Friday, May 20, 2022

Preview : Leinster v Munster



As much as we look forward to these derbies, there's always some reason for not having full squads isn't there.

I mean, bar the famous semifinals in 2006 and 2009, pretty much every contest between these two great Irish provinces has been influenced by another match, even when it was the Magners League final in 2011, when some (and I mean some, certainly not me) suggested Leinster were suffering from a Cardiff hangover.

And this time it comes a week before a European final, but let's be honest, no matter what the circumstances, there's always another match isn't there. If it's not Europe, it's an international. Nine times out of ten you'll be guaranteed both sets of coaches won't be putting out full squads and that is a real shame, especially for this particular fixture.

It was the same the last time Munster were in Dublin, the Rainbow Cup at the RDS a week before our trip to La Rochelle. And while I think this is a shame, it's ironic because a lot of commentators outside the Irish bubble actually think this is what helps our teams do well overall at both test and interprovincial level.

But it is what it is. We've got Marseille on our minds plus we have 1st place on the URC table in the bag, while Munster can name their top selection knowing they'll have next weekend off. And before I get bombarded with anger, I'm sure there will be another fixture next season where the fortunes are completely reversed.

Still, it is definitely an interesting matchday 23 Leinster have gone for here, and certainly not one that will be for capitulation, so let's have a look at what we have...

BACKS

While there are similarities to the URC team we have been putting out since the turn of the year, overall it's quite a unique XV in many ways.

The principle similarity is in the centre where Ciarán Frawley and Jamie Osborne have had a lot of game time together and if I had to pick one unit where I'd like to see continuity it's here.

But elsewhere we have returning players, and if anyone knows how to light up this fixture it's Jordan Larmour and it's great to see him back. Interesting to see him at full back, however, and I have a feeling he will be tested under a high ball or six on Saturday evening.

Halfbacks are Cormac Foley, who did well in South Africa I have to say, and Harry Byrne, who could really do with a standout performance and this could well be his final opportunity for that this season.

FORWARDS

Always love seeing my old position of loose head getting the captaincy and Ed Byrne will lead out the side, he packs down alongside Sean Cronin for whom this could well be his final appearance for the boys in blue.

The second row sees Joe McCarthy, in Leinster's 23 against both Leicester and Toulouse yet only getting a cameo at the end of each, partnering Josh Murphy, another for whom this could be his final outing as he is bound for Connacht next season. I can see this pair working really well together in all aspects of the game.

Another big returnee from injury is Ryan Baird - I expected him back a lot sooner and it is interesting to see him in the 6 role where I'm sure he'll still be a lineout target yet will have to focus more on his carrying and he certainly knows how to do that.

But you can't look at this pack, especially given the competition it is playing in, without pointing out that try-scoring machines that are both Scott Penny and Max Deegan are starting in the back row and if at least one doesn't score a try then there is something seriously wrong.

BENCH

Quite the variety of experience on the bench, veterans like Cian Healy and Devin Toner, youngsters who impressed in South Africa like Alex Soroka, and even yet another waiting to make his first cap in scrumhalf Ben Murphy. As always its the continuation of defensive cohesion we'll be looking for most of all from this set of eight, assuming the match is still a contest at that stage of course!

OPPOSITION

Not only are Munster full strength but they're even fuller than they have been lately as Andrew Conway has returned to start and you can be sure our back three will be tested by a kick chase to or two in his direction. However they are missing Damien de Allende so we'll see how these two 12/13 combos stack up as Dan Goggin joins Chris Farrell.

But it is in the pack where we should see the separating of these two. Jean Kleyn and the ever up and coming Thomas Ahern are in their second row while Alax Kendellen takes the 7 jersey to up against Penny, will be quite the battle indeed.

As presumptive Ireland back up it it surely incumbent on Joey Carbery to take control of this match and Munster have gone for Conor Murray to partner him so it looks like a traditional approach is forthcoming from our southern cousins, we'll see if they will be too good for us to disrupt them along the way.

PREDICTION

Bookies are predicting a win for the visitors by 6 points and I can most certainly understand that logic. But no matter what the blue selection, I simply cannot bring myself to predict a defeat on home turf and I defy anyone to suggest they can't take motivation from a rare underdog tag to finish on top and I'll be delighted with a one point margin so I'm going for just that.

As both Kino & Keego pointed out on the pod during the week, the Leinster lads will be determined to show they're more than just "second string" and once the match kicks off they will definitely have the home support fully behind them, although I do expect a decent amount of red jerseys around the place, with the usual levels of post-match camaraderie as discussed in another pod with Munster fan Michelle Tobin.

WHERE TO WATCH

Sadly I'm unable to go to the Aviva this week but you can be sure I'll be watching - while the match is available with English commentary on both Premier Sports and URC.tv I never had a problem with TG4 and their coverage tends to be that split second ahead of the alternatives which suits me because I'm always monitoring WhatsApp and Twitter when I watch so I hope to avoid spoilers!

GET INVOLVED IN THE DISCUSSION

As always keep the comments going on the Twitter machine throughout the match then at the fulltime whistle head on over to the Facebook page with your final thoughts, we try to post the best reactions on the Sunday. To everyone going along to the Aviva have a great evening I hope the weather goes your way, here's to a cracking interpro! JLP

Munster : 15 Mike Haley; 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Dan Goggin, 11 Keith Earls; 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Conor Murray
1 Josh Wycherley, 2 Niall Scannell, 3 John Ryan; 4 Jean Kleyn, 5 Thomas Ahern; 6 Fineen Wycherley, 7 Alex Kendellen, 8 Jack O’Donoghue (C).
Replacements: 16 Diarmuid Barron, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 Keynan Knox, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Jack Daly, 21 Craig Casey, 22 Ben Healy, 23 Rory Scannell.

United Rugby Championship 2021/22 - Round 18
Saturday, May 21, 2022
KO 7:15pm
Aviva Stadium

Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU)
AR 1: Peter Martin (IRFU) 
AR 2: Oisin Quinn (IRFU)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (IRFU)

Live on: TG4, Premier Sport, SuperSport & URC TV


Front Five - 20.05.22

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


Tournament organisers have acted due to complications caused by the Premier League finishing later than usual because of the 2022 football World Cup


SkySports.com

Defeat, depending on how the Vodacom Bulls do against Ospreys, could see Munster...drop to sixth.


Michael Glennon - RTÉ Rugby

Dan McFarland’s side could secure a home quarter-final with a victory at the Kingspan Stadium


The42.ie

"When I was playing – as captain or just a player – it was always good to get those messages from someone who is viewing the game from a different perspective."


Jan de Konig - Rugby365.com

Kick-off for this crucial fixture is 7.15pm and the team will be arriving to the stadium at 5.45pm so this is where we need you – the fans!


LeinsterRugby.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, May 19, 2022

Rugby on TV : May 19-26

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


THURSDAY, MAY 19

7:25PM
HOUSE OF RUGBY
FREESPORTS

9PM
BENETTON V ZEBRE PARMA (R)
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
PREMIER SPORTS 1

10:30PM
LONDON IRISH V WORCESTER WARRIORS (R)
PREMIERSHIP RUGBY CUP FINAL
BT SPORT 3

12AM (FRIDAY)
TORONTO ARROWS V NE FREE JACKS (L)
MAJOR LEAGUE RUGBY

FRIDAY, MAY 20

8:05AM
CRUSADERS V FIJIAN DRUA (L)
SUPER RUGBY PACIFIC
SKY SPORTS ACTION
SKY SPORTS MIX

10:20AM
IRELAND V ENGLAND (L)
TOULOUSE 7S WOMEN

10:45AM
REDS V MOANA PASIFIKA (L)
SUPER RUGBY PACIFIC
SKY SPORTS MIX

11AM
IRELAND V SOUTH AFRICA (L)
TOULOUSE 7S MEN

5:50PM
IRELAND V SAMOA (L)
TOULOUSE 7S MEN

6PM
BENETTON V CARDIFF RUGBY (L)
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
PREMIER SPORTS 2
S4C

7:35PM
ULSTER V SHARKS (L)
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
TG4
PREMIER SPORTS 1
BBC 2 NI

7:45PM
WASPS V SALE SHARKS (L)
PREMIERSHIP
BT SPORT 1

7:45PM
BRISTOL BEARS V EXETER CHIEFS (L)
PREMIERSHIP

7:45PM
BOROUGHMUIR BEARS V SOUTHERN KNIGHTS (L)
SUPER 6
FREESPORTS

8:10PM
OSPREYS V BULLS (L)
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
PREMIER SPORTS 2
BBC 2 WALES

8:35PM
IRELAND V BRAZIL (L)
TOULOUSE 7S WOMEN

11PM
OSPREYS V BULLS (R)
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
PREMIER SPORTS 1

SATURDAY, MAY 21

5:35AM
CHIEFS V WESTERN FORCE (L)
SUPER RUGBY PACIFIC
SKY SPORTS MAIN EVENT
SKY SPORTS ACTION

8:05AM
HURRICANES V MELBOURNE REBELS (L)
SUPER RUGBY PACIFIC
SKY SPORTS ACTION

10:20AM
IRELAND V FRANCE (L)
TOULOUSE 7S WOMEN

10:45AM
BRUMBIES V BLUES (L)
SUPER RUGBY PACIFIC
SKY SPORTS ARENA

11AM
IRELAND V SPAIN (L)
TOULOUSE 7S MEN

1PM
ULSTER V SHARKS (R)
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
PREMIER SPORTS 2

2PM
AYRSHIRE BULLS V WATSONIANS (L)
SUPER 6
BBC SPORT WEBSITE

3PM
HARLEQUINS V GLOUCESTER (L)
PREMIERSHIP
BT SPORT 1

3PM
BATH V LONDON IRISH (L)
NEWCASTLE V LEICESTER TIGERS (L)
PREMIERSHIP

3PM
DRAGONS V LIONS (L)
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
PREMIER SPORTS 2
S4C

4:30PM
STIRLING COUNTY V HERIOT'S FP (L)
SUPER 6
BBC SPORT WEBSITE

5PM
CONNACHT V ZEBRE (L)
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
RTÉ TWO
FREESPORTS

5:10PM
SCARLETS V STORMERS (L)
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
PREMIER SPORTS 2
S4C

5:30PM
SARACENS V NORTHAMPTON (L)
PREMIERSHIP
BT SPORT 1

6PM
OLD GLORY DC V HOUSTON SABRECATS (L)
MAJOR LEAGUE RUGBY

6:30PM
EDINBURGH V GLASGOW WARRIORS (L)
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
PREMIER SPORTS 1

7:15PM
LEINSTER V MUNSTER (L)
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
TG4
PREMIER SPORTS 2

9PM
DRAGONS V LIONS (R)
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
PREMIER SPORTS 1

9:30PM
CONNACHT V ZEBRE (R)
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
PREMIER SPORTS 2

11PM
BORDEAUX V LYON (T)
TOP 14
PREMIER SPORTS 1

11:30PM
EDINBURGH V GLASGOW WARRIORS (R)
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
PREMIER SPORTS 2

1AM (SUNDAY)
DALLAS JACKALS V LA GILTINIS (L)
NOLA GOLD V SAN DIEGO LEGION (L)
MAJOR LEAGUE RUGBY

SUNDAY, MAY 22

3AM
UTAH WARRIORS V AUSTIN GILGRONIS (L)
MAJOR LEAGUE RUGBY

4:35AM
HIGHLANDERS V WARATAHS (L)
SUPER RUGBY PACIFIC
SKY SPORTS MAIN EVENT
SKY SPORTS ARENA

1:15PM
EDINBURGH V GLASGOW WARRIORS (R)
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
PREMIER SPORTS 

2PM
SARACENS V HARLEQUINS (L)
WOMEN'S PREMIER 15S
BT SPORT 2

4:30PM
EXETER CHIEFS V BRISTOL BEARS (L)
WOMEN'S PREMIER 15S
BT SPORT 2

8PM
RU NEW YORK V RUGBY ATL (L)
MAJOR LEAGUE RUGBY

8PM
CASTRES V PERPIGNAN (L)
TOP 14
PREMIER SPORTS 1

10PM
BRIVE V TOULOUSE (R)
TOP 14
PREMIER SPORTS 1

MONDAY, MAY 23

5PM
SARACENS V HARLEQUINS (H)
WOMEN'S PREMIER 15S
BT SPORT 2

5:20PM
BRIVE V TOULOUSE (R)
TOP 14
PREMIER SPORTS 1

6PM
EXETER CHIEFS V BRISTOL BEARS (H)
WOMEN'S PREMIER 15S
BT SPORT 2

6:30PM
PREMIERSHIP HIGHLIGHTS
BT SPORT 2

TUESDAY, MAY 24

8:05AM
MOANA PASIFIKA V WESTERN FORCE (L)
SUPER RUGBY PACIFIC
SKY SPORTS TBC

4PM
EDINBURGH V GLASGOW (R)
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
PREMIER SPORTS 2

8:30PM
TOP 14 HIGHLIGHTS
PREMIER SPORTS 1

10:30PM
PREMIERSHIP HIGHLIGHTS
BT SPORT 3

12AM (WEDNESDAY)
LEINSTER V MUNSTER (H)
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
PREMIER SPORTS 2

WEDNESDAY, MAY 25

3:30PM
SCARLETS V STORMERS (R)
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
PREMIER SPORTS 1

6PM
LEINSTER V MUNSTER (R)
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
PREMIER SPORTS 2

7:30PM
TOP 14 HIGHLIGHTS
PREMIER SPORTS 1

THURSDAY, MAY 26

3PM
EDINBURGH V GLASGOW (R)
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
PREMIER SPORTS 1

9PM
DRAGONS V LIONS (R)
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
PREMIER SPORTS 1

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

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 - 19.05.22

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

ICYMI click here for this week's episodes of
The Harpin On Rugby Podcast

3.43a : “Opposition view : Munster” featuring @CorkSeashell
&
3.43b : “Leinster Fan Panel harps on Toulouse, Munster & La Rochelle”
featuring @keegolaughs_irl & @RugbyKino


"I still feel like I haven’t really achieved that much. We...still haven’t got a Grand Slam or a Champions Cup. These are the main goals for me personally, but also the club and country."


Gerry Thornley - Irish Times
(possibly behind paywall)

"...it would have been fantastic for the growth of the game in Ireland. It has grown, certainly in the time that I was there through the 10 years, the interest in the game is fantastic."


Eoin Harte - Pundit Arena

The vastly-experienced Barnes will be taking charge of...his third Heineken Champions Cup final, having refereed the 2010 and 2018 deciders


EPCRugby.com

Fresh off the back of her breakthrough Six Nations campaign, Sam Monaghan picked up the women's player of the year award.


Cian Tracey - Irish Independent

"I’m very excited about the World Cup for Ireland, I think they are peaking at the right time. Good leaders are still there, guys coming up in the ranks, it’s exciting."


Murray Kinsella - 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, May 18, 2022

Podcast 3.43 : "Opp view - Munster" feat @CorkSeashell & "Leinster Fan Panel" feat @keegolaughs_irl & @RugbyKino




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

This week's episode comes as two seperate pods...

First up I spoke to Michelle Tobin about Leinster v Munster at the Aviva although we set out to mostly talk about how the fans and the media tend to look at the fixture. 

Then along with Keego and Kino we review Leinster v Toulouse and look ahead to matches against both Munster and of course La Rochelle.

Twitter account for our guests:

Michelle Tobin > https://twitter.com/CorkSeashell

Keego > https://twitter.com/keegolaughs_irl

Cian O’Muilleoir > https://twitter.com/RugbyKino


Leinster Rugby’s dedication to Hazel Brown RIP > https://www.leinsterrugby.ie/hazel-brown-rip/


Keego’s new pod “Apologies Up Front” > https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/apologies-up-front/id1621727211


Kino kindly let us share the notes he used for his
statistical analysis of the Toulouse match...


Front Five - 18.05.22

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

This week's podcast is in two parts
click here for Episode 3.43a
“Opposition view : Munster” 
featuring @CorkSeashell



Lowe is included despite being left out of the original 15-man longlist in February.  However, the winger has scored eight tries in Leinster's four knockout games


Neil Treacy - RTÉ Rugby

"Morale and momentum is certainly on a very positive side in terms of us as a club. In terms of the game at the weekend, it’s the last round of the league and it’s big for all teams."


Murray Kinsella - The42.ie

La Rochelle suffered a hammer blow Tuesday with news that key scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow will miss the European Champions Cup final against Leinster on May 28 with a hand injury.


Rugby365 (via AFP)

"To have it in your own hands going into the final weekend with a home quarter-final at stake is massive."


Michael Sadlier - Belfast Telegraph

At times, they have been utterly thrilling to watch; on other occasions, totally exasperating.


David Kelly - 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

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Front Five - 17.05.22

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

ICYMI click here for our
Leinster v Toulouse writeup


Cullen is expected to rest most of his frontline players this weekend, with the province already having wrapped up top spot in the URC table.


Ciarán Kennedy - The42.ie

"I had great moments here and now this opportunity came and with the support of Leo and Leinster I took the chance to go back home."


Michael Glennon - RTÉ Rugby

“Playing five games against such quality opposition will be of huge benefit to the group as we tour for the first time since 2018.”


IrishRugby.ie

Johann van Graan is also sweating on the availability of captain and flanker Peter O’Mahony and full-back Mike Haley


Simon Lewis - Irish Examiner

The uncomfortable truth is that with the women’s game growing at the rate that it is, it is an easy win for people to get involved with and support it, in efforts to boost their own profile. 


Stella Mills - Ruck.co.uk

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, May 16, 2022

Leinster-40 Toulouse-17

LEINSTERTAINMENT+

Not even a minute gone in a massive Champions Cup semifinal between teams with nine stars between them. Leinster, having kicked off, have their first possession around midfield, and thus their first chance to test the reigning cup holders' defences.


Hang on...where am I going with "their"??? This is a fan site which means I'm free to leave my impartiality at the door, which in turn means I'm free to go with "we"....


Anyway...Toulouse's defences early on do appear to be strong. Having gotten the ball from one 10m line to the other, the visitors' line speed was such that WE were driven back towards the halfway line and thus needed to decide if regrouping was a good idea.


"No one home here..."


In the BT commentary box, Brian O'Driscoll, who generally does his best to be as neutral as possible (certainly would try to avoid saying "we") can see something the TV camera angle isn't showing us, namely a massive gap in the Toulouse backfield, and as it turned out James Lowe, in possession on the sixth phase, spotted it too.


Some days, the bounce would have brought his kick ahead into touch, which would have been a decent outcome. Other days, the bounce would have gone "end over end" bringing it beyond the try line or even worse for us, beyond the dead ball line meaning there would have to be a scrum all the way back.


But on this day, look where the ball ended up. You pretty much couldn't have placed it better as it stopped just short of the try line, giving their full back Ramos no option (thanks to the strong chase by Jimmy O'Brien) but to clear his lines and just like that we've an attacking lineout just outside their 22 before the clock hits two minutes.

Fast forward to the 71st minute. Leinster have built a 13-point lead at this stage, and obviously I will harp on all of that here eventually, but for the sake of this opening section I'd like to point out that if there's any team in Europe that could pull two quick converted tries out of the bag in a match situation like this, it's one that has a half back line of Antoine Dupont and Roman Ntamack.


They had just taken a quick lineout in their own half. Cyrill Baille, unexpectedly back on the pitch for a second spell after his replacement had gone off injured, had not dropped his match intensity a jot and had two carries in the set their forwards used to actually find the rare species that is a Leinster soft shoulder to get the ball quickly back to halfway.


Next we get a taste of our own medicine as Dupont and Ntamack execute a near perfect "wraparound" play and a little show and go from the number 10 evades the challenges of both Garry Ringrose and James Lowe, and as he is eventually tackled by O'Brien, he manages an offload out of the tackle which is meant for his own number 14 Jean Cruz Mallia and if the pass had stuck, the winger would have had acres of space up the touchline to run into.


Yet while Lowe might have been beaten by Ntamack's run, he wasn't yet done with the play. He spotted Mallia in space and stuck around for the offload, which went straight to him. And this time, with Toulouse on the attack, he didn't need to look around to know that there would have been just as much open grass in their 22 as there was in those opening exchanges.


So he takes it, spins around, and swings his left boot at the ball. I refer you once more to the earlier paragraph starting with "some days..." for all the things that could have happened. But once again, the perfect thing for us happened.


You can pretty much see the disgust on Ramos' face just as the ball's momentum dies before the tryline...

Of COURSE it stopped there. Why wouldn't it?

And you can also see the delight on Lowe's face as he's chasing it down...

Of COURSE I meant it to stop there. Why wouldn't I?

To Ramos' and his teammates' credit, they managed to get the ball as far as the 22 from here but to our own chasing defenders' even greater credit, we then managed to stop them at the 22 where they knocked on allowing the clock to tick deeper into the seventies with the set up of a scrum.


Watching the match live as it happened, it was only then that I was reasonably satisfied that we had done it. Yet watching it back now, it looked like a contest that was effectively over a long way before that moment.


Because what I said in last week's writeup of the win at Welford Road...


"...you have to be happy with the performance - I've been saying all season how even though we're top of the URC our matchday squads for Europe seem to find an extra level when it comes to focus, professionalism, cohesion or whatever other buzzwords you might want to use."


...applied again on Saturday, and I'd even go as far as to say that we managed to crank the level up a little bit more if anything. Was that because of home advantage or because of necessity given our opposition's greater Euro experience? Maybe a bit of both? But whatever it was, it was a sight to behold, and definitely a level up from even the best displays the boys in blue have offered in this competition in days gone by, which is really saying something.


Actually the fact that James Lowe did these two amazing kicks, also helping himself to two tries while playing a pivotal role in our fourth, DIDN'T get Player of the Match, which nobody, not even he would dispute, tells you all you need to know.


So I guess there's nothing left for me to do but to go through the 80 minutes and trust me, I'm very happy to do it...


0-20


I'll start with the lineout just after the first Lowe kick I described in my opening bit...the Toulouse pack played silly beggars with their numbers and seemingly referee Karl Dickson was in "no nonsense" mood, instantly awarding a free kick where we chose the even better attacking platform of a scrum.


After some Garry Ringrose crash ball we tested their tackling some more with a series of phases deep in their 22 - they were holding us out although often not legally, something Dickson also spotted as he actually awarded us three penalties in this series alone. He warned the visitors before Sexton chose the option in front of the posts to give us a 3-0 lead.


The next big moments are featured in our latest Tik Tok video...

@harpinonrugby

Harpin Tik Tok 6 : "Le Pass Magnifique de Furlong"

♬ original sound - Harpin On Rugby

Just in case it won't play for you, it has "that pass" by Furlong, Dupont's length of the field try after Keenan's break, all while questioning whether or not the pair of knock ons just before all of that should have deemed the score null and void.

I would like to add one paragraph in defence of Jamison Gibson-Park's decision to kick the ball forward. For one thing it was definitely a high risk option, but if you look at the situation after Furlong's sorcery put Keenan clear in their 22 you can see why he thought the kick into the corner was on. It was still transition for the Toulouse D and both Sexton and Lowe had green grass in front of them to the line. So while his failure to spot his opposite number lurking behind him cost us the lead at that moment, his logic in going for that decision once he arrived to the breakdown was still sound IMO.

So you might think conceding an early score would be a reality check, but truth be told we weren't in the mood for checking anything. We just carried on regardless, with a Doris break coming shortly afterwards only for him to put a bit too much zip on his offload to Keenan, and after they cleared, our next lineout had us right back there pressing again until they shipped another penalty in front.


But...but...they were on a warning for this kind of offence already? Clearly Mr Dickson never saw our video about the Stormers match a couple of weeks ago...anyway, Sexton kicked the penalty to get us within 1.


We were still locked in to our gameplan to find a way through this stubborn, if maybe a bit too illegal, Toulouse defence. After Lowe's booming exit clearance led to some kick tennis between Sexton and Ntamack, our skipper emerged on top and when we won a penalty outside their 22 he decided it was time to go for the jugular with our first lineout from 5m out.


Just like last week at Welford Rd before our first score, Kelleher's dart was perfect, to Molony this time who took the clean grab, and off goes the maul towards the line. Next Henshaw with the crash, some more phases and finally James Lowe has plenty of time to fall over the line with it. Even though it took us almost 15 minutes to cross, the air of inevitability around it could not be ignored.


This was when Furlong had to limp off, as I type I am anxiously waiting for news on his fitness, although as I say in the video, his replacement Michael Ala'alatoa, put into a situation which was always part of his remit when signing for us, went on to do a really good job.


And the lads certainly weren't going to let this stop them getting back down the other end, with more high kicks raining down on Ramos from our back three. This might not have been a tactic you'd think we'd use in a match like this, as he's generally good at tidying these up, only perhaps not with the likes of JGP hunting him down.


This time the pressure meant Dupont had to clear in a hurry, allowing Hugo Keenan to start the ball rolling again, and Sexton wasn't waiting around for another penalty to get things going...having provided the final pass for Lowe earlier, now he's fooling everyone with a show and go...and I do mean everyone, look at the screengrab - who in their right minds didn't think he was going to pass???


Now he's in open territory with so much space and time that he can easily think through all his options and once he spots van der Flier's red scrum cap, well there is only one option isn't there. Just get it to him and no matter how many try to stop him, it'll get over the line. Which is exactly what happened.


As Sexton converted to bring the scoreboard to 20-7 only one question remained at this point...how have only twenty minutes elapsed????


20-HT


In case we needed a reminder that there was a long way to go, Ntamack's restart was lost by Jack Conan in the Dublin afternoon sun and when Toulouse won a penalty at the first Furlong-less scrum, we feared it could cost more than the three points Ramos added to their score.


But it wasn't long before we were back playing the rugby we wanted to play, namely the kicking game, and when another monster boot by Lowe seemed to go from his own 22 into the opposite one for what would have been a Leinster throw, the assistant ref defied our winger (and the bulk of the 42k crowd) to call it the other way - and you know what, he was absolutely right.


That didn't really matter though, because Meafou went off his feet to clear out JGP at a breakdown, plus there was some backchat bringing the play forward another 10 (still on that warning....) allowing Sexton to restore that 13-point lead.


Finally Dickson's patience ran out, when once again it was Sexton trickery slipping a little ball to Ringrose allowing him to crash into their 22 and when Meafou created an almost perfect action replay of his hit on our 9, out came the yellow card. Little bit awkward timing-wise for us, as the ten-minute spell was broken up by half time, but still a perfect chance for us to stretch the lead to that all important 15+.


As it turned out it was Toulouse on the attack as the clock went past 40m, although our defence was more than able to stop them in their tracks. Meanwhile up in my lofty perch high in the West Stand I was in complete awe of what I had just seen, although I did manage to dream up a heading for my article at this point...


40-60


Full credit to Toulouse, they certainly did not emerge from the dressing room having given up the ghost. I guess you don't win this great competition that many times with any other kind of approach.


They saw out the yellow card, and as ever were ready to attack from anywhere. In fact we came close to a repeat of their first try after a great catch by Jimmy O'Brien had put us on the front foot in their 22 only for an attempted "miss" pass from JGP instead went straight to Ntamack who proceeded to set off in the opposite direction.


His instinct was to kick ahead and now we're at the part of the writeup where my blue goggles will probably stand out the most. Right after he kicks it, Jack Conan absolutely does catch him and you can see the point of contact in the screengrab. Did he mean it? Or did Ntamack dive? Might as well ask whether the chicken or the egg came first, but for what it's worth I think the TMO's line of "he's put a hand on him and that causes the legs to clash" is pretty much spot on, so no foul play was determined.


Clearly Toulouse could have done with an extra man, because while they were enjoying more possession in this spell, our defensive standards were exactly where they have been all season, with James Ryan and Ross Molony (our nailed on starting pair of locks now no matter who else is available) also thwarting them with well timed jumps on their lineout darts.


And right after that Molony steal, which was in our own half, we quickly pinned them back at their own 22 and more intimidating chasing from the boys in blue meant they had to hurry their clearance so much that our scrum half was able to block.


Now we're back on the foot foot again, there's another crash to the line under the posts, another penalty advantage signalled by the ref, another decisive pass from Johnny Sexton to James Lowe, and yes, another Leinster try.


For those keeping score, that made it a hat trick of assists for our skipper. That was why he was Player of the Match. Well, that, plus the show and go. Well, those things, plus the 6 out of 6 from the kicking tee. Well, let's face it, it was all of it and a whole lot more.


There was another injury concern for us as Rónan Kelleher went off for an HIA but it wasn't long before his replacement Dan Sheehan made his presence felt with a massive dump tackle while we were under siege in our own 22. But there was also a big hit the other way, this time by Ahki on Sexton, although once again our defenders were able to snuff out the danger quickly enough as the clock ticked past 60m.


60-FT


At 62 minutes we had arguably Leinster's best set of defending. Toulouse had a lineout just inside our half. Just five phases later, Ntamack had no other option but to kick it back to us and not only that, he was back over the halfway line in his own territory.


But they were not for giving up and when presented with their own 5m lineout, their sub Tolofua somehow managed to keep his feet inside the touchline as the maul surged forward and he eventually peeled off and fell over. A superb touchline conversion from Ramos meant the margin was now back at 13.


The benches were being emptied at this point, including our halfbacks getting replaced by Luke McGrath and Ross Byrne, but if we as fans were anxious about the scoreline, it certainly didn't show on anyone wearing blue on the pitch.


Next came the Lowe kick ahead I mentioned earlier, which ended in a scrum to Leinster. The overall beauty of this Leinster display is in our confidence, or dare I say our expectation, that we will somehow score points in these situations, and sure enough after Frawley, on for Robbie Henshaw, crashed into the 22 off the scrum, and it wasn't long before we were close to the line again.


Eventually right after yet another in a long line of strong carries from Ala'alatoa, the ever tiring Toulouse defenders were caught straying offside, and as you can see, the Leinster players were in complete agreement about going for the posts, with Ross Byrne calmly getting the job done to put the lead back to 16.


And we still weren't finished with the scoring. On 78m Toulouse were valiantly still trying to get something going only to fall into another one of our defensive traps, meaning Dupont coughed up the ball to Caelan Doris and before you knew it there we were back on the attack again.


Ringrose sent what to mere mortals would be a "tentative" kick ahead into their 22 only to James Lowe it's more of a dare, as he somehow got to the bounce of the ball before about half a dozen players around him and ended up close to the line. From there, again it looked way too easy as Keenan pondered the pass outside him only to bring it in himself.


The conversion from Ross Byrne brought an amazing Aviva afternoon to a close.


HARPIN' POINTS


Let's play that time-traveller game we often do in sports shall we. If someone had told us before kickoff that 1) Toulouse would score first 2) Tadhg Furlong would go off after just 16m and also 3) we would fail to score for 10m after a Toulouse yellow card, that would not sound good at all.


But this Leinster team...going back over the years we used the term "Leinstertainment" (AFAIK originally coined by @cianer31son) which I always took to mean our "champagne" style of rugby, meaning mostly breathtaking backline moves. This was absolutely all of that, only with something extra. The defence, certainly. Also the confidence, and that famed Stuart Lancaster focal point, cohesion.


It was quite simply never in doubt.


Speaking of Leinster coaches, as I type I learn that the latest worst kept secret at the province, namely that Dr Phil is due to leave to take up a position with the Pumas, has been confirmed. Anyone think of a way to give him the perfect send off????


I saw some comments, unfortunately from fans of other provinces, that we perhaps got the rub of the green from the ref. Even if that were true it wasn't the winning of this match. Or even if those James Lowe kicks meant he should have bought a lottery ticket, in no way was luck the winning of this match either. Or even if Toulouse did have an extra twenty minutes of rugby in the same ground a week before, their tiredness wasn't the winning of this match.


As I have said many times on these pages this season, Leinster have brought a particular focus to their European outings this season and that is what we saw on Saturday, that is what was in the winning of this match, and that is what will have us favourites for the final in Marseille. If we can repeat this kind of performance, it is La Rochelle who will be needing all of the above to go in their favour.


WHAT'S NEXT


Of course all matches against Munster "matter", but you'll have to believe me when I say it's not out of partisan spite that I say that next Saturday evening's clash at the Aviva will matter more to them for many different reasons. For Leinster it is all about Marseille for the next two weeks.


Still, we will of course give our final regular season URC fixture our full attention during the week, I'll have Michelle Tobin on the podcast as well as the usual preview and of course writeup among other things. Have to say I really enjoyed doing this one, many thanks as ever for sticking with me until the end. JLP


Click here for a selection of online comments after the fulltime whistle


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