Friday, April 29, 2022

Front Five - 30.04.22

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

ICYMI click here for our
Stormers v Leinster preview


Plenty of Irish eyes will be focused on Ciarán Frawley as the 24-year-old starts at out-half for Leinster for the first time since February 2020. 


Murray Kinsella - The42.ie

With the playing field levelled at the Kingspan Stadium this evening, there is added pressure to deliver against a winless Scotland.


Cian Tracey - Irish Independent

“You get days like this and that’s what the club game is all about. It’s important for everyone in the parish” 


Gerry Thornley - Irish Times

Munster confirmed their place in the end of season United Rugby Championship play-offs and kept alive their hopes of a home quarter-final draw


Simon Lewis - Irish Examiner

The oldest is Mike Ireland at 56 years of age, with his youngest son being just 18.


Jack Tunney - RugbyDump

(hat-tip to Conor Cronin)

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

Preview : Stormers v Leinster



Our first encounter against the new South African arrivals to the competition was on opening day at the Aviva Stadium, in what turned out to be a comfortable enough victory over the Bulls.

Then we had to wait until February 2022 for our next challengers from the southern hemisphere, when it was the Lions from Johannesburg who had the audacity to come to the RDS and deny us a try bonus point.

Next it was our turn to do the travelling and last weekend in Durban we came within a phase or two of pinching the spoils right at the death, having to be happy in the end with a losing bonus point against the Sharks that brought us within touching distance of a guaranteed first place finish.

As for this fourth and final episode, we have the biggest test of the lot. 1st vs 2nd on the table and as close to a champions v challengers contest as you can get from a predetermined fixture list. And that it takes place on a weekend when there's so much up for grabs in the playoff race you can really see that the "URC = Best League" may not be as tongue in cheek as we thought at first.

But while the opposition might be a little better than last weekend, Leinster's task is very much the same. Maybe we don't have home advantage, maybe we don't have our "elite" squad because of a match the following weekend, but with full coaching staff available throughout the week I very much doubt the 23 will be putting on their jerseys assuming they will lose whatever the form books say, so let's go through the selection shall we...

BACKS

I really don't want to be too unkind to Harry Byrne here, but against the Sharks if it wasn't for the actual number on Ciaran Frawley's back you'd swear he was the one playing 10, and not just because of the placekicks. And there have been calls by many Leinster fans for him to return to his out half role for quite a while now, though I assumed he was to remain at centre for the foreseeable.

Yet here he is, nominated as playmaker, and it gives our lineup an extremely different look to that we have gotten used to during times when our internationals were unavailable.

It had seemed like we were going with two different types of lineup - one for Europe where the 12 role would have a strong ball carrying player like Robbie Henshaw, and one for the URC where Frawley or sometimes Harry Byrne would bring a bit more creativity to the position, and indeed that was how we lined up last week.

Now, it is Rory O'Loughlin who is accompanying Jamie Osborne so it would appear that we are opting for a game more reminiscent of the former, which to be fair does seem appropriate given who it is we're up against.

There are a lot of changes to the starting backline - JO being the only constant position wise - which might not be ideal in one sense but in another it would have been a poor show not to give as many as possible a starting chance.

And it's not like we can't expect ROL and JO to do a decent job holding down the fort in our midfield, while Rob Russell, Adam Byrne and Max O'Reilly have all shown form in the past, plus Cormac Foley did really well off the bench in Durban.

But if there is to be a route to Leinster prevailing on Saturday in Cape Town, it is likely Frawley that needs to find it and this will be an excellent chance for him to showcase his talents.

FORWARDS

Many changes in the pack also, though the spine of hooker John McKee, lock Brian Deeny and back rowers Scott Penny (like I always say, bet against him scoring a try at your peril) will help a bit with continuity and the likes of Jush Murphy and Alex Soroka bring a lot of physicality when we most certainly need it.

Last time out our lineouts worked really well, and although we did struggle at the scrum, it most certainly wasn't all bad as I showed in our latest TikTok video. More of the same pushback will be needed if we are to have any hope of coming away from the DHL Stadium with anything.

No doubt the key will be discipline. There is a fascinating "irresistible force v immovable object" subplot to this contest and while our famed defensive structures try to cope with the home side's fondess of playing KBA we need to make sure our tackles are accurate.

BENCH

6/2 split not surprising and as always we need to hope our starting backline remains intact for as long as possible. Wouldn't be the worst thing for Harry Byrne to be brought on while Frawley remains on the park to give the home side a slightly different look to contend with.

In the forwards, all six will be needed, of that you can be sure. This will definitely be the biggest test our 80-minute defensive stubbornness will have seen all season.

OPPOSITION

That tweet should tell you all you need to know about the task we have ahead of us, in fact I'm pretty sure the Stormers have leaders in other categories too but I was afraid to confirm it.

For me the one to look out for is Evan Roos. Last time out against Glasgow they had to wait until the final play of the gam to get their try bonus point, and even though they had possession in the 22 for a while it wasn't until it got into Roos' hands that the score was a certainty, even though he still had some defenders to beat. That said, he'll have more than a worthy adversary in our skipper Rhys Ruddock.

Probably the most notable facet of this squad however is their cohesion - yes, there are several strong and talented individuals but they know how to play together and we'll have to be at our best to keep them at bay. Also same as last week, while we would like to get an edge from a territory game, all inaccuracies from kicks out of the hand are likely to be punished.

PREDICTION

Bookies are going for a 13 point home win, and to be honest that looks about right although we all know that would be very different with full squads each side. Still, I'm going to show enough confidence in both the Leinster coaching staff and our talent pool to suggest we might give them a scare or two throughout and even have the cheek to escape with another bonus point if not more.

So I'll give a similar prediction to last week, a 5-7 point home win, although like I said earlier we'll need to have some kind of traction with both set pieces and discipline to have any kind of a chance.

GET INVOLVED IN THE DISCUSSION

It's another busy weekend with the Irish Women's final Six Nations encounter later the same evening plus the other provinces all in action. As ever you can follow me on Twitter to stay in touch while the match is on, then as the full time whistle blows be sure to head over to the Facebook page to leave your two cents on what just happened. JLP


Stormers : 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Damian Willemse, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Herschel Jantjies
1 Steven Kitshoff (captain), 2 JJ Kotze, 3 Frans Malherbe, 4 Adre Smith, 5 Marvin Orie, 6 Deon Fourie, 7 Hacjivah Dayimani, 8 Evan Roos.
Replacements: 16 Wilmar Arnoldi, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 Junior Pokomela, 21 Ben-Jason Dixon, 22 Paul de Wet, 23 Juan de Jongh.

United Rugby Championship 2021/22 - Round 17
Saturday, April 30, 2022
KO 5:15pm
DHL Stadium

Referee: Craig Evans (WRU)
AR 1: Aimee Barrett-Theron (SARU)  
AR 2: Morné Ferreira (SARU)
TMO: Ben Crouse (SARU)

Live on: SuperSport, RTÉ 2, Premier Sports & URC TV


Front Five - 29.04.22

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


"I've lambasted Leinster for leaving their stars at home but I've never said they're weak...they're the Crusaders"


SARugbyMag.co.za

"Those English players can go training and they can go home and recover. The Irish girls are going to work."


Colman Stanley - Balls.ie

 "I’ve heard a lot of people giving out about the sevens taking away from 15s but they’re not gone away to play in a mini blitz down the road."


Eoin Harte - Pundit Arena

“I think rugby all season has been amazing, in the league there have been some great matches throughout. It’s just a good day out for everyone.”


IrishRugby.ie

Andy Farrell's side will now face Romania, who they also played at the 2015 tournament.


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

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Rugby on TV : Apr 28-May 5

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



THURSDAY, APRIL 28

9PM
HOUSE OF RUGBY
FREESPORTS

10PM
THE ULSTER RUGBY SHOW
BBC TWO NI

10PM
TOP 14 HIGHLIGHTS
PREMIER SPORTS 1

FRIDAY, APRIL 29

10:45AM
REDS V CHIEFS (L)
SUPER RUGBY PACIFIC
SKY SPORTS MAIN EVENT
SKY SPORTS MIX

1PM
WESTERN FORCE V BLUES (L)
SUPER RUGBY PACIFIC
SKY SPORTS MAIN EVENT
SKY SPORTS MIX

2PM
LONDON IRISH V LEICESTER TIGERS (R)
PREMIERSHIP CUP
BT SPORT 1

5:30PM
BOROUGHMUIR V HERIOT'S (R)
SUPER 6 RUGBY
FREESPORTS

6PM
BULLS V GLASGOW WARRIORS (L)
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
TG4
BBC TWO WALES
PREMIER SPORTS 2

7:35PM
MUNSTER V CARDIFF (L)
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
PREMIER SPORTS 1

7:45PM
SALE SHARKS V NEWCASTLE (L)
PREMIERSHIP

7:45PM
NORTHAMPTON V HARLEQUINS (L)
PREMIERSHIP
BT SPORT 2

7:45PM
SOUTHERN KNIGHTS V STIRLING COUNTY (L)
SUPER 6
FREESPORTS

10:20PM
ULSTER V MUNSTER (H)
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
PREMIER SPORTS 2

SATURDAY, APRIL 30

5:35AM
FIJIAN DRUA V HIGHLANDERS (L)
SUPER RUGBY PACIFIC
SKY SPORTS ARENA

8:05AM
WARATAHS V CRUSADERS (L)
SUPER RUGBY PACIFIC
SKY SPORTS ARENA

10:45AM
REBELS V MOANA PASIFIKA (L)
SUPER RUGBY PACIFIC
SKY SPORTS ARENA

12PM
WALES V ITALY (L)
WOMEN'S SIX NATIONS
VIRGIN MEDIA TWO
S4C

1PM
LIONS V BENETTON (L)
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
TG4
PREMIER SPORTS 2

2:15PM
FRANCE V ENGLAND (L)
WOMEN'S SIX NATIONS
VIRGIN MEDIA TWO
BBC TWO

3PM
GLOUCESTER V BATH (L)
PREMIERSHIP
BT SPORT 3

3PM
LEICESTER TIGERS V BRISTOL BEARS (L)
WORCESTER V SARACENS (L)
PREMIERSHIP

3:05PM
SHARKS V CONNACHT (L)
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
TG4
FREESPORTS

3:05PM
ZEBRE V DRAGONS (L)
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
PREMIER SPORTS 2
S4C

4:30PM
AYSHIRE BULLS V HERIOTS (L)
SUPER 6
BBC SPORT WEBSITE

5:15PM
STORMERS V LEINSTER (L)
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
RTÉ TWO
PREMIER SPORTS 2

5:15PM
OSPREYS V SCARLETS (L)
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
FREESPORTS

7:35PM
EDINBURGH V ULSTER (L)
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
PREMIER SPORTS 1

8PM
IRELAND V SCOTLAND (L)
WOMEN'S SIX NATIONS
RTÉ TWO

8PM
RUGBY ATL V LA GILTINIS (L)
MAJOR LEAGUE RUGBY

8PM
TOULOUSE V LA ROCHELLE (L)
TOP 14
FREESPORTS

9:30PM
NE FREE JACKS V UTAH WARRIORS (L)
MAJOR LEAGUE RUGBY

10PM
ZEBRE PARMA V DRAGONS (R)
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
PREMIER SPORTS 1

10PM
SHARKS V CONNACHT (R)
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
PREMIER SPORTS 2

1AM (SUNDAY)
DALLAS JACKALS V SAN DIEGO LEGION (L)
MAJOR LEAGUE RUGBY

SUNDAY, MAY 1

5AM
BRUMBIES V HURRICANES (L)
SUPER RUGBY PACIFIC
SKY SPORTS MIX

1:45PM
ENERGIA AIL : A 30-YEAR LEGACY
DOCUMENTARY
TG4

2:45PM
CLONTARF V TERENURE (L)
AIL MEN'S FINAL
TG4

3PM
LONDON IRISH V WASPS (L)
PREMIERSHIP
BT SPORT 1

5:15PM
RUGBY TONIGHT
BT SPORT 1

8PM
BORDEAUX V TOULON (L)
TOP 14
PREMIER SPORTS 1
FREESPORTS

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

10PM
EDINBURGH V ULSTER (R)
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
PREMIER SPORTS 1

12AM
AUSTIN GILGRONIS V SEATTLE SEAWOLVES (L)
MAJOR LEAGUE RUGBY


MONDAY, MAY 2

4PM
LYON V MONTPELLIER (R)
TOP 14
FREESPORTS

6PM
PREMIERSHIP HIGHLIGHTS
BT SPORT 2

6:45PM
TOP 14 HIGHLIGHTS
PREMIER SPORTS 1

8PM
AGAINST THE HEAD
RTÉ TWO

10PM
CLÉRMONT V STADE FRANCAIS (R)
TOP 14
FREESPORTS

TUESDAY, MAY 3

3PM
PREMIERSHIP HIGHLIGHTS
BT SPORT 1

4PM
BORDEAUX V TOULON (R)
TOP 14
FREESPORTS

4:30PM
RUGBY TONIGHT
BT SPORT 1

5:20PM
STORMERS V LEINSTER (H)
UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
PREMIER SPORTS 1

10:30PM
TOP 14 HIGHLIGHTS
PREMIER SPORTS 1

WEDNESDAY, MAY 4

1PM-3:40PM
URC HIGHLIGHTS
1PM - BULLS V GLASGOW WARRIORS
1:20PM - MUNSTER V CARDIFF
1:40PM - LIONS V BENETTON
2PM - SHARKS V CONNACHT
2:20PM - ZEBRE V DRAGONS
2:40PM - STORMERS V LEINSTER
3PM - OSPREYS V SCARLETS
3:20PM - EDINBURGH V ULSTER
PREMIER SPORTS 1

9:30PM
TOP 14 HIGHLIGHTS
PREMIER SPORTS 1

THURSDAY, MAY 5

8PM
HOUSE OF RUGBY
FREESPORTS

9PM-11:40PM
URC HIGHLIGHTS
9PM - BULLS V GLASGOW WARRIORS
9:20PM - MUNSTER V CARDIFF
9:40PM - LIONS V BENETTON
10PM - SHARKS V CONNACHT
10:20PM - ZEBRE V DRAGONS
10:40PM - STORMERS V LEINSTER
11PM - OSPREYS V SCARLETS
11:20PM - EDINBURGH V ULSTER
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 - 28.04.22

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 Harpin On Rugby Podcast
3.40 : “Leinster Fan Panel harps on SA tour”
featuring @ccbooms, @once_in_the_job & @hoomanbear



“...to get five or six games in that (Six Nations) block was great and now the South African trip as well has been good. I can’t complain. It has been good.”


Ciarán Kennedy - The42.ie

...if Munster qualify to meet Leinster in a semi-final, then that match will also be staged at the Aviva Stadium as Thomond Park will be unavailable on the weekend of 14/15 May.


EPCRugby.com

The home side will be looking to make it eight consecutive home wins when they take on the eight-time champions at 6:15pm on Saturday.


SARugbyMag.co.za

Saturday evening provides Ireland with an opportunity to back up Briggs’ sense that they are moving in the right direction, albeit slowly.


Cian Tracey - Irish Independent

The opportunity to shape the women’s schedule in its own right seems a sensible next step.


Scrumqueens.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

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Podcast 3.40 : “Leinster Fan Panel harps on SA tour” featuring @ccbooms, @once_in_the_job & @hoomanbear



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


Front Five - 27.04.22

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


...the 2022-23 URC knock-out stages run the risk of being without their Test frontliners


Gerry Thornley - Irish Times

"Their mindset is to keep the ball alive, and we’ve seen that against Glasgow. It’s their attacking mentality, but also the speed they have on attack."


SARugbyMag.co.za

...the red has been wiped out after an independent judicial committee deemed that the contact was indirect.


RTÉ Rugby

Peter O’Mahony had even admitted that not knowing who would take the reins at Munster next season last month was “not ideal”


Eoin Harte - Pundit Arena

"...we feel the URC can play a part in the Women’s Six Nations getting stronger."


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

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Front Five - 26.04.22

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

ICYMI click here for our
Sharks v Leinster writeup


The IRFU will look at having contracts in place for Ireland Women’s 15s players by next year’s Six Nations but plans will not be finalised until a new Head of Women’s Performance and Pathways is appointed.


Sinead Kissane - Irish Independentt

Ryan Baird...picked up a back injury on Ireland duty during the Six Nations and he will now step up his rehabilitation in UCD this week.


Ryan Corry - LeinsterRugby.ie

"We have not hosted Ireland since 2012 and Argentina have not played here since 2018, so we cannot wait to welcome two great rugby rivals and their fans to our country."


Rugby365.com

McNulty's side open their campaign against Japan on Saturday at the Starlight Stadium


RTÉ Rugby

Leamy is currently working as Leinster’s contact skills coach but was identified as the perfect candidate to become his former province’s new defence coach under Graham Rowntree


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

Monday, April 25, 2022

Sharks-28 Leinster-23

POINT TAKEN

I asked my kids if it would be worth my while setting up a Tik Tok account for HarpinOnRugby and my eldest quickly replied : "Sure, Dad, so long as you don't even dream of doing any dancing." Sage advice for sure, nobody wants that.


So I set it up, since it literally cost nothing, but I also needed to come up with a theme for regular content, ideally something I don't do on other platforms. Eventually it struck me as a perfect place to do videos on moments from Leinster & Ireland matches that caught my eye yet still got missed by the mainstream analysis.


Now you could say that's what these writeups are for, and you wouldn't be wrong, but while I personally prefer to use the written word to get my opinions out there, the realities of the social media age are such that 2000-word articles just aren't going to catch everyone's attention.


Of course what I could do is use TikTok to highlight moments where I thought there was an injustice against Leinster, like right at the very end where there was a challenge on Michael Ala'alatoa that might have been, er, "missed" by the TMO but that would make the account into an anger factory, so instead I'll harp on that further down this article.


In the end there were two scrums in the second half which really grabbed me, mostly because they helped answer a question that concerned me when writing my preview...

 ...we have to put faith in our coaches.  This brains trust knows how to get results and would have been preparing for this trip for a while.  On a day when many expect us to get "beaten up in the front five", for once Leinster are going into a match with a relatively low bar to clear.  Parity in the set pieces would certainly be a good achievement but I'll be looking for this pack to shoot for more.

...and now I had the perfect theme for a TikTok video so instead of devoting a few paragraphs to describing them in my opening section like I normally do, I'll just share the video...

@harpinonrugby It's the little things that make the difference... #SHAvLEI #URC #rugby ♬ Rock 80s mood - Vlc

OK I reckon I've made my point at this stage, time to go through the full 80 minutes and see how this scrappy contest transpired...what's hardest to believe is that Leinster were actually ahead on the scoreboard for 38 of them, and level for another 22.


0-20


Ironically there were opportunities for both sides to test their scrums in the opening minute after Max Deegan knocked on the kickoff in his own 22 and the Sharks played on, only to knock on themselves a few phases later, prompting us to clear our lines.


And this clearance by Nick McCarthy was setting a tone for the match as well early on, since not only were the Sharks expected to be heavy up front but also in Bosch, Mapimpi, Kok and Fassi they had very dangerous counter-attackers if your kicks aren't accurate.


So while the first fifteen minutes or so were cagey from both sides, there was no doubt that the Sharks had the edge on the territory battle and courtesy of a no-arms tackle from Scott Penny and the first penalty at a scrum, they could have taken the lead but Bosch was unable to convert either placekick despite both being in central locations.


The closest they got to a try in this spell was after the penalty you see awarded first in the TikTok video, which they took quickly and got to within 5 of the line only to knock on, and once more we let the advantage go and managed to get it wide to Chris Cosgrove who kicked it from one 22 to the other where Tommy O'Brien's pace got him there fast enough to smash the receiver into touch giving us an attacking throw.


For all the youth in Leinster's lineup it must have been more anxious an occasion for John McKee who was meant to be on the bench yet became a late callup to the starting lineup when Rónan Kelleher was unable to play. For the most part his darts were good to be fair, and even though this particular one got pinched, we managed to block their clearance and win the ball back anyway at their 22.


A neat little grubber from Harry Byrne looked to replicate his brother Ross' late link up with James Lowe last weekend but Rory O'Loughlin couldn't quite reach the high bounce which meant the Sharks had a lineout 5m from their own line, and in a way it was fitting that this dart sailed over everyone and straight into the willing arms of McKee who go it to just short of the line.


From this pick and go situation if you weren't expecting a try from either Scott Penny or Max Deegan, you haven't been following Leinster closely in this league for the past few years, and sure enough it was the former who got it across to give us a 7-0 lead that even the most faithful blue supporter had to admit was against the run of play.


This gave us a spring in our step and although the Sharks looked dangerous from the restart a side entry penalty allowed us to clear to halfway and it looked like the lineout would set up another attacking platform but when O'Loughlin was hit as he made his pass it went to Mapimpi instead of Osborne and the winger was always going to finish the intercept; suddenly we were all square again.


20-HT


It was back to the kick tennis to start the second quarter until Werner Kok spotted a gap and got all the way into our 22 where he had support however our cover tacklers of Frawley and Tommy O'Brien did enough to force a knock on. This was one scrum where we were the ones winning a penalty, if only for the Sharks smelling blood in the water from the set piece and engaging early.


From this lineout at halfway we chose the different option of a Harry Byrne Garryowen into the Sharks half, one which Frawley seemed ready to catch until he was impeded enough to earn a penalty which he took himself and proceeded to show Bosch how it's done (and actually it was raining at this point which made things more tricky) to put us back into the lead.


Then a lineout steal by Deegan at halfway was sent quickly through the hands where O'Loughlin put in ahead into there 22 and we recovered to be on the front foot yet again, and we actually had a penalty awarded for offside which could have meant another three points only for O'Brien's challenge on Grobler was deemed high enough to reverse the penalty - I'm not so sure given his contact point though the arm did slip up.


Tommy was to very much redeem himself a bit later, again when we had a penalty advantage, this time from a lineout around halfway. Ciaran Frawley barely hesitated to spot that a crossfield kick was on and it bounced straight up into the winger's arms, though with Fassi coming to challenge he had work to do and made it look really easy as his stepped by the fullback. Next it was Kok he had to beat (yes, I know, the possible puns here are endless but I'll choose to ignore them) and he easily had the gas to bring it to the line.


Frawley added the extras to put us an amazing ten points in front and we quickly caught another break after the restart after O'Brien fumbled his catch only for the TMO spotting it went to touch off a Shark to give us the throw, so "all we had to do" was clear our lines and we could be bringing this margin into the break.


But like I said earlier, it was vital that our kicking was accurate and Jamie Osborne's eventual clearance after the lineout was too long for his chasers and thus fell right into the arms of Fassi who may have felt he had a point to prove. So he sails past Osborne and Cosgrove like they're not there and once in the backfield, a sublime offload in the tackle finds his scrum half Hendrickse who took it the rest of the way. Super try where we were rightly punished and gave the scoreboard a very different complexion.


40-60


Whatever was said at the break we certainly started the second half brightly, with 8 phases at midfield followed by a high kick from Harry which dropped just outside their 22 where O'Brien was on hand to tackle, release and jackle his way to a penalty which Frawley slotted to stretch our lead back to six.


But the home team's scrum advantage was still very much an elephant in the room and it seemed to be only a matter of time before they started to get points from it. Sure enough a penalty earned at halfway put them at our 22 and another one at the next lineout not only put them closer to our line but also got a warning from the ref.


From this set piece our defence, which had been good up to this point apart from the odd penalty, finally gave way and it was Mbonambi who got it over the line before Bosch added the extras to put the Durban franchise in front for the first time with half an hour to go.


This lead wasn't to last long however as the Sharks' exit kick wasn't great which meant their chasers were easily caught offside which allowed Frawley to put us back in front, but the moment things got more difficult for us was when Josh Murphy was pinged for a lineout challenge, and once more it was Grobler on the receiving end.


Only thing I'll say about this is that I have seen warnings given in the 22 before only for another penalty shipped further up field to avoid tempting a card from the pocket, but this ref wasn't of any mind but to send Murphy to the naughty step and I suppose that's fair enough as I'd probably expect it the other way.


Now we were up against it, although the Sharks were taking a while to capitalise and failed to score for the rest of the quarter so the last thing we wanted to do was lose another man to the bin...


60-FT


...we actually dodged a bullet since the first card as a later lineout no no that WAS in the 22 got let away with another warning but the ref was understanably at the end of his tether so when Lee Barron, one of three making their senior debuts, got pinged at the next maul, he had to go, although at least by this stage Murphy was very close to returning.


From here, you'd expect a team of the Sharks quality to press home the advantage and although it still took them a few more minutes off the clock, eventually number 8 Buthelezi took it from the base of a scrum all the way to the line to not only restore the lead but also pinch a critical try bonus point for their playoff chances.


How this scoreline lasted remained the same from this 67th minute all the way to the final whistle is something the Sharks really need to be asking themselves. It would have made for quite the statement for them to deny us the losing bonus point and as it turned out, Leinster very nearly stole the win right at the death.


But first we had to see out that second yellow card and here is where the scrums in the TikTok video came into play. And just before the first one, we had that incident where Bosch looked to have scored after having broken through a gap and sent it to Fassi who gave it back to him. Thing is there was a lot for TMO Marius Jonker to look at.


His starting point was that he did not believe that Fassi's foot was in touch before the offload. Thing is, it very much was and I can't understand why he didn't see it. The reality was that it was an incredible try-saving tackle from Chris Cosgrove that should have resulted in a Leinster lineout - instead the forward pass was given which had us under pressure with the scrum, thankfully we had a strategy for escaping.


Yet the TMO's involvement in this late drama wasn't done. Or should I say lack of involvement. Almost poetically it was a Leinster penalty at a scrum at halfway as the clock read 75:35 that was to put us in Sharks territory for the rest of the match. And penalties from the next two series of phases in their 22 meant that now it was the home side getting a warning, only now the time was 78:22.


A tap n go led to a Leinster knock on which had the Sharks and their fans celebrating like the match had been won, and in fairness it should have been at that stage, but the ref wasn't ready to call time just yet and actually awarded us a penalty on their put in to give us one last shot.


Why this penalty didn't bring out the card is a bit of a mystery, but an offside call shortly after the tap and go did give us at least one shot with an extra man as their reserve hooker van Vuuren's day was done. Now it really was last chance saloon for us as it was officially the 82 minute.


I have to be honest, I saw nothing dodgy as I watched it live. I was caught up inn the drama and preparing myself for an almighty shout if we got over the line, and even when the TMO was showing replay after replay of Ala'alatoa's charge towards the line, all I was looking for was whether or not he got it to the line and with so many arses in the way, that was never going to be given.


However the wider Leinster fan community online is of course a lot more alert and tweets started to appear of the Leinster prop getting smashed in the head after a lunge from Sikhumbuzo Notshe and I suppose if I didn't spot it on the replays, why should the TMO, right? Wrong - he's paid to do it and if he missed an obvious foot in touch earlier, then you definitely have to wonder about this one.


Would we have scored the tying/winning points had the clash been spotted? Maybe it wasn't guaranteed, but being against 13 men would have made things a lot easier. However, I feel I have said my piece on this because I really don't want to stray too close to conspiracy territory, especially when we could have had a card or two more ourselves, but the incident cannot be ignored and it will be interesting to see if there is a citing.



HARPIN' POINTS


I don't really want to be reminded of the 2019 Champions Cup final, but if you'll recall we then also had a 10 point lead only to make a critical error before the break and for all that is said about yellow cards and late drama, I actually believe we have to look at our own lack of accuracy on an important exit if we are to take anything from this game.


And speaking of taking things from the game, let's not forget that bonus point which, by my calculations, virtually assures us the inaugural URC Irish Shield, and also makes our task of finishing 1st on the "log" a whole lot easier in our remaining two matches.


On the team we selected for this one, I reckon these tweets pretty much sum up where I stand overall. Plus the word from the injury update seems all good - Kelleher's withdrawal was just a precaution and with James Ryan back training, Ryan Baird now also seems close which means we could well be at virtually full strength for that all important trip to Welford Road.


When it comes to who impressed me on the day, well if we'd pulled off the victory I'd have probably gone for Ciaran Frawley as PotM. Tommy O'Brien was close with his try and other stand out moments but Frawley's poise was really impressive, so much so that I'm wondering if he's not better suited to a 10 role. I know that doesn't speak well for Harry, who was good on occasion here, but with his 12 taking the placekicks I reckon it's a fair observation.


In the pack, Jack Dunne impressed at lock and like I said our lineout was mostly good. The hope is that we can bring the experience forward to next week and put in a similar 80 minutes of punching above the weight of the collective experience levels.


Finally for this section a nod to the rise and rise of the South African sides in the URC - it was great to talk to AP Cronje about in on the pod last week and they really do seem to have come good since the start of the year and look set to feature heavily in the final playoff picture.


WHAT'S NEXT


What's next for Leinster is a massive 1st v 2nd clash in Cape Town against the Stormers, who stand to provide an even bigger challenge for us than the Sharks. Like I say with the Leicester Tigers on the horizon, some big selection decisions will need to be made, but there's also the levels of preparation and on-field decision making we saw in Durban to look out for and it promises to be a fascinating battle.


During the week I plan to assemble another Leinster Fan Panel on the podcast to discuss the tour and other topical issues, be sure to look out for it as well as all our usual coverage before and after the match on Saturday. JLP


Click here for a selection of online comments after the full time whistle


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