - WalesOnline

“There are so many expats living around Australia that we still feel we could fill the grounds. We’re here to help.”


The Guardian

Hanrahan went back into the pocket, scrum-half Nick McCarthy found him with a perfect pass and the Kerry man split the posts from 35 metres


John Fallon - Irish Independent

"Lightning within 7km’s we’re going to have to leave the field, we’ll return after a while."


Rugby Onslaught

"I was like, 'Oh my God!'"


Patrick 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

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Preview : Scarlets v Leinster

Of course every preview these days comes with the caveat “assuming this competition is played to a conclusion” and the Pro14 is as up in the air as any other.


In fact, even if a champion is to be crowned, we’re still not sure quite how - as things stands it’s only the Conference winners that will go straight into the final but if the Rainbow Cup doesn’t happen (more than likely) then we could see the original six-team playoff structure restored.


Either way, this rescheduled date in Llanelli is valuable for Leinster in many ways, and also valuable for Ireland in one way.  It has been just over a year since Tadhg Furlong last wore blue in competitive play and I’m as superstitious as the next guy so all I will say is that it is awesome to see his name on the teamsheet again.


Overall this matchday squad is a perfect mix of players who are back from injury, have loads of experience, are making a name for themselves this season, and just starting their careers.  All boxes are ticked more than once so let’s start with the “noobs” shall we.


Max Smith had something of a baptism of fire against Connacht at the beginning of the month so this is a good chance to show what he can do.  In reserve there’s Jamie Osborne who was one of the few Leinster A players to impress against their Ulster counterparts the other week and also David Hawkshaw should get some game time.


Also on the bench, no disrespect to tight head Tom Clarkson but I hope we don’t see him too early in this one, though I doubt Furlong will be expected to see out the 80 so there will still be a chance for the 20-year-old to play.


When it comes to leadership, myself and Ciarán Duffy spoke on the podcast during the week about Dave Kearney’s continued form and his presence will definitely be a help for young Smith.  Then in the pack although both are far from “veterans” both Ross Molony and Ryan Baird will be badly needed in the lineout here.


Then if we needed experience in the latter stages there’s the likes of Sean Cronin and Scott Fardy to step in, and as always we’ve a decent starting backrow in Murphy, Leavy & Conan.


When it comes to creativity, the Harry Byrne/Ciaran Frawley axis is used once again which is definitely an exciting prospect for Leinster fans.  They really have shown this season that they could operate for us long into the future and definitely could be the key to success for this match, especially with in-form skipper Luke McGrath providing the service.


On the Scarlets side of things, they have to operate on the assumption that a top three finish is within their reach and with Connacht falling at home to Ospreys last weekend, they could well be eyeing second place as well.  Not that any match against them in recent years has been easy mind you.


The one thing about this encounter is that it falls on the weekend normally left vacant by the league, being one week before the Six Nations kickoff, when Ireland also travel to Welsh shores.  So a lot will depend on which team can get the most out of a patchwork squad, something Leinster are definitely known for, although the Scarlets backrow of Thomson, Davis & Cassiem won’t make things easy.


Bookies have Leinster winning by 12.  I find it hard to argue with the result, and while the margin is definitely doable, the superstition I mentioned earlier is going to play a part in my prediction once again and I’m going to sy 7-9 points.  We definitely have it in us to get a good result but with an entirely new lineup to last week we’ll have to hit the ground running.


Here’s to some great bonus rugby, be sure to head on over to the Facebook page after the full time whistle to leave your thoughts.  JLP


Scarlets : 15 Johnny McNicholl; 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Steff Hughes (capt), 11 Ryan Conbeer; 10 Sam Costelow, 9 Dane Blacker.
1 Phil Price, 2 Marc Jones, 3 Javan Sebastian, 4 Morgan Jones, 5 Sam Lousi, 6 Blade Thomson, 7 Dan Davis, 8 Uzair Cassiem.
Reps: 16 Taylor Davies, 17 Kemsley Mathias, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Tevita Ratuva, 20 Carwyn Tuipulotu, 21 Will Homer, 22 Angus O’Brien, 23 Paul Asquith.

Guinness PRO14 2020/21 - Round 8 
(rescheduled from Nov 28)
Saturday, January 30, 2021
KO 7:35pm
Parc y Scarlets

Referee : Mike Adamson (SRU)
AR1: Craig Evans (WRU)
AR2: Dan Jones (WRU)
TMO: Jon Mason (WRU)

eir Sport 1, TG4, Premier Sports 1, S4C

Front Five - 30.01.21

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

Our Scarlets v Leinster preview 
will post by lunchtime


"He’s a world class player...(we want him to) stay safe, fit and healthy and put in a good shift and feels good on the back of it."


Gerry Thornley - Irish Times
(possibly behind paywall)

Leinster say the player had already been isolating as a close contact of a family member who had been feeling unwell. 


The42.ie

Fineen and Josh Wycherley will start...with Niall and Rory Scannell also included, as well as cousins Gavin and Liam Coombes.


Cian Tracey - Irish Independent

The coach will be dreading his phone ringing with bad news on the injury front.


Mark Orders - WalesOnline

"Here we see Michelangelo bracing, ready for Raphael to tackle him"


RugbyDump.com

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, January 29, 2021

Front Five - 29.01.21

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

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


"Paul will bring a lot to the squad in terms of his game knowledge, and especially his detail around the maul area"


David Kelly - Irish Independent

"A huge amount of work is on-going, and we continue to look at avenues that may provide players and clubs with the rugby that they love."


RTÉ Rugby

 Wales (will face) the Final Qualification Tournament Winner (possibly Ireland) at 16:45 NZT to close out day one


Alison Donnelly - Scrumqueens.com

Morris has an integral knowledge of the organisation and the tournaments it manages following nine years at head office


SARugbyMag.co.za

"It has been a really enjoyable time for both of us and it was an easy decision to commit to a further two years."


PJ Browne - Balls.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

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Rugby on TV : Jan 28-Feb 4

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


THURSDAY, JANUARY 28

11AM
CARDIFF BLUES V SCARLETS (R)
PRO 14
EIR SPORT 1

3PM
MUNSTER V LEINSTER (R)
PRO 14
EIR SPORT 1

FRIDAY, JANUARY 29

7:45PM
BRISTOL BEARS V BATH (L)
PREMIERSHIP
BT SPORT 1

7:45PM
LEICETSER TIGERS V SALE SHARKS (L)
PREMIERSHIP
BT SPORT EXTRA

SATURDAY, JANUARY 30

1PM
BULLS V SHARKS (L)
CURRIE CUP FINAL
SKY SPORTS ARENA

3PM
GLOUCESTER V NORTHAMPTON (L)
PREMIERSHIP
BT SPORT 2

3PM
WORCESTER V EXETER CHIEFS (L)
PREMIERSHIP
BT SPORT EXTRA

5PM
BENETTON V MUNSTER (L)
PRO 14
EIR SPORT 1
PREMIER SPORTS 1

6:55PM
BULLS V SHARKS (R)
CURRIE CUP FINAL
SKY SPORTS ARENA

7:35PM
SCARLETS V LEINSTER (L)
PRO 14
EIR SPORT 1
PREMIER SPORTS 1
TG4
S4C

9:31PM
BENETTON V MUNSTER (H)
PRO 14 
TG4

11:10PM
SCARLETS V LEINSTER (R)
PRO14
EIR SPORT 2

SUNDAY, JANUARY 31

12:25PM
SCARLETS V LEINSTER (R)
PRO 14
EIR SPORT 1

2:30PM
LONDON IRISH V NEWCASTLE (L)
PREMIERSHIP
BT SPORT EXTRA

3PM
WASPS V HARLEQUINS (L)
PREMIERSHIP
BT SPORT 2

11PM
PREMIERSHIP HIGHLIGHTS
BT SPORT 3

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 1

3PM
SCARLETS V LEINSTER (R)
PRO 14
EIR SPORT 1

5PM
SOUTH AFRICA V NEW ZEALAND (R-1995)
CLASSIC RUGBY WORLD CUP
EIR SPORT 2

10:30PM
PREMIERSHIP HIGHLIGHTS
BT SPORT 3

11PM
SIX NATIONS PREVIEW SHOW
VIRGIN MEDIA ONE

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 2

3PM
AUSTRALIA V ENGLAND (R-2003)
CLASSIC RUGBY WORLD CUP
EIR SPORT 2

7PM
SCARLETS V LEINSTER (R)
PRO 14
EIR SPORT 2

7PM
LIONS TEST SERIES IN AUS (H-2013)
7PM-1ST TEST
8PM-2ND TEST
9PM-3RD TEST
SKY SPORTS ARENA

10PM
LIONS 2013 - LIONS RAW
DOCUMENTARY
SKY SPORTS ARENA

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 3

8PM
SIX NATIONS 2018 HIGHLIGHTS
8PM - FRANCE V IRELAND
9PM - IRELAND V ITALY
10PM - IRELAND V WALES
11PM - IRELAND V SCOTLAND
12AM - ENGLAND V IRELAND
VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 4

1PM
SOUTH AFRICA V NEW ZEALAND (R-1995)
CLASSIC RUGBY WORLD CUP
EIR SPORT 2

8PM
SIX NATIONS 2019 HIGHLIGHTS
8PM - IRELAND V ENGLAND
9PM - IRELAND V FRANCE
10PM - WALES V IRELAND
VIRGIN MEDIA SPORT

********************

L = LIVE
R = FULL REPEAT
T = TAPE DELAY
H = HIGHLIGHTS

Times for live broadcasts generally refer to kickoff
Check local listings for repeat showings
Feel free to let us know if something is missing! paganoblog@gmail.com

Front Five - 28.01.21

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

ICYMI click here for
this week's episode of
The HarpinOnRugby Podcast


"We are confident we will get the right authorisation. We are waiting for the final confirmation."


Gerry Thornley - Irish Times
(possibly behind paywall)

"...now there's so many guys pushing (Conor Murray) and he's still maintaining his high standards. So it's a great place to be."


Patrick McCarry - SportsJoe.ie

 "...we are very confident in the fantastic tournament that the Women's Six Nations represents and the fantastic growth opportunity it is."


Ruaidhri O'Connor - Irish Independent

"We live in a place that's still 'old France', where little girls are supposed to do dance or more classical sports."


Vanessa Maurel - WomenSports
(translated by John Birch of Scrumqueens.com)

"Given his broad skill set and experience, as well as some impressive accolades to his name, I'm confident that he'll be a valuable addition to the team."


RTÉ Rugby

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, January 27, 2021

Podcast : S02E28 : “Leinster’s season so far & Ireland’s Six Nations squad featuring Ciaran Duffy (@PostToPostSport)”



Listen to the pod using the player above or better still,
subscribe to our feed we're on most major platforms

This week we turn the spotlight back on Leinster & Ireland - my guest was Ciarán Duffy from Post to Post Sport and we talked about the match in Thomond Park last weekend, Leinster players who have stood out so far this season and also Andy Farrell’s squad which was announced on Monday.


Front Five - 27.01.21

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

Personally, I'll gladly take even
a "sanitised" Six Nations


It is vital Paul O’Connell can fix Irish lineout or another difficult campaign is in store


Gordon D'Arcy - Irish Times
(possibly behind paywall)

Once restrictions allow, he will need to go into a hospital and shadow an intern doctor as one of the requirements for his degree.


Murray Kinsella - The42.ie

"Just being in with the squad makes a huge difference mentally" 


David Kelly - Irish Independent

"We wanted to be part of a group where there was a clear vision, a deep level of trust, and a dynamic environment driven towards high goals."


Ruck.co.uk

... time is running out for a deal to be agreed...Super Rugby AU starts on 19 February with Aotearoa getting underway a week later.


Sarah Mockford - Rugby World

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, January 26, 2021

Front Five - 26.01.21

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

ICYMI click here for our
Munster v Leinster writeup
titled "Swings and Roundabouts"


"Tadhg hasn’t played in quite a while but he is ready to join the group. Unfortunately Jacob will not be available to us."


Patrick McCarry - SportsJoe.ie

Johnny Sexton was also forced off early in the second half...he will also link up with the Irish squad this week...


Marcus Ó Buachalla - LeinsterRugby.ie

Rob (Baloucoune) has been in sensational form for us and has proven himself to be a prolific try-scorer as well as a superb defender. 


Huge Rugby

Their current four-game losing streak at home is their worst in seven seasons but...expectations have correctly shifted.


David Kelly - Irish Independent

"...they travel the country, they hold coaching clinics in communities, schools and townships, they fill stadiums and pump immeasurable amounts of money into a crippling economy"


SARugbyMag.co.za

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, January 25, 2021

Munster-10 Leinster-13

SWINGS AND ROUNDABOUTS

There’s rarely a whole lot of agreement among fans when it comes to this fixture, but I reckon everyone watching, no matter what colours they were wearing, thought the penalty Caelan Doris conceded in minute 39 of the first half was a really silly one.  However, on second look, even that seems up for debate.


Not that it wasn’t a penalty, mind you.  He’s clearly in Conor Murray’s way, no doubt about that.  But it was more a case of really clever work by Jean Kleyn the way I saw it.  Doris’ actual tackle on Rhys Marshall was good, possibly too much so, in that he took a split second when on the ground to appreciate it.  


In that moment the “caterpillar” ruck starts to form and by the time the Leinster & Ireland number 8 plots an escape route, in steps Kleyn to both join and, for good measure, put Doris in a “damned if he does damned if he doesn’t” situation.  It was actually better for him to at least attempt to get up but referee  Andrew Brace really had no choice but to blow his whistle.


Of course what was so significant about that moment was that it gave JJ Hanrahan a perfect opportunity to stretch his side’s lead back to double digits going into the break.  Possibly another thing all those watching agreed on was that he’d pop it over, especially as he had already nailed an early score from further out.


Alas this one just got pulled a fraction too much and ended up hitting the upright, but not to worry - since the clock now said 40:37, once a Leinster player ended up controlling the rebound there would be nothing left to do but put it to touch and be thankful we were even within bonus point range after the half that had just gone.


But as we all know, that rugby ball can do funny things.  In the end it rolled perfectly from Robbie Henshaw’s point of view so he could gather it.  However, from Rhys Marshall’s point of view, for a second it looked like it was in a position for him to do a sliding grab (like full backs tend to do when chasing a ball rolling towards their own line with chasers gaining behind them) to give his side a chance of getting even more than three points.


Whether or not it was a back v forward thing or just the bounce brought it closer to Robbie, the Leinster centre got there first yet with Marshall already committed to his slide, he ended up halting Henshaw’s progress by chopping him down.  Technically the ref had to call it a “no arms tackle” but while his intentions weren’t malicious, I don’t think they included an attempt to tackle either.  Let’s just say that in football, that exact same collision would result in a straight red, yet the way it happened here, we can call it a “rugby incident” and leave it at that.


Back to the action...the play went on for a minute before the assistants told Brace about the challenge and Luke McGrath was keen to clear to touch to end the half.  But now, armed with a penalty, even though it was in our own 22, Johnny Sexton made a similar positive decision to one he took against Ulster a fortnight ago.  Sure, we could go for the safe option, but what say we back ourselves to get something better instead?


The punt to touch left the lineout still in Leinster’s half, but after James Ryan took “one off the top” and Henshaw barged his way closer to halfway, the attack patterns which we had already shown were once again moving us forward, with Caelan Doris no doubt more than happy to be among those doing the heavy lifting along the way.


A few phases followed before Jordan Larmour, himself having had issues of his own earlier, brilliantly spun through the first tackle and drove past several more attempts before being hauled down at Munster’s 10m line.  Now Brace had no choice but to ping James Cronin for no clear release and suddenly Sexton had a chance to fully justify his decision moments earlier and securing what everyone was calling a “six-point swing” before the half.


Much has been said about the two placekicks Hanrahan missed on the night, and while I don’t agree that you can simply add those scores to the result to show what it would have been, those six points would have done wonders for his team’s psyche.  But to focus on those would be to ignore the importance of two that Leinster did make - first, this one from Sexton which, while definitely in his range, came with a lot of pressure, and the second...well, I’d better set the scene for that one in a “roundabout” way as well.


Fast forward to minute 65.  Assuming the watching neutrals were cheering on Munster (safe bet) there were probably a lot of curses being fired in the direction of eir Sport commentator Conor Morris when he suggested that the home side might be on the way to keeping Leinster tryless.


And to be fair, Munster were still 10-6 ahead as they were at the break and after a clock-sapping 13-phase set, Conor Murray pinned Leinster back in their own 22, as full back Mike Haley had already done several times.  But here’s where I actually had an issue with the commentary team.


They were rightly singing the praises of Murray, Beirne and de Allende up to that point, yet without acknowledging that in each case, their opposite numbers McGrath, Ryan and Henshaw were also on top of their game.  That’s what made this match such a classic in my book.


And they also seemed to be lopsided when it came to teamwork.  Munster definitely put together many smart attacking sets when they were in the lead and the kicks to touch in our 22 would have made Ronan O’Gara himself proud; but each time, Leinster made the exit look remarkably easy, and this one set us on our way to taking the lead for good.


Usually McGrath would just punt to touch but here he spotted a sniff of a chance on the blind side of the maul and ran with it.  With decent support (including makeshift winger Jamison Gibson-Park) we managed to trap the retreating Munster men offside and thanks to a great kick to touch by Ross Byrne (also missed in commentary btw despite having raved over a similar one from Ben Healy earlier) we now had an attacking lineout near their 22.


More often than not in these situations I cringe when I see the hooker throwing the dart high because I imagine it sailing over all the forwards and making it a midfield lottery.  But this looping throw from Ronán Kelleher was perfect to meet James Ryan’s leap and with Josh van der Flier safely guiding it to Luke McGrath, the called play could now be set in motion.


No surprise in seeing that man Robbie Henshaw again popping up to provide the front foot ball - rarely did we stray from him as an option and why should we when it kept on working.  Then when the ball gets worked out in the opposite direction, once again van der Flier was providing the link play getting it to Ross Byrne, who had a little surprise in store for the defensive wall rushing at him.


His little dink forward could not have sit up more perfectly for Hugo Keenan to take, but he still had a lot of work to do as the offload needed to be both quick and accurate - sure enough it was both as Larmour took it in his stride to wrong-foot Keith Earls and just like that we were in for a score.   But even then we weren’t done.


Just look at the difference between where Larmour scores the try and where Ross Byrne places the ball for the conversion.  Right against the touchline, on the wrong side of the pitch for a right-footer, with the weather doing all it could to distract him, and not to mention the pressure of the situation.  None of them a bother to him.  Popped it over like it was nothing.  Second big match in a row where he has played a crucial role.


Naturally things were far from over at that stage, but you couldn’t tell that to Leinster’s defence.  For me, our biggest feature this season has been an ability to be stronger without the ball in the closing stages even with a totally clear bench, which is a sign of a squad that knows what they’re about in such a key area.  


This was no exception, and the biggest feature here was twin tacklers meeting the point of first contact after almost every breakdown.  Munster were to have two more goes at cracking us, but in the end ironically it was two of their best performers, Beirne and de Allende, knocking on each time.


Perhaps my account of the match appears a little different to ones you’ll see elsewhere.  Since this is meant to be a Leinster fan site, I shouldn’t really apologise for giving it a slant towards the boys in blue, while other writers might have focused more on the fact that Munster built an early 10-0 lead only to throw it away.


But I honestly think that does Leinster a disservice.  There’s no doubting the home side started the stronger and not only had a really good plan to pepper our back three with well-chased box-kicks (which came down with even more snow on them than was already on Thomond Park terraces at kickoff), but in Conor Murray they had arguably the best on the planet at it and in the height of his powers.


The first three points were after just five minutes and the try came after another penalty won at a scrum.  From the lineout Murray read what was before him and managed to snipe his way to an attacking position.  From there his forwards rumbled their way to the line before Beirne got over.  Brace gave the touch down despite not seeing it so the decision had to stand despite no angles available from the TMO.


In case you think I’m saying it shouldn’t have been awarded, just to be clear I’m simply recounting what actually happened.  Of course I have issues with some decisions from the night, or more to the point ones that weren’t made, like a couple of challenges on Hugo Keenan that weren’t picked up by anyone it seems, but for each one of those I’m sure Munster fans have similar situations where we were lucky. 


The point is that Munster were good for their early lead, only with the proviso that even when it reached 10-0, Leinster hadn’t had a decent spell with the ball yet so we really didn’t know how the match was going to play out.  As the half wore on, even before the extra play at the end of it, Sexton was doing a more than decent job of advancing us up the pitch.


What kept our side of the scoreboard down was the strength of Munster’s defence, with de Allende and Farrell strong in the tackle and Tadhg Beirne popping up regularly for his jackling clinics.  Joking about Morris’ commentators’ curse aside, they really did look like they could have kept us tryless and they didn’t even need CJ Stander to be on top form to do it.


But there were mistakes by the home side which kept undoing their positives.  Where they did well with the tactical kicking, they lost out when it came to adding to those early scores.  Where they had success in the scrums, they lost out much more in the lineouts, sometimes with dodgy darts, others with good timing by James Ryan.


Of course I can appreciate their frustration in falling short against the old enemy yet again...this very website was born in 2008 when I felt the exact same frustration the other way.  But wishing to break our hoodoo over them is not going to make it so.  They are definitely improving and if we play them again this season, it will no doubt be just as close.


Still, I think we can feel good about our ability to dig our way out of a hole on Saturday without considering ourselves lucky.  Now we’re in a decent position to close the gap even further on Conference A leaders Ulster although with the Irish Six Nations squad announced as I type, we’ll need to go Llanelli next weekend with a very different squad to this.


But if I must draw back and look at this match from a broader Irish point of view, the only thing that needs to be said is that this was the final instalment of a superb set of interpros over the holiday period. Nobody played perfectly, but all six matches were both entertaining and packed full with top notch displays, and to conclude I'll try for one more opinion we can all agree on - in these times we are all very grateful to have so much top flight rugby to enjoy. JLP


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