Sunday, February 13, 2022

Leinster-26 Edinburgh-7

BIT OF A STRETCH


Add an extra three points for Leinster and the scoring sequence in this match would have been pretty much identical to that which happened up the road at the Aviva Stadium six days earlier. And without watching the 80 minutes you'd be forgiven thinking 26 unanswered Leinster points followed by a late consolation from the visitors represents a comfortable enough win for the 8-time champions.

But those of us who saw both matches know the similarities to the Six Nations opener end there. While Andy Farrell's men know they should have gotten more than the four tries they did, if Leo Cullen's are being honest they'll know this was a bonus point victory that very easily might not have happened.

Not that the win itself was in question mind you, it will come as no surprise that Leinster's squad is more able to cope with Six Nations absentees than Edinburgh's, even when we lose our skipper for the night Rhys Ruddock forcing a few changes including Ross Molony assuming the leadership role and Martin Moloney moving from jersey 20 to 6.

So with us being tight for time at Harpin Manor this weekend because of twice the normal amount of writeups, what say I crack on and start describing the action in 20-minute sections...

0-20

Leinster definitely started brightly enough, with welcome returnee Dave Kearney breaking into the visitors' 22 to set up a series of phases which ended as Ed Byrne knocked on and the ball was cleared.

We were then under siege after a strong Edinburgh counter ruck won a penalty which put them in our own 22 and our defence was really put to the test for the next five minutes or so. At one point it looked like their no8 Kunavula had gotten it over the line but the replay showed a double movement.

I know hindsight is always 2020 but given how stingy our tackling looked from the outset, I wonder if turning down a relatively easy 3 points was the right call for our guests during this spell. They may have scored a lot of tries this season, including a hat-trick from close range by their prop Venter in their last outing, but I'd have thought our ability to force back phases at the try line was well known in this league by now.

Eventually after taps n go got them nowhere a strong challenge from Martin Moloney forced it free and skipper Ross Molony was quick thinking with the loose ball to ship it wide and we were able to escape with the scoreboard still untouched.

The biggest incident of this phase of the game happened after Jamie Osborne was taken in the air and the penalty gave us an attacking lineout at their 22. Ciaran Frawley provided the crash ball from 12 channel but was stopped in his tracks with what always looked like a head collision that needed to be reviewed.

Of course I have my blue goggles on when doing these writeups. And my opinion here was probably even more clouded by what I call the "Friday Night Fog" - I've noticed over the years that online opinion for Friday night matches tends to be that bit more aggressive and partisan, possibly with the aid of alcohol. But having watched this challenge again a couple of days later, my opinion remains the same - it could, and probably should, have been red for Connor Boyle.

Frawley was tackled first by Edinburgh out half Charlie Savala and then Boyle hits him with their heads coming together. In the end referee Adam Jones determined "The tackler has changed the point of contact for the ball carrier" providing him with enough mitigation to lower the sanction from red to yellow. Many have even suggested it shouldn't have been a penalty at all and that it was just a "rugby collision". I respectfully disagree.

The way I see it, whatever about goggles, the guidelines are written specifically to get tacklers going lower, regardless of the desire to keep a game 15v15. Maybe Savala gets to Frawley first, but only by a fraction and I can't for the life of me work out what else Boyle's intention was moving towards the Leinster player other than to tackle him.

Of course I don't see the clash as intentional or malicious, but I do see his staying high in the challenge as reckless under the guideline and while Frawley's evening was over, Boyle came back on ten minutes later and was one of his side's better performers. There's my two cents.

Anyway from the penalty we chose to tap n go as well, and being the home side now with the extra man it made more sense in this case, with the decision being justified after Scott Penny crashed over the line following a series of carries by the Leinster pack leaving us 7-0 up to end the first quarter.

20-HT

Frawley leaving the action meant Harry Byrne had to replace him at 12 rather than get some much needed game time as outhalf as I'm sure was the original plan. This meant the new backline arrangement needed to gel quickly if we were to get more out of this yellow card spell, only for a forward pass to halt our progress before Boyle returned.

But our defending was still solid, forcing mistakes in the Edinburgh backfield so they weren't able to get very far themselves and eventually a Leinster lineout clicked in their half to get us close to their line yet again after a double-digit series of phases before Nick McCarthy brought it himself from the base of a ruck to extend our lead to 14.

The visitors kept trying to get things going but when their no8 attempted a Leone Nakarawa style one handed carry at halfway, it was relatively easily pinched from him by Martin Moloney and we got ourselves on the front foot again in their half to win a penalty in a very kickable position.

I know Leinster don't exactly make "safe" decisions in these situations, but with a 14 point lead and the clock at 39 minutes I really felt the relatively easy 3 was the better option here so we could go into the break with a 3-score advantage. But we went for the corner instead only to knock on the lineout so we had to regroup with two tries on the board.
40-60

The good news for Leinster in the spell after halftime was that our defence was able to resist an even longer Edinburgh siege in our 22 that lasted over 10 minutes. Maybe we were lucky that our penalties didn't at least bring us to a warning, but we made the most of that luck and forced them into bad decisions like when their full back Immelman looked like he could have taken it to the line himself but instead fired an extra pass that went into touch.

From that error we managed an excellent set piece which allowed Jamie Osborne to plant a booming kick towards the halfway line which cleared the danger.

However the bad news for Leinster in this time is that we were still unable to keep attacking moves going. Right at the start of the half we got jackled at halfway, later Connor Boyle stripped one free in the same spot, and a strong run up the middle by Rory O'Loughlin got us to the 22 only for a mixup with Luke McGrath forcing a knock on..

Then as Edinburgh cleared their lines there was a nasty collision between Osborne and Tommy O'Brien, one which left the latter badly shaken. I really don't intend to speak ahead of the medics in situ, but I personally thought it was bad optics for him not to have gone off for an HIA after the collision. Perhaps he was winded rather than struck in the head but that could have been made clear.

Anyway the bottom line is our failure to get try number 3 in this quarter when we emptied the rest of our bench meant it would be all the more difficult for us to go for that all important bonus point.

60-FT

Eventually we got our own chance to spend time in the opposition 22 when our scrum won a penalty at midfield. From the lineout we won another pen from the maul to get us even closer, and from there our forwards did their thing with the carries at the line until Vakh Abdelaze went over (although on the replay it looks like Moloney might have gotten it down a phase or two earlier). Ross Byrne missed this conversion but that wasn't important as we had to push for the fourth.

Well shortly after the restart we attacked straight from a scrum this time as Rory O'Loughlin surged into Edinburgh territory ably backed up by several team mates including Sean Cronin who got us deep into the 22. From there we quickly swept it out wide towards the Anglesea Stand where it got to Max Deegan.

Here I thought he was in an opposite situation to Immelman's earlier. This time he had the man free outside him yet chose to go himself when shipping it was probably the better option. I mean, a bit like Scott Penny, Deegan does have something of a knack for getting on the scoresheet in matches like this, but here I really do think he got one by the officials.

As my title suggests, to call this a try is "a bit of a stretch" as it really does look like a double movement when he seems to have time for a cup of tea before reaching out and placing it on the line.

Yet the try was allowed and the crucial fifth point was in the bag. Maybe this led to an air of complacency in our defending at this point, although it could also have been Mike Blair's surely-much-too-late introduction of Jaco van der Walt that led to Edinburgh's consolation as the outhalf found the perfect final ball which beat Tommy O'Brien who had strayed off his wing and went right to Bofelli who turned on the gas and powered over the line.

That was to be it for the scoring, with the Player of the Match award going to Scott Penny, although I might have gone for one from Moloney with an e for an impressive display especially considering the late change, or Molony without the e for assuming the captain's role, doing his usual hard work around the pitch and at lineouts, and possibly getting away with a fair amount of "dark arts" as well into the bargain.

HARPIN POINTS

Not much to summarize here only that while we definitely deserved to win because our try line defense was far superior to theirs, we really should treasure that bonus point because whatever the rugby gods had against us in Cardiff, they most certainly looked keen to make amends here.

But we must look ahead to the two further home matches to come because it will be equally important to take maximum points there too, especially given the bulk of our remaining matches after that will be away from D4. Ospreys are up next, and on the podcast during the week I will have a panel of fellow fans who will be harping on the Six Nations of course but also the road ahead for the boys in blue. JLP



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



Richard Mifsud I’ll start with the positives. We got a BPW. Given how largely disjointed our performance (does not extend to our D) was, that was, in and of itself a huge positive. Basically we found a way. Our D on the other hand was awesome and that created the platform for our win. Individually I thought Penny Deegan and young Molony played well. For the remainder nothing spectacular TBH. Gutted Frawley left early but the Byrne and Byrne combo looked intriguing when it clicked. Will we see it again? In sum another turgid outing and we definitely need to improve considerably if we’re going to lay a good platform for when the international lads return #COYBIB



Conor Cronin A BP win. Can't complain about that. If we get in to the nittty gritty there will of course be problems but let's take the result, and build from there. This is our team for the next few weeks, let's see what they can produce and how they build on this result



Kevin OCeallaigh Great to get the bonus point. The Leinster lack of fluidity in attack was reflective of a team that hasn’t played together. However the Leinster defensive effort at the start of both halves was outstanding. I thought the yellow card against Edinburgh was harsh and it gave Leinster the momentum to get ahead in the scoring. I don’t think the final result reflected the Edinburgh performance. They caused Leinster some real problems.



Noel Hewson They won and let’s leave it there






Blog Archive

D4tress

D4tress
Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019