The reason I did the first of these "mini-writeup" posts back in April was my "OCD" nature when it comes to posting content.
My plan was to harp on Leinster v Toulon in the last 16 of the Champions Cup so when that match was taken away from me, I still felt I had to write about something so I picked 5 matches from the weekend and offered a few thoughts on them.
I enjoyed doing them so much that when Leinster were left with a two-week gap in their schedule on account of no longer being in Europe as well as a Rainbow Cup bye week, it seemed to make sense to try the format again and sure enough there were plenty of interesting matches to feature last weekend and this one was no different.
For this instalment I was looking at the matches from two angles in particular; the first, naturally, involved a Leinster-shaded lens, and on Friday I worked out exactly what needs to happen over the coming weeks for the boys in blue to reach the Rainbow Cup final. As things stand, that is still possible, though less likely given how the latest results panned out.
Another thing I wanted to focus on was TV coverage, and this is to be a theme of sorts on these pages for the week ahead. With eir Sport leaving the market, I plan to have some fellow Irish rugby fans on the podcast to discuss what we'd like to see from the broadcaster that takes their place.
So part of my aim here is to compare and contrast what we tend to see from both the Pro14 and the Top 14, and just for the craic I had a look at a top of the table clash in Major League Rugby as well to see how the Yanks are covering egg-chasing this weather.
As I'm featuring three Pro14 Rainbow Cup matches I won't comment on the telly presentation seperately; all I'll say is that personally I didn't really have any major problems with eir Sport over the years, which I know is an opinion that won't be very popular.
Many have qualms with Liam Toland's contributions in particular but for my part I tend not to pay too much mind to what the pundits are saying and even when they do get my goat, sure isn't that all part of the craic? What I liked about eir Sport's coverage was that EVERY match was available for viewing, with the vast majority of them live. As a blogger who likes to research ahead to keep up on Leinster's upcoming opposition, that was absolutely ideal. I'm not so sure RTÉ will guarantee the same, especially if they plan to take back the GAA Leagues as well.
Some qualms I'd have would be over nerdy things like in-play graphics. Sometimes they use phase counters, sometimes they don't. Personally I think they should come as standard. Also I'm a big fan of using a separate clock to indicate how long is left on a sin-binning. But like I say we'll be going into all this in more detail on the podcast during the week so what say we get on with the 5 matches in question...
MUNSTER 31-27 CARDIFF The simplest way to describe the way this match panned out would be "Braun over Brain", since Munster's tries came from mauls and carries while Cardiff tended to go the more creative offloading route for theirs.
But before I get lambasted for suggesting Munster don't have any brains, in actual fact they had them to burn right at the very end when the Blues were attacking in their 22 only for CJ Stander to use his "captain's challenge" to point out that Cardiff's sub scrum half Lloyd Williams had kicked the ball back into a ruck at one point which meant the home side could kill the match.
I have to say while Munster ended up with the home bonus point victory I was expecting, I never thought it would be this close at all. However Dai Young is back in charge at the Blues and he definitely had them playing some great no-fear rugby from the kickoff, really putting it up to Johann van Graan's men who needed every ounce of their set piece and close range accuracy to secure the 5 match points.
Having gone 10-0 down early on thanks to a 2nd-minute Tomos Williams try plus a penalty, Munster shifted everything back the other way with three very similar tries before the break and it really looked like that was that but the Blues weren't for letting up and with Tomos bagging his second before his replacement Lloyd made it three, the visitors nudged back in front 24-27 in the final ten minutes.
But when sub Keynan Knox barged his way over for the bonus point score it seemed to be all over and while ultimately it was, the Blues were able to put themselves in a really good position before Lloyd's late brainfart got sussed.
The end result for Leinster was that for us to have a chance of at least overtaking Munster on the table, we first need maximum points from our two remaining matches, plus we'll be hoping for a favour from Zebre to either avoid defeat in their final match or at very least lose while conceding three tries or less plus keeping the points differential down to give us a chance to catch up. Yeah, I know, none of that really sounds likely, does it. Sure as the saying goes, ya just never know do ya!!! BENETTON 20-12 CONNACHT Before I harp on this match from Leinster's perspective, we must all spare a thought for poor Denis Buckley.
All throughout the week there was loads of much-deserved praise for the loose head prop as he prepared to lead his province out for his 200th appearance. He has been a great servant to the Westies over the years and was really unfortunate not to have received any attention at senior test level in that time.
So after all that hype in the build up, only to go and justify it by brilliantly winning a turnover in the opening exchanges, doesn't he then go on to get himself injured as with his legs locked in the jackle position he gets cleared out resulting in an injury which ended his involvement before the clock has ticked past a minute. Dreadful luck for the chap and I hope he's back in action soon.
Anyway, going to the match itself, despite the early subsitution Connacht started brightly and hooker Shane Delahunt mauled over for an opening score. But it wasn't long before Benetton showed why they're in pole position to appear in the very final they are set to host on June 19.
First there was Ignacio Brex powering over in the corner after a great sweeping move and from there the home side were more than happy to take three point oppotunites courtesy of out half Garbisi to keep their side of the scoreboard ticking over.
Connacht did manage to maul over for another try and actually led at the break but their poor discipline kept the kicking tee on the pitch for Benetton and in the 74th minute a red card for Papali'i helped them see the victory home.
If you squint your eyes and tilt your head while looking at this result you can kind of see how the fact that Benetton weren't interested in the bonus point helped Leinster, but now the situation is that we not only need Ospreys to win by 8 points or more in the Liberty Stadium on June 12, we also have to hope Connacht recover in time for next week to make sure those pesky birds aren't also still in contention.
Personally I think it might be easier for Leinster fans to adopt a "hope for the best but prepare for the worst" attitude towards this Rainbow Cup and perhaps consider the benefits of hopping on the famed "Benetton Bandwagon Bus" should it become mathematically impossible for us to reach the final.
TOULON 25-19 BORDEAUX
Reset hell in the Top14 on Saturday. Closing stages of a 4-pt game, Toulon get awarded a scrum with 71:09 on the clock yet with all the resets the ball doesn't get put in until 74:31. That's a lot of time to lose at any stage IMO but particularly here. #bugbear pic.twitter.com/yI7FZGmvho— Harpin' On Rugby (@HarpinOnRugby) May 30, 2021
DRAGONS 16-27 GLASGOW
I've already mentioned in this post how Leinster need help from Ospreys and Zebre to reach the final, but even if they oblige us it won't matter if we can't do our own job of getting maximum point wins in our final two matches, and as luck would have it we got to watch both of our opponents play each other on Saturday evening.
Apparently the Dragons are working on sorting out their infamous playing surface back home in Newport so this was played at the Cardiff City Stadium and it was quite an interesting contest from start to finish with plenty of intent from both sides, if perhaps not always a whole lot of accuracy.
With the Rainbow Cup touted by many as an opportunity to get game time for youngsters, I have to say these two clubs definitely do seem to have some prospects. I already knew about Ross Thomson at outhalf for Glasgow as he played quite a bit when Adam Hastings was out injured but now the Scotland international has returned, they seem to have him at fullback so that Thomson can play a bit more and he definitely looked the part here.
Also on the Glasgow side there was number 7 Rory Darge, who at 21 has the look of a taller Hamish Watson about him and certainly put himself about much like the Lion openside. On the Dragons end of things, although 20 year old Aneurin Owen looks absolutely nothing like Jamie Roberts, he was enough to confine the great centre to the bench and definitely showed plenty of his carrying power.
In fact it was Owen himself who opened the scoring with an early try although in reality the Warriors pretty much dominated throughout and after a couple of scores were disallowed by the TMO, struck twice just before the break through Steyn and finally Thomson after a superb series of Warrior offloads that began at midfield.
From there it was really only a question of whether or not the visitors would manage to get the try bonus and they did right at the very end with another sweeping move resulted in sub lock Kiran McDonald falling over the line - the TMO checked the legality of a couple of the passes in the build up but they were all called "flat" and Glasgow had themselves a deserved maximum and Leinster certainly won't have things all their own way at Scotstoun this Friday.
I couldn't let this particular "mini-writeup" go without a nod to the lost luscious locks of Mr Richard Hibbard. As someone who only recently was able to lose my overgrown "COVID hair" I can appreciate the need to reach for the blade but in Hibbard's case the mane was something of a trademark so you couldn't help but notice the difference. The commentators remarked it takes years off him, I might add it takes pounds off him as well!!!