Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Leinster-40 Glasgow Warriors-21


IN FOR A PENNY


Before I harp on the match itself, many many thanks to the lads at Leinster Rugby for letting me report from the RDS for this match - since I first started going I never thought the experience could possibly be more awesome yet with all that has been going on this had an added bonus of bringing much needed "normality" to my week.

There was also a good bit of irony about it since it was almost a year to the day since I was last at the RDS as Leinster faced the exact same opposition. Starring for the boys in blue that night was Ryan Baird so it's also worth noting that he's now pulling on the green jersey, as are Connors, Keenan, Gibson-Park and Lowe.

Someone who might not thank me for bringing up that match is Ciarán Frawley. His conversion of Dave Kearney's hat trick try at the full time whistle of that 28/02/20 clash represented the final action witnessed by an RDS crowd before the lockdown. And although he has impressed greatly this season in the 12 jersey, he had to withdraw from the lineup during the warm up on Sunday.

Although the margin of Leinster's victory was a lot less in this most recent meeting, it was still big enough for anyone who hadn't watched the eighty minutes to assume it was simply another maximum-point night at the office for the reigning champions. Yet for those of us who did watch, whether in person or at home, the story goes a whole lot differently.

Generally on weekends where both Leinster and Ireland have fixtures I tend to save some time by doing my provincial writeup as I'm watching for a second time, describing the action in ten-minute passages. While I'm still using that format for this one, in actual fact it's probably the best way to do it since it was such a bonkers series of events!

The bottom line is that despite comfortably wrapping up the bonus point before the break, this was still a match we very easily could have lost and IMO we only didn't because of decisions made (or in some cases not made) by both the officials and our opposition.

One word on something that took place just before kickoff, there was a fitting tribute to Leinster & Ireland legend Gary Halpin who was known for one try & celebration in particular yet that was only part of a distinguished career that was unlucky to come to an end just as the pro era was only just beginning. RIP

So let's crack on with harping on the match shall we; with Frawley out of the starting lineup, Rory O'Loughlin replaced him at 12, Jamie Osborne went from the bench to 13 and Max O'Reilly took jersey number 23...

0-10

We should have known this match was going to be far out of the ordinary when Harry Byrne's kickoff went straight to Warriors young full back Oli Smith who proceeded to slip as he attempted to clear allowing the ball to travel meekly along the ground past the surprised Leinster chasers until it was picked up by our skipper Luke McGrath.

A few phases later we were deep in their 22 when a high tackle was called on their outhalf Adam Hastings, one of many Scots who may not have featured had the Six Nations fixture against France wasn't called off.

From there we took the lineout and in the sequence of phases that followed there were further penalty advantages against Glasgow until a strong line run by Harry got him through the defences and over the line - he added the extras to make it 7-0.

Having forced a choke tackle from Glasgow's next lineout, Leinster then had our first chance to test the altered backline formation and to be honest on this series you'd have thought they were practicing all through the week.

But for a break for a scrum for a knock on in the tackle, mostly through passing through the backs we eased our way back to their 5m line and with the penalty advantages still mounting Harry put in a little kick pass to the corner where Cian Kelleher caught yet was taken out by Cole Forbes.

A look from the TMO showed the Warriors winger had not only committed a foul but also prevented a score so they were hit with the ultimate on field sanction of penalty try and yellow card, 14-0.

10-20

When Jimmy O'Brien knocked on a high ball at midfield it gave the visitors their first real opportunity to have some decent possession from a set piece and despite being both a man and fourteen points down, Danny Wilson's side didn't shirk from showing us what their could do.

An offside penalty put them in our 22 and from the lineout a great run from Huw Jones got them near the line and his offload was juggled by Tom Gordon but then gathered for a really impressive score. It was almost as though they seemed to like playing us with just the 14 men. 14-7

But yet another great strike move between O'Loughlin and Osborne soon put us back on the front foot and an offside penalty got us back deep in their 22. A series of strong carries from O'Loughlin, JVDF & Harry got us close to the line until try-scoring machine Scott Penny barged through three would be tacklers to get it down. 21-7

20-30

No actual scores in this segment but still a significant incident in that Josh Murphy committed two penalties in quick succession and got a warning from referee Frank Murphy - the importance of this will be clear later.

Sadly for Glasgow they were unable to capitalise on either transgression, with first Hastings failing to find touch with his clearance and then when he did find the line the second time, Harley bobbled the lineout catch allowing Fardy to grab it.

It looked to be third time lucky when Rufus McLean got very close to the line on the back of another disguised Hastings pass, but shortly afterwards Luke McGrath was able to rip it free from the grasp of Sam Johnson and Leinster managed to clear.

30-HT

This was a passage of play both teams needed "like a kick in the head".

Glasgow kept up their pressure on and around our 22 but with the undoubted talents of Leone Nakarawa and his "octopus offloads" a bit below par due to lack of game time for the Fiji international, their attacks kept on breaking down.

In the midst of making a tackle, Harry Byrne's face caught the trailing foot of Warriors hooker Grant Stuart - completely accidental of course but still nasty enough for the young 10 to go off for an HIA from which he would never return, meaning a prolonged cameo for David Hawkshaw.

From there possession went back and forth until a high ball was launched into the Ballsbridge sky by Luke McGrath. It came down around the halfway line and although Adam Hastings was always going to be the one to catch it, there was a decent chase by Cian Kelleher. What happened next was bizarre yet still very dangerous.

We all remember the near perfect (and probably GAA-inspired) technique of Rob Kearney, in fact they're still enjoying his talents down in Perth to this day. He would not only time his jump to the millisecond in sync with the ball, he would also raise his knee to ward off oncoming challengers. That might sound dangerous to those who haven't seen it, but the reality is that this method is generally accepted as the textbook way to catch a ball.

I think Adam was trying to do something similar here, only he got both positioning and timing horribly wrong. It still fell into the breadbasket, but having already committed to the jump and being forced to lean backwards in the act of doing so, his raised leg ended up flailing upwards to a near 45 degree angle.

Were anything but Cian Kelleher's face on the receiving end of his boot, I doubt there would have even been a sanction let alone a card. Yet particularly under today's guidelines where any reckless action that leads to connection with the head, call me biased if you must but I really think Murphy had no choice but to go for a red.

So the play moved on towards halftime and when Glasgow got pinged for players advancing ahead of a kicker it meant we could choose a scrum deep in their 22 with the clock nearing halftime.

When Murphy gave a free kick at the scrum, Luke McGrath chucked it to Penny who had absolutely no hesitation in taking a quick tap and barging his way towards the line where nobody could stop him putting it down. Possibly worth pointing out that Hasting's presence on the pitch would have made absolutely no difference to this particular score IMO and we were able to go into the break with the bonus point wrapped up. 28-7

40-50

Luke McGrath dispacthed the restart to touch but it was still an early opportunity for Glasgow to mount a decent attack, one they definitely took.

With young Ross Thompson now pulling the strings, they slowly worked their way into our half before a strong run in the wide channel by hooker Grant Stuart saw him bounce off tackles from Osborne, Kearney and Cronin before a neat offload to McLean put the winger over. 28-14

An offside call against Leinster meant we were pinned back in our own 22 before long and it was in this passage of play that I felt we were very lucky not to lose a man ourselves to level the playing field. Yet even without Murphy going to his pocket, Glasgow got even closer to levelling the score.

From the penalty they embarked on a series of punishing phases on our tryline - during the course of them Scott Fardy was pinged for a no arms tackle. Eventually they opted for a scrum under the posts, and on the next series of phases it was Sean Cronin's turn to be busted for the same crime.

With the warning received in the first half plus the fact that these no-nos having happened so close to the line, I really felt Murphy should have carded someone in this sequence no matter how it turned out, yet when Huw Jones powered his way over the line, only the try was awarded. 28-21.

Still, with Thomson adding another conversion, now the Warriors were within just seven and definitely had the upper hand despite the personnal count.

50-60

What Leinster needed for this set of 10 minutes wasn't necessarily a score, rather a prolonged spell of possession deep in Glasgow territory and that's exactly what we got. On 58 minutes the Warriors were cheering like they had won the match when awarded a penalty at a scrum in their own 22.

Actually that came at the end of a series of long sets of phases, the first having as many as 23 including some strong penetrating runs from Hawkshaw. Of course the visitors were entitled to celebrate but I have a feeling those 10 minutes took a real toll on their players even with substitutions to come.

Speaking of going to the bench, we had yet another player coming off the famed Leinster back row assembly line at this stage as Alex Soroka made his debut.

60-70

A sensational territory kick from Thompson put them back in our 22, but we weathered that storm and not long after it was Luke McGrath, revelling in his captain's role these days, paying back in kind down towrads the other end.

Possession changed back and forth a few times in this spell but it was right at the end of it on the 70th minute when the match was more or less decided.

70-FT

This sequence was started by Hawkshaw, who like the other young replacement outhalf opposite was having a fine prolonged shift. First he ripped the ball free at halfway from a carry by Warriors number 8 Ryan Wilson, then he gathered and carried all the way to their 22 before being hauled down.

He lost it as he was tackled and the Warriors managed to gather before winning a penalty at the next breakdown. However, after a review by the TMO, you can clearly see Glasgow 20 TJ Ioane going into the back of Jimmy O'Brien who was on the ground.

It was similar to the recent infamous incidents involving O'Mahony and Fagerson only here he "only" connected with the back so it was given as a yellow card as well as reversing the penalty. Still, coming as it did with ten minutes to go, its effect on Glasgow's chances of clawing back the deficit any further were exactly the same.

Hawkshaw pushed the placekick wide but although Thompson wisely put the 22 drop out as deep as he could twoards our territory, the prospect of our 15 men running back at their tiring 13 was always going to make further scores inevitable.

We quickly made the most of the extra space by shipping out wide and with slick combination between Kearney and O'Brien a nice trailing run from McGrath was rewarded by an easy canter and dive over the line, giving us the perfect leadoff pic you see above. 35-21

Further credit was earned by Glasgow as they continued to press and ahead of our seventh try I thought again we were lucky not to at least ship a penalty as Toner seemed to catch Kennedy a little high but nothing was given and in the process the ball fell loose and Leinster wasted no time getting it out wide (including a fine long chuck by Scott Fardy) until it reached Ciaran Kelleher who was always going to finish.

At this stage Hawkshaw had gone off himself with injury so Jimmy O'Brien tried to add the conversion but he pushed it wide. Still Glasgow pressed us from the restart but despite a good few phases eventually it was turned over and who better than Big Dev to be the one to boot it off the park.

CONCLUSION

Far from your run of the mill Leinster victory but in the end I thought we did pretty well coping with all the on-field chopping and changing and crucially nothing happened to our starting back row of Murphy, van der Flier and Penny, the last of whom deservedly won the Player of the Match award for his all round contribution in a number 8 role he certainly doesn't seem to mind.

As for how that leaves Conference A, well for the second week in a row we've edged a further point clear at the top, giving us a lead of 6 points ahead of the big clash at Kingspan on Saturday evening. I'll have Ulster fan Ian Frizzell on the podcast this week to discuss his team's chances as well as to offer his latest Lions selection. Should be a cracking match whatever happens. JLP


*****
We normally do a separate post featuring online comments from the full time whistle but with it being a busy weekend we'll add a few here instead - many thanks to all who contributed as always!

Conor Cronin Hard to believe Glasgow were down a man that second half. I imagine if Harry Byrne hadn't gone off we'd have been more efficient in the early parts of the 2nd half.
Some good performances, particularly Van der Flier and Penney who was a very deserved motm. A few players who were quiet by the standards they've set themselves.
We go to ulster next week as conference leaders, and these younger lads need to be very confident seeing as it's them who got us there. Great work from the squad and coaching staff


Paul Smith Made hard work of it at the start of the 2nd half but a lot of changes probably caused that. See some comments about the card but for me it was a clear red and dangerous play that will warrant a ban. Scott Penny is on fire 🔥, a total try scoring machine. Harry Byrne was also excellent before his injury and was playing some lovely rugby. A nice gap opening at the top, next week will be huge but Leinster are well capable of taking a win home. A job done today and we roll on to next week in decent form.


Martin Loughrey BP win is a BP win. Though I think Glasgow will be kicking themselves for an opportunity squandered. They could well have taken us in the 2nd half but for the 2nd Yellow. I have a degree of sympathy for Hastings. The card was valid but I don't think it was intentional. Eyes were on the ball and not sure if he even saw Kelleher. That said, it was bad form to be smiling and laughing with your teammates after putting a man down with your studs to the face intentinal or not. Back to Leinster, a lot of work needed to make sure the younger replacements gel better. Too scrappy in the 2nd half up to the last 10 mins. The 2nd Yellow for Glasgow really got us out of jail. We were a man up for a half an hour but shipped 14 unanswered points. If I was Leo or Stuart I'd be livid about that. Still, a BP win is a BP win!


Gav Heg A bp win from our reserves against a near full strength Glasgow outfit.
Penny was outstanding, and utter nuisance to Glasgow. Kelleher showed what he can do, very exciting player.
Red everyday of the week, expect a good ban too.
I really hope the saffas joining make the league better, it's just stale at the moment. Rumours of the jaguares relocating to Spain to join too, I'd love to see this!


Sean Michaels I think Glasgow Warriors deserve a lot of credit for their performance tonight, they played some good running rugby hitting our lines at speed and showed a lot of determination in their overall play, although it’s a lot easier to play open rugby when there’s no pressure. Fair to say that this performance has given Messers Cullen and Lancaster a lot to think about ahead of the Ulster game as we seemed to go asleep once we had the BP in the bag. The red card was deserved and will probably be followed by a ban. Standout performers were JdV who pushed Scott Penney for MOTM. Overall job completed and roll on Ulster

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Kevin Kelehan 60 table points in 13 games, ludicrous consistency. Winning is a habit

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