Round One Ponderings

Celtalians United

The Heineken Cup has a new dynamic added this year, as a result of all the political shennanigans going on behind closed-ish doors.  It’s best described using a technical term known as hoping-all-the-English-teams-get-hammered.  Once upon a time a game between two likeable teams like Llanelli Scarlets and Harlequins would leave us more or less neutral.  Time to catch one’s breath before the nerve-jangling Leinster match starts.  Not this time.  I was leaping around the room like a Llenelli native.  Of course, the English media have developed a nice habit of having it every which way: if their teams win, it’s proof of their natural superiority (Stephen Jones’ bleating after Saracens held on by their fingernails against Connacht was classic lady-doth-protest stuff) and if they lose it’s only because the Celts get to rest players in the league.  Think of it as not only having your cake and eating it, but having it, eating it and smearing the creme-pat in everyone’s face before having them pay you for the privilege.

Advantage Somebody, or Deuce?

Was Ulster’s 22-16 win over Leicester a good result or not? We aren’t really sure to be honest. Here are some of our thoughts:

  1. A win is a win. In a pool like this, make sure you win your home games, accumulate bonus points when you can, and get one away win. Ulster are on course for what they would have planned out: two wins over Treviso, with a try bonus at home, plus a win and a losing bonus point against Leicester and Montpellier. That will give them 19 points and put them right in the mix
  2. Who will be happier? Two seasons ago, Leicester lost the head-to-head to Ulster 5-4. This was one of the things they would have planned to address this time around. With a losing bonus point, they’ll expect to improve that to 5-5 or even 4-5 (from an Ulster standpoint) come the Welford Road game. Leicester have a poor record in Ulster – this result will have delighted them
  3. Montpellier won with the type of ease at Treviso that has become uncommon of late. They are second in the Top14, and are purring. Ulster need to go down there and come home with a losing bonus point – their performances in their last two European games on French soil have been the type they’ll need to produce again, but it’s going to be really really tough.

Thing is though, when push comes to shove, letting Leicester score that last penalty to get within seven feels terribly important. We fear they’ll regret it.  At least they know what they’ve to work on though.  If they could hold onto the ball they’d have won by 20 points.  Catching practive all week, chaps, and double sessions for Andrew Trimble.

Leinster do a Munster

Playing possum in the Pro12 before cranking up the intensity was supposed to be the preserve of the red team in Ireland, but this week it was Leinster who tore up the form book and produced what was a consummate away performance in what looked a very difficult match.  They were superb, reasserting themselves as one of the tournament favourites.  Relying on emotionally uplifting occasions to bring out the best in the players is a risky business, though, and Leinster fans will be happier if they can start racking up wins and moving up the league table, but this was a first big win for Matt O’Connor and justified an unpopular, but pragmatic and ultimately successful, team selection.  The stars of the show were the backrow, though, who devoured their opponents.  Kevin McLoughlin, Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip played as if they were caged up all week, ocasionally thrown scraps of meat and urged to fight over them.  Sure, the cage may have been in Juniors, and the raw meat was fillet steak, but still and all…

Ch-ching

Cost Saving of the Week was on ROG-cam.  The Sky cameraman was able to get ROG and Johnny into the same shot as Johnny lined up a penalty and ROG stood behind him in his waterboy bib.  No need for a separate ROG-cam anymore, these days only one unit is required.  The money saved appears to have been spent on a funny screen-truck/ice-cream van that Will Greenwood uses to ask Sean O’Brien what was going through his mind as he was smashing everyone.

We’ll talk Munster tomorrow.

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28 Comments

  1. Fergus Cullen

     /  October 14, 2013

    While you are correct, the Leinster back row were superb and gave him space; Gopperth was very controlled, solid and certainly pulled the correct strings……and this is from a true Madigan supporter!

  2. Was that really ‘relying on an emotionally uplifting occasion’? If anything, for me, Leinster took the emotion out of the performance and were very pragmatic in how they played.
    More defend and snipe than stand up and fight.

    Most interesting play of the match for me was off a set piece, the scrum on the halfway line we won cleanly (my man love for Marty Moore knows no bounds by the way).
    Ball went straight back to RK who kicked for the corner. Most Munster like play I’ve ever seen from a team in blue.

    • Fair comments all I reckon, Shane. You’re quite right about the style of play, but the intensity was certainly a notch up on what we’ve seen so far from Linster. I think the Heineken Cup is always ’emotionally uplifting’ relative to the league. Relying on that to switch on to ‘playing well mode’ isn’t something Leinster have tended to do over the last few seasons, and hopefuly won’t be this season.

      • Certainly not at this stage of the year anyway, you could easily burn out very early if not careful.

        Selection for this weekend will be interesting in terms of halfbacks, hard to drop Gopperth, but Madigan’s defense and attacking style (I’d hope we have more ball), plus the return of BOD might swing it.

        Still think Boss should start at 9 though, particularly with Kockott in such form.

        • curates_egg

           /  October 14, 2013

          Boss and Madigan for me this weekend.

          With my Leinster hat on, I wanted Gopperth to start in Swansea because it was always going to be tough and – due to luck and IRFU player management – Madigan hasn’t had enough exposure yet this season to prepare him for that. Also with the same Leinster hat on, I want Madigan to start this weekend. It is a totally different game (lets see if Castres even travel but they play a totally different game: loose) and Leinster needs to have two good out-halves up to speed for a good season.

          If we get to the knock-out stages, we can then see who is the right option…or if we are still happy with horses for courses.

    • That’s right Shane. No other team has ever kicked for touch except Munster. It would be wonderful to leave all that guff behind now that ROG has moved on.

  3. Rava

     /  October 14, 2013

    I’ll take the four points for now. Leicester were a different proposition from the side demolished two seasons ago. I’m happy that Ulster’s ship is steady and defensively, at least, are are on the money.
    The form of Toulon and Montpellier at the weekend would indicate they have the HC to the forefront of their minds so it will take a massive effort at Stade Yves du Manoir on Saturday but a LBP is gettable. Obviously they will be going to win and I will be going with everything crossed.
    😉

  4. Mary Hinge

     /  October 14, 2013

    We hope you’ll be talking Connacht tomorrow too WOC?

    • connachtexile

       /  October 14, 2013

      Of course he will. I’m sure WoC realises that there’s FOUR provinces in Ireland and that CONNACHT are also playing in the Heineken Cup.

      • Bowe Gathers

         /  October 14, 2013

        I’m sure connachtexile realises that there are TWO members of WoC in Ireland and that WoC aren’t playing in the HC, but maybe the Blogger’s Champion’s Cup, where English and French bloggers reign supreme and facts don’t matter.

        But seriously, Connacht were by far and away best value for money from the provinces this weekend, and there wasn’t a hint of the old ‘brave but futile’ shtick about them. Exciting times out west.

      • How wonderful it would have been if that last play had ended with a Connacht try under the posts instead of an incorrect decision by the ref. Referees seem to fall into three camps. In descending order of merit.1) Pretty average who don’t have any empathy for the game. It is after all entertainment. 2)Then there are those who are duds and penalise the attacking team at every opportunity because they can, even when they invent offences.3) Then there are the total poites. They are totally blind to what is going on. e.g. Poite penalising Fitzpatrick at a scrum for dropping his bind – which the replay showed didn’t happen – while Dan Cole had been hammered by Court and was lying on the ground under the feet of his second row forwards.

        • Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

           /  October 14, 2013

          Try and have a game without one.
          Overall standard from the weekend was high.
          There are always going to be errors. I await the day a team has no missed tackles, no knock-ons and concedes no penalties. Then they do have grounds to gripe about a ref but they wont because they’ll have won the match.
          Saracens did infringe at the last LO/Maul.
          TMO use is becoming far too frequent but a balance will be reached (early days)

          • The reffing was good I thought, too. As usual, Nigel Owens was in great form last night. I love it when he gets quippy with the players. ‘Everyone in the ground, including you, could see where the ball was going to land’ he said to some bruiser who had changed his running line to block the kick-chase. He always seems to be enjoying himself in the midst of the melee.

  5. Leinsterlion

     /  October 14, 2013

    Meh…pack and backrow functioning like a cohesive unit aside, this was a conservative performance against an O’s team shorn of quality players, we should have stuck the knife in if we could(the fact we didnt or couldnt is an issue). Though the O’s are a bogey team, they, like Munster, are also rans in the context of Europe, Munster loss and the Ospreys line up and subsequent performance proves this. While the big French teams are motoring in the Top14(when at home any ways) Leinster have yet to get out of second gear. I know tournaments are not won in Oct, but some invention(accepting the mistakes that go with it) would not go amiss. Lauding Gopperth for a pretty standard game while not advancing our own game beyond the “Munsteresque”, “emotional performance”(in your words) will not get us beyond the quarters. Skill and invention matter, emotion and passion less so.

    • Why do you only rate skill and invention in an attacking sense? The number of highly skillful turnovers Leinster achieved in that game was superb, as was their tactical and spacial awareness in defence.

      Don’t get me wrong; Ospreys aren’t a Toulon or a Clermont at home but they’re the best Welsh outfit by a country mile and have a really impressive home record in the HEC.

      For Leinster to win, and deny a losing bonus point was an absolutely excellent result, and well beyond my own expectations. I’d take that type of performance and result for every single away fixture.

      I thought the backrow played really well, McLaughlin was phenomenal – made up for a distinctly poor showing against Munster.

      The confidence that result will give the team will be immense, and the interviews given by the Leinster players showed that they’re taking on an awful lot of change whilst missing key personnel – this could be the catalyst for the season now (eerily similar to the start of Schmidt’s rein).

      • Leinsterlion

         /  October 14, 2013

        Packwise, yes a commanding performance, especially from Locky(although playing against the corpse of Ryan Jones helps). I expected us to win, Ospreys arent better than Munster(who I dont rate), and get a bonus point. Look at their team, hair bears, Ryan Jones mannequin and AWJ aside, this is a pale shadow of the side containing Filo,Collins, Holah, Lee Byrne, Shane Williams, Hook, Bowe etc, they have lost their best player from last year in Fotouili and replaced him with a one paced Italian. Ospreys are not a good team, we should be aiming for BP when playing them.

        As for why I “only rate”(I dont, though it must seem that way) skillful play in an attacking sense? Defense is “easy”, tackling and turnovers are easier than being on the attack, it requires is bravery and work ethic, a minimum for pro rugby players imo. I have played on bad teams and won through hard work and organisation, nothing spectacular. All it requires is commitment and trust on the person inside and in the system.
        Attack on the other hand is hard to pull off, every team has a good defense to some degree, you have to work had to score tries no matter how bad the opposition is(unless like Cardiff they decide not to show up). Putting together multiple phases or running hard support lines(copyright Tommy Bowe) and offloading in contact require far more to go right than organising defense. In short its easy for good players to win games playing a narrow gameplan and relying on their defence as shown by Leinster against an outclassed Ospreys side.
        I’ll take a win any day of the week, but there is more to rugby than kicking for the corner and pressurising other teams(sorry brave and faithful), I’d rather win by cutting them apart and putting them to the sword up front and in the backs. Barcelona dont adapt their style to eke out a win, they play to pass you to death every single time, Leinster should do that every week, run teams off the park with clever angles, offloading and hard carries. That is how rugby should be played, especially against ordinary teams of which I would class the Ospreys as. I dont think the Ospreys warrant a pressure-based-eke out a win style, we should have smashed them.

        • Amiga500

           /  October 14, 2013

          Ospreys were unbeaten in the league till last weekend. Which must say a bit about the teams they’ve played to get beaten by such an obviously ordinary bunch.

          Maybe, just maybe, your being unfair on the opposition and/or being more than a little bit arrogant as to the supposed superiority of your own team.

          • Leinsterlion

             /  October 14, 2013

            Ospreys have beaten Treviso, Edinburgh and Connacht and drew with a callow Leinster side. Treviso, Edinburgh and Connacht are not good teams, once of performances dont change that. Ospreys not a team primed for a deep run in the playoffs of either competition they are involved in, look at their squad, ordinary with AWJ and Jones the only true standouts.
            And i’m not being arrogant, this is by no means a vintage Leinster side, but they should be able to easily handle an Ospreys side devoid of any world beaters or game changers.

        • A bit curmudgeonly and elitist, even by your own standards Leinsterlion. We’ve said it plenty of times in recent weeks, but home/away makes a big difference in rugby and on the road in Europe you take wins where you can get them, however you can get them. Even mediocre teams can be hard to beat away. Aiming for a bonus point win away to the Ospreys?? – pull the other one, you’re living in cloud cuckoo land. Expect Matt O’Connor’s team to go hunting for tries this weekend against Castres, but very few teams play real flair rugby on the road. Even Joe Schmidt’s adored Leinster side were pragmatic. Remember hard-won trips to Saracens, Bath, Montpellier, Glasgow, Scarlets etc. – the rugby didn’t always flow like champagne.

          There’s more to rugby than kicking the corners – sure – but there is also more than one way to hurt the opposition, and keeping them pinned back in their own half with an accurate kicking game is one of them.

          • Tap And Go (@TapAndGo_)

             /  October 14, 2013

            “Defense is easy” My lord if only…….

          • Here, here.

            I still rank the 5-6 win against Harlequins as one of Leinster’s greatest ever performances (one that is unfortunately sullied by the blood capsule cheating).

            It put the nail in the coffin for the soft/ladyboy tag.

        • Yossarian

           /  October 14, 2013

          Hurting your credibility Leinster Lion. How you think a trip to Ospreys in the opening weekend of the H-Cup minus the leadership group of Leo,Jennings and BOD up against 4 Lions in the pack and to lose Mike Ross after 20mins and you still think a try bonus is the expected return?!If i was new to this site i would swear you were trolling.

        • If defence was easy every one would do it. And judging by the amount of tries leaked on Sunday alone that ain’t true. Plus it’s the platform for the attack you’re so mad about. Look at Heaslip’s extraordinary rip that turned the momentum from defense to attack in a split second.

          Personally thought that Leinster actually took a lot of emotion out of that fixture, it was a really clinical performance. Going away to your bogey team and coming away not only with a BP win but denying them a losing point is a massive opening statement, particularly while missing O’Driscoll and losing Mike Ross so early on. Moore one of the performances of the weekend for me.

          Also that tackle by Gopperth was certainly not “standard” although you probably didn’t rate it because it was defensive.

  6. I’d agree with General Klodd. Our overall defence has been poor this season, in this match it was immense, backs and forwards alike. I said before the match, that to win, we’d need to prevail in the battle of the front fives and we did. The scrum turnover in the 26th minute five metres from our line, just after Hibbard had nearly scored a try was MASSIVE. Best match by our front and second rows all season. Mike McCarthy is slowly starting to look like he might actually be able to take on Leo Cullen’s mantle. And bar one, we won all our own line-outs; Nugget’s throwing in seems to be improving (buíochas le Dia). A good day in the office for all concerned. Well done!!!

  7. zdm

     /  October 14, 2013

    Like the WoC boys, I’ve been trying to decide if Ulster’s result was a good win against tough opposition or a slip in letting them get a bonus. Ultimately though, teams front up much more against Ulster than in the past and this is a very different beast of a tigers side to last year so I’ll take it.

    Of all the groups, this is the toughest to call – there may be tougher opponents on offer in other groups but Ulster, the Tigers and Montpellier are remarkably evenly matched and with Treviso, there are no bunnies to fill the boots. I think Treviso will decide this group – they have the first team and the motivation to take one AWAY win (they will be expecting at least one home win too I’d imagine) but are also short on depth and I’d also expect them to ship a HOME four try loss. Whichever team gets that four try bonus will win the group – Ulster seem to have the best attacking unit so hopefully it will be us!

    • Bowe Gathers

       /  October 14, 2013

      I actually have a feeling Shane Horgan won the Ulster game – he was on fire at half time…

  8. Tap And Go (@TapAndGo_)

     /  October 14, 2013

    Personally I could see Leinster now doing a Munster in 10/11, in winning all their home games. The first game was key, when Munster beat Northampton and ground out four more wins without being spectacular before hammering the saints in the reverse game in the last round. Leinster have the know-how and experience to win the rest of the games.

    I think Leinster’s pool is stronger than Munster’s that year but Leinster are stronger as well then Munster were back then with five, possibly six world class players in their side.

    I still don’t think they’ll win it out do, their bench isn’t as strong as 09-12 and given the short break they got this summer I’m not sure how fit the players will be post six nations.

  9. Really have to take issue with LeinsterLion, I’m a L fan too, and we all want to see dazzling back-line play, Believe me, you’re not alone in that. One of the great joys of the game is watching your backs carve up the opposition with a beautiful sidestep or mis-pass. Indeed maybe we are all geting spoilt, because in the last 5 years, we’ve been lucky enough to have one of the few teams in Europe that can actually deliver that. But you’ve got to have some respect for the opposition. If Ospreys are such a mediocre team, as you seem to suggest, how come they’ve beaten us 7/ of the last 10 games, with one additional draw?! The result, and the performance in the Liberty on Saturday were both terrific. We beat one of our bogey teams, away from home, our back-row played an absolute blinder, (JH & So’B in particular had incredible games) the D was heroic and we restricted them to precisely no tries. And you are still not happy? Give me a break. Let’s have some credit where credit is due, please!

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