Great Vengeance and Furious Anger

The new Ravers’ formal opening on Friday night was an occasion to remember – a pantheon of Ulster greats and Paddy Wallace (joke) presented to the crowd, rugby through the medium of dance by an odd troop who we thought were cheerleaders, Peter Corrie leading the crowd in a rendition of Stand Danny Up For The Ulstermen Boy, and the stadium paying homage to one of its modern greats – Johann Muller, the captain who led this team from bottom-feeders to European powerhouse in his time here.

The game itself was sizzling – a raucous atmosphere which, at times, approached Thomond-Park-on-a-Saturday-night-facing-the-bleating-English levels of intensity (sacrilege, we know, Gerry, we know who the better province is), a great game and yet more red card controversy involving Ulster. Oh, and they lost (to Leinster, again), but qualified for the knock-outs.

Munster-Leinster has long since jumped the shark – when the bitter rivalry got superimposed on the green shirt, it ceased to be fun, and, although the buildup to games congratulates itself in “best rivalry in the world” terms, Ireland really needs something else to take the spotlight off it. Ulster-Munster can result in some crankiness, but doesn’t quite fit the bill as Ulster don’t seem to buy into the Munster-as-Celtic-Gods ethos, and Munster prefer to focus their ire on a more deserving foe – smartarsed city slickers Leinster. Thankfully, the Ulster-Leinster rivalry is beginning to get back to what it once was in the past, and it’s really beginning to irk Ulster that they can’t seem to beat the Blue Meanies when it matters.

When Paddy Jackson said after the game the game that he was pissed off that Ulster keep losing to Leinster, you sensed he spoke for the group – Leinster have broken their hearts for the last two seasons, and it’s getting annoying for the Northerners. It makes Ulster a mighty dangerous semi-final opponent for Leinster.

For vast tracts of Saturday night’s game – 50 minutes we think – Leinster were a man up, yet they huffed and puffed and looked far from convincing. The set piece was solid and the maul strong but lateral shuttling across the backline was again a feature – the only feature, in fact – of their attacking play. Their try was crafted out of virtually nothing – seemingly innocuous turnover ball turned into a try by you-know-who – but apart from that, Dave Kearney’s slip in the corner when trying to pick up a pass that could have been better (sound familiar) was as close as they came to scoring a try. Ian Madigan had a bit of a stinker in open play, and his chip into Wee PJ’s breadbasket wasn’t something he’ll enjoy seeing again.

Luke Pearce, Rabo debutant, refereed the game well, and it wasn’t an easy one – he got the big calls pretty much right:

  • Tom Court (red): like Pearce said to Court and Muller, he was left with little choice – Court lifted Toner above the horizontal and drove him down. A terrible end to his last appearance at Ravers, but Court can have few complaints
  • Nuck Wulliams (no card): the ref was lenient here – Williams got a bit caught up in the crowd’s post-Court frenzy and swung a dig at Rhys Ruddock. It was bird-brained and deserved a yellow, and probably would have got one if Ulster weren’t already down a man – Muller seemed relieved it was just a penalty
  • Bob (yellow): PJ had scooped up Madge’s gift-wrapped chip and was sauntering in when Bob, eschewing the tackle-the-little-guy-into-touch-low approach, tried to behead him. Jackson mostly ducked under it, and dotted the ball down anyway. You sensed if first on the scene was an angry forward rather than Tommy Bowe that it could have turned into a schemozzle, but it defused rather quickly. Bob took his yellow and acknowledged PJ on the way past. Eddie thought it was a red on TV, but it wasn’t really. There was talk of it being a penalty try, but since he scored (and the ref asked the TMO to rule first on the try being scored) that was out – and it wasn’t a penalty from the restart as the offence was commited before the score.
  • Rhys Ruddock (yellow): Jackson was again the victim here, taken out in the air by a combination of Ruddock and Sideshow Zane. Ruddock was all over the place, and looked like he had no idea how to contest the kick, but in the end it looked like Kirchner was more culpable.  It was all a bit of a mess, with Kirchner seeming to shove Ruddock into the contact area.  Someone had to go, and Ruddock got the short straw. It was adjudged yellow as PJ landed on his side. Hmmmmmm.  It appears that the crucial detail in a number of recent decisions is which body part the player lands on.  Jackson didn’t land on his neck or shoulders, so a yellow card was sufficient.  There’s a huge random element when a player is touched in the air – more so than with a spear tackle where the guilty player has more ‘control’ of things, so it’s a tricky area to navigate through.

All of which left Ulster with a nice sense of grievance to take home with them. With Ulster now guaranteed fourth place, and Leinster needing only a bonus point against hapless Embra at home to guarantee first, it’s odds-on they’ll be meeting again the week after next. It’s a pretty dangerous situation for Leinster to be in – they might be top of the log, but they haven’t entirely convinced this season. Ulster will be going down looking to strike down upon Leinster with great vengeance and furious anger, and they will have a few players back, potentially including Ruan Pienaar.

This spicy rivalry might have another twist this season yet.

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88 Comments

  1. To be honest the Munster Leinster rivalry hasn’t thrown up many exciting matchs for a neutral (mostly) for a few years. The Ulster Leinster games for me have been far more enjoyable to watch.

    • The games are rarely good, partly because their is so much niggle and unpleasantness. It would be a shame if Ulster-Leinster games went the same way but unlikely hopefully.

  2. I really don’t think that PJ actually managed to touch down for his try. I even watched it again, and I’m still pretty sure that his forearm is between the ball and the ground and in touch. Small beans though.

    Red card was annoying, and Tom ruined himself by continuing to drive, but Toner looked an awful lot like he faceplanted deliberately, but I’m still wearing my one-eyed Ulster spectacles.

    Neither Madigan nor Jackson had particularly good nights tbh, Madigan gifted Ulster the bonus point by not taking his kicks, Jackson missed touch twice and fluffed a restart straight after the red card, which didn’t help momentum. There was also the point that, charge-down aside, Ulster rarely threatened the Leinster defense until Cave came on. Paul Marshall finally had a good game though (defence for Ruddock’s try across the board was poor, so I’ll give him a pass for that)! I think his poor form was probably down to Pienaar playing 80 minutes so regularly.

    It was a nice occassion, but Ulster’ll be baying for blood come semi-final time (cue Anscombe sending out the wee nippers to Thomond), and I’d say they’d probably even be the easier of the probable home semi-finalists (assuming Glasgow don’t slip up).

    • Face-planted deliberately? Maybe it looks that way in slomo but do you really think that Big Dev, not the quickest on the reflex front, had enough time to go through the thought process & complete the action of slamming his face into the ground with nefarious motives and no regard for his own safety and it had nothing to do with the force coming from two large Ulstermen, an accidentally helpful nudge from Marty Moore and the force of gravity and his own not inconsiderable body weight?

  3. D6W

     /  May 6, 2014

    Totally agree that Leinster vs Ulster game is more enjoyable these days, as the Leinster Vs Munster rivalry has indeed moved from friendly to sometimes bitter and unpleasant.

    “There’s a huge random element when a player is touched in the air”
    This does seem to be the case, and how the player lands does also be a crucial factor when deciding the sanction, as you say. But maybe the randomness of it adds to the deterrent factor, and may in fact be the best way to ensure players on the ground simply do not contact other players in the air, as they can’t be sure what the sanction would be.

    Whatever the case, there is no question that this year the refs have put down a marker, and hopefully this will make the game safer.

    • The annoying thing for me is that it’s all so shady in terms of IRB directives, in that it takes about 2-3 weeks of being confused by referee calls before a directive is clarified publicly (the latest fashion is “Player lands on head/neck = Red card, anything else = Yellow/Penalty”. Someone made the point that maybe this is one of the rules where intent should be added to the wording of the law, but I think publishing the directives would help clear up a lot of misunderstandings (or generate more outrage that it takes a red card to actually tighten up/clarify the law).

  4. @Completebore

     /  May 6, 2014

    There were another couple of incidents with players in the air being interfered with (Bowe took out one of Toner’s lifters on a restart and Bowe jumped over a Leinster player when he knocked on in the build-up to Leinster’s try). Both seemed as dangerous on contact as the Jackson incident, but both players got to the ground safely, which allowed the ref (who I thought was pretty good when I watched it back, better than I thought in the ground) to ignore them. When outcome is becoming the deciding factor, that feels like clarification is required for all concerned.

    I wasn’t impressed with Leinster on the night, they should have been able to leverage a dominant set-piece into a comfortable victory, but allowed Ulster to drag it into an arm-wrestle. And the backs couldn’t really get anything going, BOD’s wonder-pass for the try apart. Madigan got eclipsed by Jackson in the ‘Sexton’s Understudy Audition’ and Wee PJ didn’t even have that good a night. I hate pretending to be an amateur body-language expert, but Madigan looks bereft of confidence and spark, which always seemed to be his main strengths (or at least what made him stand out from the likes of Jackson and Keatley).

    • “Madigan looks bereft of confidence and spark”. I despair!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • @Completebore

         /  May 6, 2014

        For any particular reason, or just in general?

        • For the particular reason you refer too i.e. Madigan’s loss of confidence and spark. I was hoping for him to take his game up to another level this season and instead he seems to be going backwards. As I regard him as a player with great potential, it disappoints me to see him not fulfilling it.

          • @Completebore

             /  May 6, 2014

            Yeah, I really don’t like saying it, even though I’m an Ulster fan, but he doesn’t seem to have kicked on at all this season. But these progressions are rarely the lineral paths we like to think, so hopefully he can regroup for next season. His potential seems greater than any Irish 10 in the tier under Sexton, but he’s only realised it in patches.

  5. Bowe Gathers

     /  May 6, 2014

    Agree with your reading of it lads, the only real error was Ruddock instead of Kirchner. Righteous fury aside, I thought we did well to stymie Leinster for so long. Black improved the scrum when he came on (even with a man down) and proved why time is up for Court, Paul Marshall finally played well for most of a game, Jackson was head and shoulders above Mads (3 missed kicks from hand vs 3 missed from the deck – who says Jackson’s the weaker kicker?) and we did look much more threatening when Cave came on. Vindication for the small stuff, and ammunition for the effort needed for a big semi final scalp. .

    • You could argue that the three missed kicks from hand could have been our best opportunities to score tries (although given how badly we butchered our main 5m line-out, it’s probably safe to say it wouldn’t have happened)

  6. Mike

     /  May 6, 2014

    Is it just me (disclaimer – Ulster fan) or would anyone else agree with the notion that Toner was at least part responsible for how he landed. Court is head down and cant really see whats happening, but at the point of the tackle, Toner was facing him. Toner then twists mid-tackle to either offload or place the ball. If he doesn’t do that, i cant see how he lands the way he does. The notion that its the sole responsibility of the tackler to return the player to the ground safely is a nonsense in my opinion. Especially when there are 2 tacklers (was Court even the 1st tackler?) and a player (a big lanky one…) who is twisting around.

    Also, again it might just be me being a bit one eyed, but surely the ref has to go under the posts after Bob’s tackle. If Bob doesn’t take wee PJ out like that there is a chance he can go under the posts himself (granted he probably wouldn’t have). At the very least, its the first time i can recall a player getting a yellow card and no penalty given for the offence at any point..

    Anyways, looking forward to the semi, its going to be a hell of a game. Afoa and maybe Pienaar back you say? Not to mention a very angry Nick Williams….

    • Rava

       /  May 6, 2014

      There doesn’t appear to be anything in the directive for a player to look after his own safety.

    • Yossarian

       /  May 6, 2014

      no,you lift him,you are responsible for him.

      • Mike

         /  May 6, 2014

        So if i see you lifting one of my team mates and i immediately grab him and try to face plant him its your fault?

        Doesnt seem fair.

        • Yossarian

           /  May 6, 2014

          That was anscombes point with Jackson going for high ball-he should have face planted and got Ruddock a Red.I think instincts of self preservation would kick in though.
          Might not be fair but that’s the rule. Lifting above the horizontal has been seriously reduced as a result-those dangerous tackles used to be applauded.

    • @Completebore

       /  May 6, 2014

      I don’t think blaming the victim helps much, the rule of thumb has long been if you take them off the ground, you’ve taken responsibility for their safety. Players are drilled to present the ball back under any circumstances and that’s all Toner’s doing.

      Jackson got the ball down (or was ruled to). If not, it was a penalty try. If he was assaulted after he scored it might have been a penalty from half-way after the restart. But once the try is scored, a defined path is followed.

      And WIlliams needs to be less angry, or focus that anger into playing rugby and not silly buggers.

      • Mike

         /  May 6, 2014

        If the ‘victim’ has recklessly endangered himself, surely he deserves part of the blame?

        If you watch the UFC, there is someone drilled into the canvass every other fight and nobody lands on their neck. Its just very very hard to do to someone if they don’t want you to. There are of course differences – the players are going at speed, and there are often more than one tackler, but the biggest difference is the ball. For me, if a player is more concerned about placing the ball, then its at least partly his fault. Indeed in a lot of cases (such as this one), i think the twisting is whats made him land on his neck.

        The whole lifting thing was brought into stop spear tackles and the likes of what happened to BoD on the Lions. For me, its gone too far. If the tackler is actively driving the attacker back, i don’t think that it should even be a penalty if he lands badly. Toner had gotten himself into a bad position as the ball carrier, and Court a great one as a tackler. Toner should have just taken his medicine and landed on his back. He chose not to.

        That’s just my opinion.

        • Again, I think blaming Toner for landing on his neck is a bit of a reach. it wasn’t so much “choosing not to land on his back” as “trying to get into a better position to lay the ball back. Which is exactly what he should be doing.

          I felt extremely sorry for Tom Court as did everyone up to and including the ref but the law as it stands doesn’t consider intent so whether he meant to do it or not is irrelevant. If you’re looking to blame someone, and why I don’t know, Annett certainly did Court no favours rather than Devin Toner, upside-down criminal mastermind

          • Mike

             /  May 6, 2014

            I’m not blaming Toner. I just think the game should be ‘play on’ and that the rules are going soft. Court should have got a standing ovation for that tackle, not a red card.

            Its a matter of time before we get players diving.

          • I’m afraid we part company there, I wouldn’t consider something that fundamentally endangers player safety as worthy of a standing ovation and judging by Court’s Twitter contrition he doesn’t either. Would also disagree on the diving front.

            The game’s certainly not gone soft when it’s now more a collision than a contact sport. Players have gotten bigger, hits have gotten harder and doctors say they see rugby injuries that are the equivalent of having been in a car crash so I don’t really see where you’re getting that from. I’d have no problem with the laws (not rules) being looked at regarding tip tackles but it’s ever more important they protect the players given the above circumstances and what’s emerging in concussion research.

            Having spent the weekend working at an event to raise money for people with spinal injuries I’d recommend you read Engage by Paul Kimmage and Matt Hampson to get an insight into what life is like under those circumstances. Spinal injury can happen to anyone at any time but I certainly wouldn’t give a standing ovation to someone who substantially increased a fellow player’s risk of facing into a seriously compromised future

          • Left of the Dial

             /  May 6, 2014

            Mike you’re not seriously proposing that players are going to put risk of paralysis by deliberately landing on their necks are you? Seems a little far-fetched, to put it mildly

        • Leinsterlion

           /  May 6, 2014

          I suppose it was Dave fault for getting his head in the way of POC’s foot? You are responsible for your own actions on the pitch, Court didnt have to lift the legs above hips, but he did, he might have gotten away with it if toner didnt fall awkwardly, but Toner did and he didnt, he wont have any complaints about that decision.

        • Jojo

           /  May 6, 2014

          So he needs to throw the ball away mid air and assume foetal position? Ridiculous to blame toner in this scenario and your not the first who’s done it

          • Mike

             /  May 6, 2014

            Kate, i didn’t say the game has gone soft, nor am I blaming Toner Jojo, nor do I think that it was Daves fault for getting kicked in the head LL.

            As for diving, take a look at this. From 35 years ago. Fast forward to 4:20.

            For the record… I’m against spear tackles and tip tackles. Very much so. This sort of thing has no place in the game.

            Where we are disagreeing is that i just don’t think this is the same thing as the old school spear tackle and doesn’t merit the same punishment, especially when Toner twists in the tackle. Sam Warburtons was never a red card for me either.

            Kate, I don’t need to read the book to know being paralised must be horrible beyond works. I get that. I think it would be to miss the point anyway – you can get paralised by a whole number of accidents (i’ve personally seen 3 neck breaks whilst playing – thankfully no long term consequences). Hampson was a scrum collapse i think. The debate is on the tackle and whether or not the tackler always deserves 100% of the blame. I don’t think so.

            As for giving a standing ovation ‘to someone who substantially increased a fellow player’s risk of facing into a seriously compromised future’, I will be cheering to the rafters next time Sean O’Brien bashes a scrumhalf out of the way on one of his runs, or Stephen Ferris smashes someone in the tackle. I expect i’ll be surrounded by an entire stadium / pub of people doing exactly the same. I’d bet you will be cheering too….

          • Rugby’s physicality is part of what makes the game great however player safety is of paramount importance and if you honestly can’t tell the difference between the two then there’s no point discussing this further.

          • Mike

             /  May 6, 2014

            I can tell the difference between the two! There is a difference between what Court did and a spear tackle. That’s the point i’m making!! I even posted a video of a spear tackle to illustrate.

            Where would you like to see it go next? Should we ban charge downs? There is a massive concussion risk there. If safety is paramount, you’d definitely like to see pushing at scrums banned as I can absolutely guarantee someone in either the UK or Ireland breaks their neck in a scrum in the next few years. How’s about running too fast into a tackle? Again, a near certainty someone gets their head in the wrong position and there is a broken neck or serious brain injury there as well.

            I think Randy can take it from here…

          • Stevo

             /  May 7, 2014

            Mike, all I can say is that I’m happy you’re in such a small minority.

  7. Rava

     /  May 6, 2014

    Oh for a Pienaar and Best return at the Our Dee Ess!!

  8. Yossarian

     /  May 6, 2014

    Leinster going down hill all season. No decent 10 with Gopperth playing better of an average enough pair. Madigan clearly not working well with the new coach and confidence looks shot compared to how he was playing last year he is a shadow of himself. Our attack has looked poor and we play like an English Premiership side, not surprising when you recruit from an English club. Leinster have looked best with a Southern hemisphere coach. I think they thought MOC was a southern hemisphere coach, he may be Australian but he seems schooled in Boosheirship rugby.
    Leinster are top due to an excellent squad and big performances from top quality players. Our patterns are poor and we only excel when outclassing inferior sides like the hapless italians/edinburgh/cardiff types.

    • You got it in a nutshell.

    • Len

       /  May 6, 2014

      And I don’t see much changing. Despite all that was written about MOC being a backs coach I have yet to see any evidence of this. If anything we’re starting to look like Ireland under deccie. No real backs play bar a few moments of brilliance every now and again. I’ll be shocked if we sign anyone good this summer.

    • Dec b

       /  May 6, 2014

      Perfect explanation. It’s all a little sad really.

  9. Given both Keatley and PJ are currently outplaying Madigan, has he endangered his place of the summer tour or will Schmidt focus on potential rather than current merit? Or just dodge that bullet and bring all 3, given both Keatley and Madigan can play 12 too? And if all those who believe Madigan is keeper of the Leinster flame and Ireland’s great white hope please not yell at me!

    • According to one Peter O’Reilly, Jonny Sexton could well be travelling to Argentina, so the carve-up for places alongside him will exclude at least one of the three fellows in the running.

      Madigan is definitely running the gauntlet, he is not playing at all well, and looks like he’s trying a bit too hard to manufacture some form.

      • Which I suppose begs another question, should Sexton really be going? Or is it a bit, the French are going to flog him so we’ll flog him too? Or is there a concern that he’s so competitive he’ll swim to Argentina rather than give up his starting spot and it is in fact for his own personal safety he’s on the plane?

        • Hopefully he goes as a “break glass in the case of emergency” bench option – Argentina won’t be an easy tour, but Jackson at least should be ok at that level. Get him some experience

          • Bushmills

             /  May 6, 2014

            Wee PJ must get a start in Argentina. He was considered the no 2 out half during the 6N but not necessarily the best bench option. The nightmare scenario is that Sexton is hurt and plan B was never properly tested.

            People will say that he started in the 2013 6N but we all know that was exceptional circumstances and he was a very immature player. After 3 intense Heineken Cup campaigns under his belt, we have to see him in Buenos Aires in a true game management test for Ireland.

      • D6W

         /  May 6, 2014

        Has Sexton not already played enough games this season, what has he got to prove? Surely rest and recuperation is what he needs. Bring him along by all means to bond with the lads, learn a few training ground moves, but don’t play him.

        Although I am a big Madigan fan, no doubt he has lost confidence in his open play this season (his kicking percentages are still extremely high, Ulster game notwithstanding). Unless he does something big in last few games, will be surprised if he goes to Argentina. But doubt MOC will give him chance. Gopperth is always #1in MOC mind, no matter what Madigan does. For Madigan’s sake, I reckon he should pack his bags and go to a team that appreciates an all out attacking 10. Maybe even go to the SH, do a Cipriani (know this is unlikely given WC next year).

        • I think MOC has done Madigan few favours but he hasn’t helped himself either. It’s a twofold problem and he doesn’t seem to have addressed the flaws in his game. I suppose the question is can he still do that at Leinster?

          • Len

             /  May 6, 2014

            Yes possibly but not with MOC at the helm. To be honest I wonder what sort of back line we’ll be left with by the time MOC finishes.

        • Sexton has certainly played a lot of rugby but one angle worth looking at things from is that this is the start of the Not-BOD era and Schmidt may see starting the new 13 alongside Sexton as giving him the best possible chance to bed successfully into the role. Remember that 13 is the only position where we are short with a view to the 2015 World Cup, so it’s of paramount importance on this tour that we get the process of replacing BOD off to the best possible start. Expect lots of talk of ‘player development’ it’ll be no good ‘developing’ a new 13 if we try to ‘develop’ 14 other postitions at the same time.

          • Bit of a catch 22 isn’t it? Bedding in a new 13 in that way increases the chance of injury and fatigue for your own world class 10 coming into a world cup. Best of luck with that one Joe!

          • Yossarian

             /  May 6, 2014

            Some suggestions Johnny will be left behind when we go to Argentina. Would be amazed if that happens. If they play in tri-nations mode(as you would expect at home) instead of not arsed end of season mode we would lose both games with PJ, Madigan, Keatley or JJ at 10. It is a cauldron that the Aussies and South Africans have struggled to deal with in recent years. He will have a few weeks off after Racing lose to Toulouse. 2 match tour-rest of summer off.(the French don’t do much of a “pre” pre-season) Al well building a squad-much better to do it in a winning environment. Schmidt is counting the games to the next world cup-he won’t be wasting any.

  10. Stephen

     /  May 6, 2014

    I could see the summer tour calling on Sexton-Madigan-Keatley, if Sexton is being called. With Jackson being left behind on the presumption that he is already the secure second choice?

    • How would that make any sense.

      • It doesn’t. I say we bring Cathal Marsh and JJ Hanrahan to duke it out and leave the three lads behind given they are secure in the knowledge that they’re 2nd, 3rd and 4th choice.

        • Stephen

           /  May 6, 2014

          I’m saying (and I would disagree with it) that:

          – Schmidt has said that Jackson is *the* 2nd-choice fly-half.
          – Madigan is the same player as he was when he was picked for several 6N squads, offering versatility at 10-12 if not the same fly-half pedigree as Jackson.
          – Keatley has stepped up recently, and also has 10-12 versatility.*

          So Schmidt *could* think that he can use the summer to work on Madigan and Keatley, and give Jackson a more leading role in the Autumn Internationals, perhaps a start or two.

          * For the record, Jackson can play 12 or could many moons ago; it’s just that Ulster and then Ireland needs have been for fly-half, so he’s become somewhat pigeon-holed as a “specialist” fly-half. Eventually, however, that will become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

          • If Jackson was a veteran of 50 caps coming towards the end of his career you might see it this way, but he’s barely got any test match experience. While he might be clear second best (still only a maybe) he could do with all the exposure to test rugby he could possibly get. To argue otherwise doesn’t make any sense at all.

  11. Rob

     /  May 6, 2014

    I have to say I’m a bit surprised with some of the comments here today. Normally this is one of the few bastions of reasoned replies online, with usually balanced posts. To see people suggesting that it was someone Toner’s fault for getting driven into the ground leaves me scratching my head. To draw some parallel between diving ala football players, or deliberately risking injury to get someone else carded beggars belief to be honest with you.

    In relation to the new directives about fouls from high balls, it’s getting closer and closer to the situation (unwanted imho) where unless you actually catch the ball as an attacking player, you’re going to get pinged if there is sufficient contact with a defending player to leave him unable to land on his feet.

    Lastly, while the rivalry between the teams certainly is sizzling up more and more, I was a bit disappointed to hear that the mood on the terraces in Ravenhill has possibly changed for the worse. Quite a few travelling blues fans talk about nasty comments etc. at and after the game. From my previous visits it was always the away trip I enjoyed the most. Sportsgrounds was by far the worst for abusive fans, the rivalry with the Munster men has normally been fine inside the ground with the part time fans/idiots outside being the downside. But Ravenhill was always a super ground to mingle among rugby fans with hilarious banter going back and forth. I missed the trip this year, but heard a number of stories about a newer nasty element appearing. Hopefully it’s not a sign of things to come.

    • Bushmills

       /  May 6, 2014

      Let’s try and get past the 3rd hand observations about Ulster Fans. I have been going to Ravenhill since 1985.

      Would you judge me on my reaction/emotional state having watched and a second red card in 2 games and a failure to send off opposition for an attempted decapitation and taking a kicker out in the air because landed nicer???

      I bet even Andrew Trimble was dropping F-bombs…

      • Surely if a fan has a problem with a ref’s decision, they’re not going to be taking it out on fellow fans (of the other team). Nothing wrong with being emotional, it’s how you react to it.

        That said, I wasn’t at the game, so I’ve no idea what comments were or were not made. I’d be inclined, given my experience, to give Ulster fans the benefit of the doubt.

        For the record, I think the ref got the calls more or less spot on (missed a few but who doesn’t?). Attempted decapitation is also a little strong, don’t you think?

      • Rob

         /  May 7, 2014

        Just to be clear, I wasn’t suggesting this was everyone in the crowd. But it also wasn’t third hand. It was one of my best mates who was there, and it was him who got approached AFTER the game by someone in a nasty exchange. My mate was there with some Ulster fans who took it upon themselves to tell the other chap to F off.
        I appreciate that there are idiots supporting all teams, so I’m not suggesting Ravenhill is different/worse than others. And I’m not trying to suggest it’s representative of everyone. But it certainly happened, and it wasn’t in the heated moment of someone getting carded. And it was the worst example of a few things that he said happened and suggested a change of atmosphere of previous trips. Disappointingly he suggested it’d make him think harder about going again. Which is a big pity since we’ve enjoyed going to Ravenhill so much over the years.

    • mikebrad

       /  May 6, 2014

      That’s disappointing that you know of people who had a bad experience at Ravers. This has come up a few times recently both on here and in a number of newspaper articles and it’s sad to hear. I personally had great banter with the (very D4) Leinster lads behind me and saw Ulster fans wishing Leinster fans safe journeys home and saying the better team won.

      On behalf of the non idiot Ulster fans I apologise. I’ve been going since 1996 and the supporter base has gone from three men and a dog on a Saturday afternoon game against Brieve to regularly selling out 12,000-18,000. Like a lot of what goes on up here there seems to be a vocal minority who don’t care about anyone else but themselves. Guess it’s up to rest of us to take action and refuse to let them win. SUFTUM, SUFTLM, SUFTMM and SUFTCM!! (and everyone else..)

      In terms of the match it was a lot like the Saracens game – a sending off, a usually reliable opposition kicker having a wobbly, losing by two points despite piles of pishun. I thought Kearney’s tackle was very poor as he seemed to go straight for the neck but as you said fair play for all involved having calm heads. With a red, a near yellow and two yellows neither side covered themselves in glory discipline wise

      Positives for Ulster – Paul Marshall playing well and even putting a few tackles, Jackson’s place kicking, Cave running some good lines.

      Negatives for Ulster – the tackling was shocking at times – it seemed that the preferred technique was shoulder massage rather than actual tackling, Nick Williams being all bluster (I’d far rather have Wilson at 8 and Diack at 6), vulnerable scrum, losing to those latte drinking, bruschetta eating, property speculators again 😉

  12. Leinsterlion

     /  May 6, 2014

    Surprised people think PJ was noticeably ahead of Madigan, I thought both were pretty poor, Madigan is stuck playing whatever MOC is trying to do, and it shows, remember his chip, gather and offload inside his goalline last year under heaps of pressure? Compare that to his chip to nothing that got charged down, MOC has literally pissed away a seasons development with his duff gameplan and chopping and changing of the outhalves.
    As for the summer tour, Madigan has had an undeniably bad season, but PJ for all the plaudits is hardly much better, a step below Keatley on his best day, he’s an average player.
    The game itself was largely forgettable, Boss continued his treacle-like service and bad decisions, making everything much more laboured, we had no strike runners in the backs to straighten things up and free up some space for Madigan to run, our back-row were matched for 50/60% of the game and didnt stand out. All in all it was another typical Matt O Conner Leinster performance, no bite, no pace and no straight lines and very little control.

    • @Completebore

       /  May 6, 2014

      I didn’t think PJ had his best night (kicking out of hand wasn’t great and his defense for the Leinster try was poor) and probably didn’t deserve the MotM award. But I still think he was a distance ahead of Madigan on the night, but that was mainly down to Madigan being pretty poor all round. I don’t agree with PJ being average, that seems a bit harsh and he’s still the youngest of the three pretenders and the most consistent of them also as far as I can see.

      Two things about him seem to be helping him progress while Madigan stagnates. Firstly he’s capable of improving aspects of his game (see Toner, Devin) with both his defense and his place-kicking improving recently. And coaches seem to trust him, I’ve no idea why, but everybody he works with seems to be comfortable with throwing him in at the deep end.

      But I agree that MOC isn’t helping Madigan or any of the back-line, its all a little pedestrian against decent defenses.

    • osheaf01

       /  May 7, 2014

      The most promising prospective backup out-half for Sexton isn’t PJ, Madigan or Keatley, but JJ Hanrahan. The boy has the lot.

      • Hanrahan is 6 months younger than Jackson. Jackson was selected ahead of JJ when both at under-20 level, has been starting outhalf for his province for 2 years, has 60+ caps for his province, piloted them to a 100% record in a tough pool this year (including wins in Montpellier and Leicester), has 4 starts for Ireland and is the standout outhalf playing in Ireland this season. How is Hanrahan more promising?

  13. And another thing … due to the unsatisfactory way Madigan’s season has progressed under MO’C, as it currently stands, the Ireland team is one injury to Johnny Sexton away from disaster heading into RWC 2015, as none of the potential replacements are currently up to playing Test rugby against tier one nations.

    • Nah. Jackson has been generally excellent this season, helping to guide Ulster to 6 wins out of 6 in an extremely difficult HEC pool and performing excellently in a HEC quarter-final which was lost due to circumstances outside his control, including by nailing extremely high-pressure kicks when his so-called babysitter went off. It’s also always worth bearing in mind that he’s only 22, whereas Madigan is 25. Jackson at 22 is better now and at 25 will be a damn sight better again, barring serious injury.

      Ian Keatley, meanwhile, has been a key figure in a Munster side that demolished Toulouse (The Best Side In Europe TM) and went down swinging against Toulon in a HEC semi in the south of France. In doing so, he’s played varied rugby that has showcased a full array of out-half’s skills, unlike Madser, whose first instinct is inevitably to look to accelerate through the crowded defensive channel directly in front of him, a tactic which may work against under-motivated sides in the Pro12, but which has had basically no success at higher levels.

      Jackson and Keatley, who I would assume are second and third choice respectively, are playing rugby at a standard higher than any of the English, Welsh, Scottish, or French back-ups. While losing Sexton would be a massive blow, we have fine back-ups, and Madigan’s form (or lack thereof) has almost no bearing on whether we’re one injury away from disaster. Even his peak form last season doesn’t really match the achievements of either of Keatley or Jackson this season, so he’s largely an irrelevance at this point, and he really needs a remarkable season next year to justify anything like the hype he received.

      • Jojo

         /  May 6, 2014

        Wasn’t he one of the rabos highest try scorers? He’s phenomenal when on form. Neither pj or Keatley can be described as that. Pj is currently playing significantly better (but over hyped against Leinster)

        • Stephen

           /  May 6, 2014

          There is a considerable difference between being a good Rabo finisher and being able to steward HEC games. Which is currently the difference between Madigan and Jackson, and to an extent Keatley.

        • He’s an excellent try-scorer, has a real nose for a gap, especially close to the line. The speed of his distribution is top-notch. His goal-kicking is, by and large, excellent. His tackling is also very good (albeit his reads can be off). But he doesn’t have a particularly good kicking game and he’s not a particularly good decision-maker, and that means that while he may be an excellent rugby player, he’s not necessarily an excellent out-half.

          My hope would be that Sexton comes back to Ireland when his contract with Racing is up, and Madigan is converted to centre full-time. 12 would reduce his kicking and decision-making responsibilities while still giving him the chance to use the skills he’s cultivated as a flashy out-half. He’d need to become a rock in defence, but he’d be a valuable option there and would, imo, have a better prospect of caps than he does in direct competition with Jackson, who’s a much more composed and rounded out-half now, and who will almost certainly only get better with time.

  14. Sound Steve

     /  May 6, 2014

    Good comment Thoughtless. I have yet to see Madigan look anything more than utterly average without silver service from his pack and/or a disorganised defence against him. He’s all style and no substance. Even on Friday he completely went into his shell after handing Ulster that try and his goal-kicking deserted him. That shows for me a lack of the temperament needed at the top. For all the talk of potential, the guy has over 100 appearances for Leinster!

    I’ve never rated him and I would honestly put him behind JJ Hanrahan at this stage.

    • I think you’re being a little bit unfair there, Steve. Madigan was Leinster player of the season 2012/2013 and made a huge contribution to our Rabo-Amlin double. His confidence has been lacking this season, which is something to which his new coach has contributed. Were he on form I would have him on the Irish bench as replacement 10. Certainly Keatley played the best I have ever seen from him against Toulouse and Toulon. He would therefore currently be my understudy to Sexbomb. PJ has huge potential and has played particularly well in the Heino group matches. Defensively he has displayed deficits in his last two matches against Glasgow and Leinster. Double Jesus could be the answer to all our prayers, but to my mind he hasn’t proved it fully yet.

      • Sound Steve

         /  May 6, 2014

        I thought he looked good towards the end of last season but only against very average opposition. People talk about him playing excellently and point to him chipping on his own line against Glasgow last year – I don’t see how that is good play. I have yet to see him play well against good opposition in any sort of pressure game. PJ may have had some dodgy defensive moments but so has Madigan (definitely more high profile!). Both are willing defenders and so I expect them to come good in that area. Keatley produced a very solid performance against Toulon and I think those games are the true test for international rugby. I’d see one big performance in an away HC semi-final where you’re not getting good ball as worth a thousand Rabo home matches against Cardiff/Treviso/Edinburgh.

        JJ is definitely at the potential stage but he has a well-rounded game and I was very impressed with how he recovered from gifting Edinburgh a win in the HC to give an excellent performance against Glasgow.

        • Jojo

           /  May 6, 2014

          Northampton away? Let’s not erase from memory

        • PJ is actually an excellent defender, especially given his size.

          • He is good defensively, no question, but one particular try for Glasgow the weekend before last would indicate, that he maybe still has a little bit of improvement to do in this area. What’s the new buzz word they all use? Ah yes, a “work on”.

        • D6W

           /  May 7, 2014

          The Amlin Semi against Wasps? He was incredible.

          • U think it was a quarter-final, but his performance was out of the top drawer.

          • Sound Steve

             /  May 7, 2014

            An Amlin QF against average opposition that was played like an exhibition. I certainly wouldn’t consider that a pressure game. Also, the Northampton game where Northampton didn’t turn up? Show me a Leinster player who didn’t look like a world beater. I’m not arguing that he is incapable of playing well at all but he needs silver service and average opposition. If he doesn’t get these he looks very average.

        • OTT assessment there Sound Steve. Madigan hasn’t played well this season, but don’t forget that last year he was on standby for the Lions. You’re trying to have your cake and eat it. Hanrahan is ahead of him because he played well against Glasgow, but all that Madigan has done in the Pro12 counts for nought because the defences are disorganised?! Sounds like a bit of a contradiction there.

          The chip out of his own in the 22 against Glasgow was not the reason his performance in that game was celebrated. He took the man of the match award and scored the winning try and kicked a load of points; and it was a high pressure game, with a home semi-final on the line against one of the best teams in the league.

          • Sound Steve

             /  May 7, 2014

            He played very, very well in that game against Glasgow but I certainly wouldn’t call that a pressure match against top quality opposition. Firstly, if it was such a pressure match, then why Leinster put out a severely weakened team? Secondly, as solid as Glasgow are, I wouldn’t call a team who has finished bottom of their group in the last 3 or 4 HCs top class opposition by any stretch.

            You could argue that he hasn’t had many opportunities in pressure games but the fact remains he has yet to prove himself in these. He is a very good Rabo OH but I don’t think he has the rounded skillset for international rugby. He could well prove me wrong.

            Also, picking him for the summer tour would send out the completely wrong message to other players, especially if it meant leaving PJ or Keatley at home. To me, it says “irrespective of form, I’ll pick you because, as a former Leinster coach, I know you and trust you”. What does Keatley/PJ say to that? It’s almost exactly what Kidney was accused of with Leamy, ROG, DOC, O’Leary, etc.

            Also, i’m not lauding Hanrahan’s performance but more the resilience he showed, as opposed to Madigan’s season-long sulk.

          • Sound Steve, you’re showing your bias a little too nakedly there with reference to Madigan’s supposed ‘season-long sulk’. I don’t know where you’re getting that from exactly. Has he come out to the media and bemoaned his lot? No. Does he look disinterested on the pitch? No. If anything he just looks like he’s trying to force things a bit. He just hasn’t brought his best form this season. It happens to lots of good players; Rob Kearney, Keith Earls, Conor Murray, Jonny Sexton – they all had bumps on the road on the way to becoming first rate players.

            You’re right though, Hanrahan’s resilience in the face of being hero in waiting to the Munster faithful and media darling has been really impressive, the equivalent of surviving in the Amazon jungle on a diet of leeches!! Come off it man!

          • It would be wilful disregard for form if Madigan was selected ahead of Keatley for the summer. The same is true in the event that Isaac Boss travels ahead of Kieran Marmion. I trust Schmidt to pick on form, though, and I’d be very hopeful that we’ll see both of them travelling, and Zebo too.

      • Sound Steve

         /  May 6, 2014

        By the way Double Jesus is brilliant – fair play!

      • Hairy Naomh Mhuire

         /  May 6, 2014

        Madigan has had a very iffy season but this happens & there are enough factors at play to suggest that he can get it back. The ONLY (semi) logical explanation for the IRFU letting JS go to France is that they considered Madigan too good for back-up & decided making him front line for Leinster + Sexton getting exposure to the top quatorze would be better for the national set-up. So Jonny goes, Madigan gets the starting berth, the doubled salary, the adulation & he’s ready for the coronation. A new coach is appointed & Gopperth arrives (as a journey-man no. 2 & back-up for Pro 12). All good. Gopperth gets a few starts, looks pretty tasty & the new coach obviously likes the cut of his jib. Suddenly Madigan has gone from the chosen one to back fighting to be first choice. This must be hard to handle(does anybody remember being 25??). MOC is patently no Schmidt (particularly in man management terms) and rather than building Madigan’s confidence, he seems determined to do the opposite. This is a big summer for Madigan. He will travel to Argentina. By picking him on the bench in Paris, Schmidt obviously still has faith in him (I was a little worried about this since the NZ game when IMO Schmidt considered Madigan most at fault for the late try due to committing to the tackle that SO’B had covered). A good tour & a few weeks off could sort him out. I rate wee PJ but I see more scope for development in Madigan. The age thing is a red herring given the difference in deputising for iHumph vs. Sexton. Hand on heart, WC ’20, from current crop, I see Madigan as more likely to be the man directing proceedings.

        • Interesting, Hairy, that you bring up the NZ match and the “Crotty in the corner” moment, which depressed us all, had SO’B livid and must have been soul-destroying for Madigan. Subsequently I’ve often wondered, if his indecision or lack of faith in the man beside him at that moment, was not a residual effect of the Oz match, where Quade Cooper had gotten in for try due to a misunderstanding between himself and Bam Bam, and for which after the event the latter took responsibility. Fine margins, indeed…

          • Hairy Naomh Mhuire

             /  May 7, 2014

            POC’s post-match comments about having trust in the player beside you were not exactly subtle either. That being said he did ok in his next outing in Paris. I reckon a bit of time in overseas camp with Joe is just what he needs. I expect to see him bounce back nest year.

    • Mike

       /  May 6, 2014

      Got to disagree there SS. He’s a classy player. Its been a disappointing season, but i think a lot of the reasons are beyond his control.

      If you were to criticise him, his game is probably too suited to being in a good team. I’d say he would be brilliant playing for New Zealand, but awful playing for Worcester. As soon as he learns to do a bit more of the back foot stuff, he will be a really top top player.

  15. Cathal Dermott

     /  May 6, 2014

    By the letter of the law, the ref was right but considering its a straight hit, 2 man tackle with Herring & Toner turns in the air (@ 7ft tall), I feel a yellow would have been more than sufficient. Not sure what game ‘Bowe Gathers’ was watching but Black was very poor in the scrums all night (albeit just back from injury) & the fact that Court at 33 has played every game this year (??) while sick & injured, Court still has plenty to offer, will be a massive loss & deserved better. Think back to HC rd 6 in Leicester. Black will be ok for most Rabo games but is not up to the big games (yet?).

  16. Andrew

     /  May 6, 2014

    Leinster have two cracking out half’s and both of them are playing like wind up dolls. This should be a real strength, start one leave him on for sixty mins then send on the other to finish out. The next game let the finisher start for sixty. Having a good outhalf watching in the stands then coming on can cause defenders real problems as they will start asking diffrent questions. That way the two boys can be confident and learn and push each other. MOC thinks having them clueless is better.
    If I stand on the ground to catch a ball and somebody runs into me the law states tackled without the ball. If I’m waiting to catch a guy can jump into me as if catching the ball, and get me sent off.
    They should have to stay on the ground, somebody will break their neck eventually and they will change the law in a weekend. On the ground is safer and does not diminish the contest but does make it safer.

  17. Blue

     /  May 6, 2014

    I was at the game and as a Leinster supporter I found the Ulster supporters to be good humored and enthusiastic, nothing more. I have been to Ravenhill on many occasions and this has always been the case.

  18. I’m not too gone on any of the out-halves that may deputise for Sexton to be honest, there ain’t much between any of them realistically at the moment, adequate is the word that comes to mind.

  19. Ro

     /  May 7, 2014

    I fear for Leinster in the semi final. Defence and set piece is pretty good but open ‘attacking’ play is bereft of a cutting edge. It took another piece of brilliance from BOD to unlock Ulsters defence and we seem to be dependent on such brilliance instead of creatng opportunities by breaking the gain line. Am I too pessimistic? If Ulster have Pineear and at least one other prop back they will come to the RDS with a good a chance as ever to beat Leinster. What odds on a Glasgow / Ulster final?

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