Bump in the Road

When Johnny Sexton’s move to Paris went through last season, quite a few voices suggested that it need not be bad news and that Ian Madigan, with enough exposure to top level rugby, could go on to be even better than Sexton.  We were quick to disagree.  It cannot be an improvement to discard one of the world’s elite 10s in exchange for one who might some day go on to be better.  There are too many variables in the latter.

Saturday’s match in Thomond Park rather bore out our logic.  In a game where there wasn’t a whole lot between the teams in terms of creative rugby, the game was won by Munster primarily in two areas; the breakdown and the tactical kicking game.  Munster frequently flooded the breakdown, while Leinster appeared reluctant to put the necessary numbers in to secure quick ball.  It negated Leinster’s attack, which relies on Eoin Reddan’s speedy delivery to the back-line.

The kicking battle was not even a contest.  Munster’s up-and-unders were accurate and, most importantly, brilliantly chased, with Keith Earls particularly impressive.  Even when a Leinster player caught the kick he was quickly engulfed by red shirts and couldn’t retain possession.  On one such occasion it appeared Rob Kearney had only the support of Eoin Reddan as he was swallowed up by a mass of the Brave and Faithful, and the ball was duly turned over.  By contrast, Leinster kicked loosely, and were passive in their chasing.  Much of the inaccurate wellying came from the boot of Ian Madigan.

Madigan has been rightly heralded as the next big thing in Irish fly-half play, but those who are anticipating that he will simply morph into a player of Sexton’s standing simply through playing Heineken Cup matches need to check their expectations.  His talent is unquestioned, but it takes time, and considerable learning experiences which won’t always be positive, to develop into the sort of serial match-winner that Sexton, and indeed, Ronan O’Gara were.

O’Gara wasn’t born an ice cool clutch-player, nor he did he become one overnight.  He had to earn it, through years of hard matches and bitter disappointments.  The same goes for Sexton, who had to endure frequent brickbats before maturing into a Lions test-winning ten – indeed, he once endured a spell of form so wretched it appeared he was on his way out of Leinster.  Ian Madigan will hit his share of bumps in the road and, hopefully, in overcoming those he will become a better player.  On Saturday he was outplayed by Ian Keatley, a player with a comparatively mundane skillset.  Keatley is in the same boat at Munster; replacing a provincial legend.  He had a good game on Saturday night, but he too, will have his share of issues as he tries to make the shirt his own.

The gulf between the ‘very good’ fly half who can look fantastic on his home patch and the great one, who can pilot his team to wins in Heineken Cup knockout matches and trips to the most intimidating grounds in Europe is wider than one might think.  In tough away games, refereeing decisions are usually unfavourable, the crowd will meet your every mistake with howls of derision and you need every point you can get to win.  Away wins in rugby are precious; even mediocre teams like Bath and Perpignan make for hard opponents on their home turf.  Talent alone isn’t enough; a special kind of mental fortitude is needed.  Think of Sexton’s last minute penalty to retrieve a draw in Montpellier, or the manner in which he controlled the game in Bordeaux to see Leinster through to a Heineken Cup final.  Or ROG’s half-way line penalty against Leicester to win the match, or his performance in the Stoop last season.

Some players simply don’t have what it takes.  James Hook, for all his natural ability, has never learned the fine art of consistent game management, nd his Perpignan team rarely win away.  Whether the Ians Keatley and Madigan become the next James Hook or go on to emulate the provincial legends and become serial medal-winners is still very much an open question.

P.S. How good was that James Cronin fellow?  What an impact he had!  We’ve had our suspicions that David Kilcoyne is a little over-rated by the red-clad supporters, but this chap looks The Bid’ness.

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46 Comments

  1. ruckinhell

     /  October 7, 2013

    Good article, bar a genuinely once in a generational player such as Dan Carter all top level outhalves are created, not born. Would Sexton or ROG have developed the mental strength at the height of their powers if it wasn’t for the low moments such as Sexton getting dropped to AIL or ROG having a mare against Northampton in Twickers?

    I’d also point out that another great white hope, Paddy Jackson, seems to attract a lot of brickbats re his goalkicking, yet the guy is only in his early twenties. I think the lust for success now means that we as fans are unwilling to give players the slack needed when they make mistakes. How often have we heard a guy written off “because he did x when he played against y and we lost the game. He’s a bottler…” I don’t care about how many times a guy fucks up, I care only if he’s learnt from that mistake and doesn’t do it again.

    • A paragraph on Jackson in the article above wouldn’t have gone amiss. Having been dropped into the Irish squad in the waning days of the Kidney regime, he’s been the focus of constant attention, with every flaw in his game picked over (mostly to do with his kicking/temperament). Yet he’s younger than Madigan (by 3 years) or Keatley (by 5) and has stuck to his task in the face of the opprobrium. Friday’s MoM performance was just reward for that effort – he dragged Ulster back to from a poor first half with nerveless kicking. If he can learn those lessons mentioned above, Sexton is going to have some keen competition going on behind him over the next few years.

      As for the match itself, Munster’s kick and chase was ferocious, and Leinster too often didn’t have an answer. Madigan’s moment of madness opened the door, and Leinster kept themselves in touching distance throughout the game, but it would take a very skewed view of things to argue that the result wasn’t deserved. Looks like Leinster are starting the season slowly once again – the weekend of Heineken fixtures ahead could be very interesting for all sorts of reasons.

      • Fair points on Jackson, lads. The piece is really about the gap Madigan and Keatley have to close to emulate their predecessors, while Jackson is in a slightly different boat, but his challenge is not dissimilar. How great to see him kick Ulster to victory like that on Friday, I get the feeling he really needed it. And in a tough away game too…

  2. ruckinhell

     /  October 7, 2013

    Also, totally agree re James Cronin. He’s a baby eater and the Munster pack are starting to develop that hard edge again.

  3. Len

     /  October 7, 2013

    I think just boiling it down to kicking is a bit unfair to Munster and Madigan. Yes Madigan had a bad day at the office with the boot, however with regards to the Kick and chase you need to point the finger at the rest of the Leinster team. I can remember few kicks that were well chased and none that were well supported. Our entire backline looked slow, sluggish and hesitant in a way I’ve not seen in this fixture before as if they were minding themselves with one eye on next weekend. The real kudos IMO has to go to the Munster defensive line who put Reddan, Boss (to a lesser extent) and Madigan under real pressure all night and were up with a speed that I could only envy. Leinster kept their shape but at the expense of any speed. Bad day at the office for the Mad Dog only response I want to see is for him to up his game next weekend.

    • We’re not shopping Madigan for the defeat, we mentioned the poor chasing and also Munster’s pulverising work at the breakdown. Lots of little factors contribute to a result, but the contrast between the kicking and chasing from each side was the biggest.

    • Rava

       /  October 7, 2013

      Unfortunately there hasn’t been a sportsman yet who has been 100% consistent in producing excellent performances. Last year Madigan was hoisted on to a pedestal by many from the Blue camp so there is an inevitability about this post.
      Its always easier playing (and dictating play) when you are going forward and your side are performing well as was the case with Leinster last year. Leinster are at best playing at 85-90% capacity this season compared to last.
      I watch a fair bit of Top 14 rugby and a certain Mr Sexton isn’t burning it up at the minute either.

    • Munster were first to the punch in general, certainly. Normally people call this wanting it more, but I think it’s more to do with readiness, especially early in the season. Munster looked a rung above Leinster in terms of where they are this season at the minute, long way to go notwithstanding.

  4. I agree with Len. It looked to me, as if our guys were mentally thinking ahead to the Ospreys game. Our forwards in particular, didn’t have the bite that PO’C et al displayed. Our scrums were poor. Cronin’s line-out throwing remains unreliable – and in my mind therefore unacceptable. If Strauss isn’t back by next weekend I’d start Dundon. The only welcome result from our point of view was Ulster beating the Ospreys at home, which is good for us, ‘cos it’ll create doubt in the back of their minds if they fall behind next weekend. I see no reason, why even without BO’D but with for example a backline of Reddan/Boss, Madigan, Darce, Ferg, Luke Fitz and the Kearndashians we shouldn’t run in a couple of tries and win our first HC match this season (which essentially we have to do, in order to have decent chance of making the quarter-finals). My main worry is the pack. What WoC said about mental strength doesn’t just apply to number 10s. Munster had PO’C leading them on on Saturday, whereas we looked as if we needed the likes of Shane Jennings or Leo to get our forward machine going full steam ahead. Neither of the two aforementioned will be there on Saturday. Those who are – particularly in the forwards – would want to pick up their performance, if we’re to have any chance at all!!!

    • Len

       /  October 7, 2013

      Totally agree re the pack. We’re past the point where we can look solely to the likes of Jeno and Leo for leadership. Jeno will see less game time this year and Leo potentially none depending on how things progress. Heaslip does a lot of work but does not really act as the kind of vocal leader I think we need. People like Healy, Strauss and dare I say it Toner need to step up and take charge. I’d also be tempted to start Marty Moore next weekend and spring Ross only if things start to go bad.

    • curates_egg

       /  October 7, 2013

      Totally agree – impossible for an outhalf to look well behind a half-assed pack, with half-assed kick chasers.

  5. It was a frustrating game to watch from a Leinster point of view. The point made above about the backrow being slow to react is spot on, O’Brien was his usual self – tackled and contested excellently, but McLaughlin and Heaslip were very quiet. I’d go so far as to say McLaughlin had as poor a game as I can remember from him, being a model of consistent excellence last season.

    Cronin and Ross had a hard time of it and Healy looked to be nursing a leg injury or two. That, combined with the, back to their best, manic approach at the breakdown by Munster meant the Leinster backline couldn’t do a thing except ship the ball off and try to play for position.

    Yes Madigan didn’t kick great, but I thought the Munster back three’s positioning was excellent (always coming on to the ball rather than retreating). They clearly had a gameplan of pure aggression up front to stifle the (very, very poor) Leinster midfield so all they could do was kick or take a stupid risk. To that end I wouldn’t be blaming Madigan too much, yes there were maybe two kicks that went too long but the kick chase was truly awful.

    I was really puzzled by why McFadden didn’t start at 13 – Tuqiri looked woefully short of match fitness and was clearly clueless as regards Leinster’s patterns – so why put him in such a pivitol, decision making position when there was someone else better qualified to play there? He could have easily fitted into the wing position, where he wouldn’t have been asked so many questions and his physicality there could have made Zebo struggle.

    Finally, regarding Jackson, I sent WOC a premature tweet disparaging Paddy early in the game, for which humble pie is now being served 🙂

    In fairness though I did think his kicking from hand during the first half in particular was abysmal, but credit where it’s due he knocked over the points and won the game. To do that should give him massive credit and I’ve learned a valuable lesson of keeping my mouth shut until the final whistle!!

  6. Oh, and just how bad was Poite? I really don’t like being critical of referees and Munster would still have won even if Rolland or Owens was in the middle, but I just can’t see what he penalizes most of the time.

    His interpretation of the scrum is befuddling, and inconsistency at the breakdown maddening. For one of the biggest games in the Rabo season, surely we could have gotten a decent ref for it? Eh, actually, now that Rolland is retiring, anyone know one???!!

    • B

       /  October 7, 2013

      Didn’t he mention ‘taking the hit’ in both the SA/NZ game and this one? I definitely heard him tell botha to take the hit. Imo it means that he is either lacking linguistically, working off the old rules or refusing to learn the new ones. In any case its the simplest and clearest example of him just not being up to speed. Even if everything else he does was correct which it isn’t not knowing or not being able to express the correct scrum calls is inexcusable.

    • SteveO

       /  October 7, 2013

      Ryle Nugent actually pointed out in the commentary the point you just made here, Rob, and it’s what we’ve all been thinking. Poite’s refereeing of the scrums and the breakdown is utterly mystifying. Even when he gives a penalty in the correct direction he’ll have a word with the captains and they’re left wondering what the hell he’s doing.

  7. zdm

     /  October 7, 2013

    I’m a big fan of the 9 & 10 being considered a single entity and think their performances should be judged together – this is the area where Madigan is being let down more than his rivals. All 3 fly halves are currently roughly at the same standard (future potential not-with-standing) but Munster and Ulster are managing the weaknesses of each individual well by playing a 9 that counter-balances the 10.

    Leinster used to play a simple game called “ship it to Jonny” and that suited well – Sexton was the decision maker, Reddan/Boss the facilitator with quick ball. For me, Madigan has all the apparatus to be excellent but he seems to make his decisions based on what he sees WHEN he gets the ball rather than what he sees BEFORE he gets the ball. His default is to run it and if that option isn’t on, he panics a bit gets himself in to bother. I’d like to see Reddan take a bit of time at the base to facilitate a player who is an average decision maker but a red hot executer of plays.

    Munster have a 10 who seems limited but assured – he knows what he is doing and is very good at it but then so do the opposition. I’d guess that’s why Munster go for hole-punching centres/back rows – to allow for that element of unknown in their back play. I may be judging Keatley unfairly but he looks like he will be out of his depth in a HC quarter or a Pro 12 final but completely fine until then. The reds seem to be plugging a gap until Hanharan comes through.

    Peedjay was in Madigan’s boat – flawless set play but a bit panicky under pressure but Ulster have (soon to be had -sniffsniff) the best decision making 9 in Europe so he has been able to develop. This is a big season for Jackson – the training wheels are firmly off and this is his season to move from an excellent prospect to key member of the Ulster squad. Ulster have managed his progression superbly but they are now planning for a post-Piennar era and the 9’s they have in the bank are not decision makers so he will need to step up.

    With regard to the green 10, the king is not yet dead so we have loads of time and two very exciting prospects but their progression has to be managed to let them realise their potential – Ulster are doing this, Leinster aren’t.

    • Rava

       /  October 7, 2013

      Some good points but it is very clear that Jackson has been taking a lot more responsibility this season and you can actually see him grow in stature week on week. What I like about him is he never hides.
      When the penalty was given (his last kick at goal) on Saturday the commentators were saying it’s too far out/go for touch but the guy backed himself and it was a brilliant kick.

      With Pienaar back it will be interesting to see if Anscombe has the cojones to leave him be as first choice kicker. I would and I would expect him to excel and really put up his hand as potential No.2 to Sexton. If Ulster don’t then I think he will suffer for it.

      • zdm

         /  October 7, 2013

        I agree, Jackson has never ducked from an increase in responsibility – any one who watched the Fiji vs 15-Rugby-players-from-Ireland-but-not-actually-Ireland will have seen that he has the capability and the bravery. His confidence can dip if he makes a mistake or misses a kick early in the game, which is understandable, given that he was 5 when Ronan O’Gara (his rival for back-up 10 at the last 6N) made his Munster debut.

        There is work to be done for Jackson (and all the current provincial 10’s) to reach international standard but Jackson is being given the opportunity to work on his weaknesses without any calls being made to drop him from the team. I believe this will ultimately let him improve rapidly but this is a key year for him – to my mind, he is currently at the stage Keatley and Madigan both are re: his reliability i.e. I’d be confident that he could pilot Ulster to a HC quarter or a Pro12 final but beyond that, he has to prove himself – I think he has the capabilities to become Ulsters next iconic 10 but the emphasis is on him stepping up that extra level.

        I’m torn re: who should be Ulsters kicker when King Ruan returns.
        Both are as capable as one another off the tee in an empty stadium but from 35 yards across the wind in a HC semi, if Pienaar steps up, you’d be confident, with Jackson, you’d be hopeful. Obviously that big-game mentality comes with that experience and with Ruan off to sun himself next season, Ulster need to develop a reliable source of scores but if Tom Court stepped up next weekend and smashed a penalty over, there wouldn’t be too many asking after our future off the tee.

  8. Re Roman Poite. The Madigan knock-on towards the end, before RK set off like a rocket up the pitch with the potential to decide the game in our favour, wasn’t one. No question. Still neither was the one that was called against Cardiff the week before, preventing them from levelling and maybe even winning. If I had to pick between losing in the RDS to Cardiff and winning in Thomond or vice versa, I personally would pick the latter. As such I’ve no complaints on that score. The ref was not the cause of our demise – we were.

  9. curates_egg

     /  October 7, 2013

    Ah lads. This is a very poor piece of blogging on many counts – we have come to expect better from you.

    Madigan did not have a great game but as pointed out above (a) it is very tough for an outhalf to do well behind a lacklustre pack and (b) his kicks were not properly chased on more than 2 occasions. Hopefully, he learns from this how to deal with this situation – that is the only way he can.

    One mediocre showing does not mean Madigan is bad or that his development has stalled. Also, people (like me) who were looking forward to seeing Madigan given a run never claimed that Madigan was the finished article and would seamlessly replace Sexton. We were more excited about the prospect he offers but clearly that will need time, exposure and good coaching to nurture. In only his second game of the season, at Thomond (where he delivered a fantastic performance last year), with a lacklustre team effort, it is massively unfair to deliver a George Hook-esque sweeping judgement like this.

    Your I-told-you so tone and scapegoating of Madigan reflects poorly on your normally high standards.

    • Woah, back up the truck. Points taken on the pack not helping, though we did critique the kick-chase and breakdown work in the piece also. We never said Madigan was bad, or that his development has stalled. The whole point of the piece is that games like this ARE his development, and that fans will have to expect a few more of them before he reaches his peak. There are no sweeping judgements, in fact totally the opposite – in the last paragraph of the piece we say we don’t know just how good he’ll turn out to be!

      • curates_egg

         /  October 7, 2013

        But you lead the whole blog about his game and how this proves your point he is not ready to take over and that is a monumentally unfair headline for Saturday’s match (and his career path).

        Madigan was at least as much a victim of what happened on Saturday in my opinion. You could add the odd selection of Reddan (who is also poor behind a backfoot pack) over Boss (the tough away game specialist), the lack of leadership and the GUBU selection of Tuqiri at 13 to the other points I made above. (It seemed like the Leinster players were actually going out of their way not to pass Tuqiri for the whole game – his 2 breaks were off turnover – and that they dont trust him. Either that or he was the most elaborate decoy in the world.)

        Nobody expects Madigan to be a Lions-starting-quality 10 overnight. He has, however, delivered at a consistently high level for Leinster for some time and it is exciting to see how that will continue with more big game exposure. Sexton only really made his breakthrough around the same age remember.

        • zdm

           /  October 7, 2013

          Madigan has not been consistent, I’ve watched a few times and thought “what the f*ck did he do that for?” – half the time, he is so brilliant, I have to see the replay to catch it but half the time, he panics and concedes possession through poor decision making.

          Madigan has bags of talent but is not the finished article – that’s not something he can change overnight and Leinster could do more to help him. They aren’t though and it all seems to stem from the fact that they lost Sexton unexpectedly.

          Firstly, they hired Goperth – while good for Leinster’s short-term plans, this smacks of a panic move and hints at a lack of confidence in Madigan to make the transition this year.
          Secondly, they don’t have a scrum-half in place to aid his development – he needs a decision maker to take the pressure off him a bit and keep the defense in place but all he is getting is a whip pass, whether he is ready or not and which a good defense anticipate every time.
          Finally, he isn’t being given the chance to rescue himself if he starts poorly – I listened to the second half of the game on the radio and all I heard was “D’arcy kicks through, McFadden clears to touch” – clearly, the coaches shifted the responsibility for kicking away from him when he started poorly – good for Leinster but bad for Madigan’s development from fair-weather player to pinch hitter.

          • @zdm – I think that assessment might be a little bit OTT. Has Madigan’s development not been shrewdly managed? He has been gradually handed a little more responsibility with each passing season, gradually stepping up each season to the point where this year he is the main man. For example, he wasn’t handed place-kicking duties in order to keep the pressure off him until last season, when he was deemed ready for the extra responsibility – and he kicked superbly all year.

            Jimmy Gopperth struck me as the perfect signing to aid his development – an experienced game manager who will not start the big games in his place, but upon whom Madigan can lean should he need to. I don’t think it says anything of a lack of confidence in Madigan. A solid first reserve waas needed, especially as Madigan will be in Ireland camp for large parts of the season.

            Not much can be done about the scrum-half ‘issue’. Reddan had a pretty poor game on satuday, but Madigan has dovetailed well with both he and Boss on many occasions. I have never heard of a fly-half complaining that the scrum half got the ball to him too quickly from the back of the ruck.

          • zdm

             /  October 7, 2013

            Hopefully it is, I’m a big fan of Madigan and at the end of last season, he was definitely best placed to push on out of all the young 10’s in Ireland.

            I may be adding two and two to get parsnip but Leinster have made a couple of decisions that don’t make sense if you accept Madigan as their undisputed choice.

            Why did they hire Gopperth and what did they offer him to come?
            On the face of it, Gopperth has been hired as their dirt-tracker, to hold the tiller while Madigan is away on Ireland duties. Fair enough but why would Gopperth bother? I spent 6 years living in England and watching the Premiership and to my memory, he turned down opportunities to do the same job with top-end GP teams in the past. They either a) offered him a genuine opportunity to compete for the starting jumper – why bother if they are fully confident that Madigan is ready to step up or b) offered him a huge wad – that extra cash could have gone in to hiring a 9 who fits better with Madigan.

            With regard to my comment on whipped passes, I meant more that it is ALWAYS a fast pass to the 10, there is no mystery about it and for a defence like Munster or Clermont, that is meat and drink if the fly half dithers – contrast to a scrum half like Genia or Phillips who “keeps the defence honest” and makes them hold their channels.

        • Curates Egg – thanks for the feedback first of all. You’re a long time commenter on the site so we certainly value your opinion.

          Just to be 100% clear though on one point, because I think you’ve jumped to certain conclusions that aren’t correct about our opinion of Madigan. At no point have we ever said Madigan is not ready to take over. He absolutely is. In fact the week Sexton’s transfer was announced, we wrote that Madigan had earned his chance to be first choice 10. Before that we had devoted entire pieces bemoaning the situation where Madigan ws stuck on the bench when he was clearly too good to do so (How Do You Solve a Problem like Ma-dee-gan?). We campaigned on this site for his elevation to international level as far back as 2011. Heck, we bloody LOVE Ian Madigan.

          The point is not that he isn’t ready to take over – he is – but that in taking over he will be learning on the job, and people should not be impatient with him, and should remember that Sexton hit his share of bumps in the road to get to the very top, and it will be the same with Madigan. Saturday night was just such a bump. He didn’t play particularly well in one of the biggest games of the season. We fully expect he’ll learn from it though, and hope to see him put that into effect next week against the Ospreys, where he absolutely should be picked at 10 again.

          • Blame the subie then because that’s the message your headline and first para gives 😉 Seriously though, I don’t see a game like this as a bump in the road. Without getting all Buddhist on you: it is simply the road. Every game he plays as the lead outhalf is good.

            I honestly see Madigan as a victim of situation on Saturday. It is good for him to be in that situation (i.e. behind a lacklustre pack, with lacklustre backs, poor delivery from his 9 and a zany centre selection outside him) because he can know better how to deal with it if it happens again but it is not really his fault (apart from 2 albeit shite kicks). It is also better for him to be in that situation last Saturday (in a game that isn’t really ultimately that important for the season and out of which we got a point) than next Saturday (which is season defining). There are good arguments for starting Gopperth next weekend but just as good ones for retaining Madigan. Both will do a good job. Far more important is the imperative selection of Boss at 9 and the hope that BOD is fit (and that the Tuqiri at 13 experiment is never ever tried again).

      • Leinsterlion

         /  October 7, 2013

        I’m a bit late in the day(uni, fml), but I feel the thrust of this article is way way off point. Essentially all of our, and by extension Carlos Madigans, problems boil down to our summer recruitment(or lack thereof). Gopperth aside all of our recruits haven’t replaced the men they were signed too replace. There are various reasons for this, Kirchner(Quad nations), McCarthy(cmon Brad Thorn, not a like for like replacement). 2013 version of Tuquiri(old, injured not a patch on Isa on his worst day. Leicesters marginalised backs coach hasnt shown himself to have the shrewd genius of a Joe Schmidt, and at the risk of pulling a George Hook, doesnt look up to it for various reasons.
        Leinster have an aging squad with very little quality depth, we looked flat and insipid against a “hungry” and “passhunate”(copyright Munster branch) but limited and uninspired Munster side. Refereeing psychosis aside Munsters breakdown work was simply harder, in fom the side and very “UnZee-esque”, McCaw would have been proud. However it is up to Leinster to stop the poorer side from spoiling the day and they patently failed to do this. Coaching and lack of power are the reasons for this. Toner and McCarthy were poor and Heaslip and Locky were equally culpable, we simply lacked a mauler to clean out at the breakdown giving Madigan a platform to do the business and O’Conner should have recognised this and done something. He didnt and we lost. Boss improved thing when he came on and made Redden look positively Murray-esque with his snappy service, Reddens form is a serious issue, he looks finished, another issue not addressed during the summer.
        In the backline O’Conner is again to blame for the bizarre decision not to pick McFadden in the Center in favour of the humungous Aussie bosh merchant and then proceed to ignore said bosh merchant for the majority of the match, intelligent stuff.
        Kearnage displayed his by now customary/obligatory defensive lapse, Lukey is always finding his way back from injury, Conway and Carr are gone, so our lack of depth in the back three was exposed when it came to making changes getting some explosion/gas on the pitch.
        TL;DR cliffs
        -Old/out of form squad/callow back ups
        -Mediocre coaching/stupid tactics in this instance in particular
        -Mediocre/non existent/not arrived signings
        -Ian Madigan has the least amount of culpability. Bizarre to single him out imo

        • Quality stuff, LL; Munster were the “poorer team”, cheated more at the breakdown than Leinster (“waaaah, Romain Poite isn’t refereeing the game I want him to but is instead refereeing it like he always does!”), Reddan’s slow service was reminiscent of the Lions’ best scrum-half, and crucially, Madigan bears no responsibility for, among other things, kicking a restart out on the full, numerous aimless and too-long garryowens, a yellow card which turned the match, and neither making nor engineering a break all day long. And you might complain about that the last criterion there is unfair, because as others have pointed out, what could he do with such dross around him? Eoin Reddan, Gordon D’Arcy, and Lote Tuqiri are, after all, a bunch of chumps. Much better to have Duncan Williams and James Downey inside and outside!

          The guy had a poor game. It happens. Noting that he did in a piece which focuses on the match up between the two 10s isn’t singling him out, it’s following the basic premise of a piece about the match up between two 10s. He can have had a bad game while others around him also had bad games, and elements of his poor performance can also be partially attributed to poor performances around him. Madigan is still an excellent player, and the comparatively mild criticism he’s receiving here is as nothing to what is routinely dished out to, for example, Paddy Jackson. (Or of course, the absurd criticism you come out with in the direction of basically every Munster player in the game bar O’Connell.)

          Miscellaneous other points: McCarthy isn’t replacing Brad Thorn, Brad Thorn left the season before last, when you say that Eoin Reddan’s seemingly chronic loss of form wasn’t addressed in the summer do you mean Leinster should have recruited someone and if you do why don’t you realise that you have four IQ scrum-halves on the books and Irish rugby doesn’t work like that, how can you write off your coach off the back of five games without immediately reminding yourself of George Hook, why are you blaming your lack of depth in the back three for a game which was by your own admission largely won up front, what could O’Connor have done when you say he should have recognised that you were lacking a “mauler” to clear out the breakdown (I shudder at the terminological inexactitude)… Answers on a postcard, please.

          • Cian

             /  October 8, 2013

            I just have to applaud this post. Some would argue that Leinsterlion isn’t worth engaging with, but when it’s done as well as this I don’t think anyone could have any complaints. LL and curates_egg, the message I took from this article was that Madigan isn’t as good as Sexton (yet). That’s not hugely controversial, nor is it out of order to suggest that Sexton would have been more likely to pull a win out of the bag for Leinster in the recent derby.

          • Leinsterlion

             /  October 8, 2013

            Eoin Reddan, Gordon D’Arcy, and Lote Tuqiri are, after all, a bunch of chumps, their actions against as you say “Duncan Williams and James Downey”would suggest that. Age waits for no man, they are on the downslope, if not quite the bottom of very fine careers, no shame in that.

            McCarthy is for all intents and purposes replacing Brad, who himslef was temporarily filling a Nathan Hines shaped hole. Its a position that hasnt been filled, McCarthy hasnt filled it, end of story.Massive need not adequately filled by world class player. Munster second row was streets ahead.

            “Leinster should have recruited someone and if you do why don’t you realise that you have four IQ scrum-halves on the books and Irish rugby doesn’t work like that.” No, but when you have a young precocious 10 you should pair him with a nine like a Boss or lightening service, not another youngster ora past it Eoin Redden, A quailty 9 is more a need then Gopperth. I understand the vagries of the recruitment process, but replacing Redden(who Munster fans were claiming was finished last season and I agree with) was a must.

            I’m not knocking WOC for the criticism, its just they ignored the main factor in his performance(stupid yellow aside). He was sent out behind a cowed and underpowered pack and a very disjointed and badly selected backline(all on MOC)
            WOC would have been better served to question MOC’s tactics and selection, rugby is a 15 man game, and Munster 15 played like a team, Leinster were a collection of poor individuals. I’d blame MOC for this(not calling for his head or anything of the sort mind), i’d put it on his plate not Madigans.

            As for my characterisation of Leinsters need of a “Mauler”, I use that in reference to Bears not rugby terminology. I meant a six or second row in the mold of a Bakkies, O’Connell, Bonnaire, Smith to basically be a force of nature at the breakdown, a cleaning out specialist/nuisance etc/rough/hard. I dunno add adjectives as you see fit, none of Toner,McCarthy,Locky displayed that.

          • Marty M

             /  October 8, 2013

            ‘A cowed and underpowered pack’ and a ‘disjointed and badly selected backline’?
            That pack contained a full 8 internationally capped players, including 3 lions and the incumbent Irish captain. If those 8 can not be trusted to man-up and get the job done then I don’t know who could be? Cullen and Jennings spouting ex-Leicester hard-man nonsense in their ears would not have made the difference. If you could complain about MOCs coaching in any regard it would have to be their clear deficiency in the scrum against Munsters good (but not as phenominal as the media are making out – I mean Declan was lambasted for even suggesting Archer had any potential 12 months ago) young front rowers. they were beaten up ion the scrum and this spoiled their play around the pitch from there on.
            As for the back-line again I don’t see it. Admittedly Lote in 13 was a bizarre call but again a man of his experience (and he has played there a bit in the past) should have been better. Again the entire back-line are internationals and barring O’Driscoll aren’t far off the starting line-up. I don’t understand the criticism of Reddan being picked with Madigan. Madigan is exactly the kind of player that needs quick-ball and Reddan is widely acknowledged as the quickest ball deliverer in the country. His pack were going backwards so you can’t get quick ball – enough said. No-one would have expected when the two line-ups were announced that the Leinster pack would be on the back foot.

            In all honesty Leinster were not far off winning this game and all this criticism of MOC is a bit over the top….Or perhaps LL’s main problem with the line-ups may have been the 3 Munster men in blue or the 4 Leinster men in red.

          • Leinsterlion

             /  October 8, 2013

            Maybe its a case of having gone from watching Boks vs Un-Zee directly to the dross served up in Thomand, losing doesnt bother me as much as the badness of the performance. Its a big concern(though it is early days yet, i’ll admit). Being “not far off winning” whilst playing is a good thing, but that also works both ways as you wont get close to French teams playing like that.

            “That pack contained a full 8 internationally capped players, including 3 lions and the incumbent Irish captain. If those 8 can not be trusted to man-up and get the job done then I don’t know who could be?”

            My sentiments exactly, the fact that such experience put on such a poor show in a derby before the HC is worrying.

  10. Len

     /  October 7, 2013

    Leinster’s forward woes continue, Strauss has apparently been diagnosed with a hole in his heart and is out for the season.

  11. Tough for Strauss and I hope he makes a full recovery, so glad it got caught now so nothing really terrible happened.

    Whilst he will be sorely missed, Cronin and Dundon aren’t a bad pair of hookers to rely on, and maybe the consistency of starting will help Cronin build his confidence and accuracy from the lineout.

  12. Yossarian

     /  October 8, 2013

    Awful news about Strauss, fingers crossed he recovers ok. Big chance for Cronin to further his Ireland hopes by being our regular hooker. Worry his throwing will be found out under the exposure.
    Big chance for one of the Academy lads to step up. Either Tracy or Byrne. will Leinster trust either of these or go make an emergency signing?

  13. Don Alfonso

     /  October 8, 2013

    Wow. Quite a number of responses in a short time when you dare to offer criticism of – or even equivocation about – one of Mad Dog’s performances.

    Very true about the difference in intensity in kick-chases, but Mads also kicked out of touch on a restart and – and this is the elephant in the room – was sin-binned for a comically blatant infirngement in the red zone. Whilst he was in the bin, Munster scored 10 of their 19 points.

    The Leinster backrow was best descibed as listless and Darcy was appalling. But the scarmble to absolve Madigan of his role in the loss is about masking a fear that he won’t be as good as Sexton, I suspect.

    He may well be at some stage, but so far he isn’t.

  14. Rodrigo

     /  October 8, 2013

    I think you guys really need to think long and hard about the overreactions. Madigan was playing 10 behind a losing pack with a scrum half who is very much a front foot player….
    Keatley had an easier ride (is a good bit older – Leinster were deridied when he was let go to Connacht to make room for Sexton to give an idea of his age) and even for Earls try kicked poorly hence Earls having to completely stop to catch the ball.
    Some of the stuff above is Tony Ward/George Hook esque. You’re better than that.

    • I’m not sure if you’re referring to us or the commenters above, but I’m a bit puzzled by the comment. Is it an ‘over-reaction’ is apparently to mention Madigan’s ‘inaccurate kicking’ and being outplayed in the match for Keatley? George Hook-esque? Hardly.

      • Rodrigo

         /  October 10, 2013

        Pack on top allows more space and time for attacking out-half. Pack coming second allows more time for defensive team – e.g. positional play of your back three or supporting half-backs.

  15. Paddy

     /  October 8, 2013

    Agree with most of this article. Think Madiganis less cculpable than others, namely the returning lions. There’s a leadership void in this leinster team. The loss of Isa and jonny and injuries to Cullen Jennings and bod, can’t be papered over. We looked better than we did against Glasgow. I’d still have Madigan to start against the ospreys, on the basis he was better gopperth against Glasgow.

  16. Personally I’d prefer to see Madigan starting ahead of Gopperth on Saturday. At the same time though, it won’t matter a damn who MO’C sends out at 10, if Church, Dev et al don’t put Alun Wyn Jones and the hair bears in their box! Ulster managed to do it, so her’es hoping we do too!!!

  17. zdm

     /  October 8, 2013

    Apparently Jackson can rest on his heels a while yet – King Ruan has re-signed – shows what I know about rugby!

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