Sunday, March 31, 2013

Ulster deservedly claim the spoils as Leinster have an out of BODy experience!

Still one the few things giving sliced bread a run for it's money in Ireland (picture

There was some difficult watching this weekend, for Irish supporters. What do the Scottish sides have against Munster – first of all Edinburgh did a number on the Munster men, and then they got absolutely monstered by Glasgow. It was pretty sobering stuff – OK, it doesn’t help when you gift wrap two trys and present them on a plate to Glasgow – but even losing 37 -24 would have been a poor result. Munster seem to have their structure, and what remains is lots of undirected passion. Glasgow, for their part, are simply playing great rugby.
The Ospreys and Scarlets managed to dodge their bullets and accumulate points. So tit was left to Leinster, on a roll, to keep top spot by beating Ulster, who haven’t been on a roll. Sounds simple enough, but it was beyond the menn in Blue, who have lost their rhythm. Ok if you put Sexton, O’Driscoll and D’Arcy back in, it could have been different, but apart from Madigan – who had to try and win it on his won again – dem boys dat were left, dey ain’t got no riddum!  Leinster win when their backline run around people, not into them, and BOD is the king of that. And the pack was struggling, so not surprising Ulster claimed a hard fought and deserved win, doing all the basics right, and defending ferociously for the last 10 minutes.

RaboDirect PRO12
Saturday , March 30
Newport Gwent D'gons 20 - 28 Scarlets 
Cardiff Blues 16 - 23 Ospreys 
Leinster 18 - 22 Ulster 
Friday , March 29
Zebre 7 - 9 Edinburgh 
Glasgow 51 - 24 Munster

1. Glasgow Warriors 19 14 0 5 480 275 205 11 67
2. Ulster    19 14 1 4 475 312 163 8 66
3. Leinster  19 14 0 5 485 329 156 8 64
4. Ospreys   19 13 1 5 407 267 140 4 58
5. Scarlets  19 13 0 6 366 353 13 6 58
6. Munster   19 10 1 8 375 312 63 5 47

Friday, March 29, 2013

Scary Saturday for Leinster and Ulster

This is where the Pro 12 starts to get interesting – not that it hasn’t been fascinating all season (it hasn’t) but in the final straight there is still a lot to be sorted out. Down to Munster in 6th, it’s still all to play for. Munster need a fair amount of luck to make it to the play offs, but it could happen. They could have a big say in it if they beat Glasgow. They have a strong looking team out. I don’t know the ins and outs of the team that well, but I wonder why CJ Stander and Dave O’Callaghan don’t even make the match day 22? Also, I’d be pushing JJ Hanrahan a bit further. I think Glasgow will probably win this on their recent form.

On Saturday, the Scarlets need to make sure they don’t slip up against the Dragons, who have a habit of being annoyingly competitive at the wrong time. The Ospreys also have to make sure they put the Blues away, which is by no means a certain result.

The big match has to be Leinster Ulster though. All the talk this season has been about the good form of Ulster, and Leinster’s indifferent season, but it’s at the end it really matters. Leinster sound like they could have all their big guns back apart from Sexton (Heaslip will hit 160 appearances) ,  while Ulster have Ruan Pienaar, and Henderson, Henry and Wilson back in the frame. Neither  team wants to lose this – and Ulster can’t afford to lose if they want to stay in the top four. They also both want to get a bit of momentum going for big matches next weekend. Bring it on! I wish they were playing other teams to get points, but it is what it is. If Leinster get their backline moving, this is only going one way… and I’m going with Leinster in a heartbreaker for Ulster.

Friday , March 29
Zebre vs Edinburgh 
Glasgow vs Munster 
Saturday , March 30
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Scarlets 14:30
Cardiff Blues vs Ospreys 17:15
Leinster vs Ulster 18:15
Benetton Treviso vs Connacht 19:00

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Ian Madigan can keep letting that squirrel attack his head if he plays like that!

Ian Madigan (picture

I only caught bits and pieces of rugby this weekend, I’m a bit rugbyied out after last weekend..but I’ll be back on the horse by Easter I’m sure.

I started off by watching the last 30 mins or so of the Edinburgh Ulster match. Ulster just look out of sorts, off the pace. They could do with Pienaar back – they showed with Trimble’s try they can still pull a bit of magic out of the bag, but something has gone from the team after cruising so long this season.  They are still in the play off spots, and can still have a really good season, but they need to find that x-factor again.
I watched like 2 minutes of the Munster Connacht match – great to see The Big Man back, there’s an energy about players like POC and BOD that radiates through a team. Let’s hope Munster get a good HC run now.

Then  I caught the last 15 minutes of the match Leinster Glasgow match, and was alarmed to see Ian Madigan with a squirrel attacking his head. Frankly though, if he plays like that, he can wear his hair anyway he likes… he has that ability to score tries in tight situations like no one else. He’d nearly scored a break out try minutes before, so it was just rewards. There was a touch of luck about that victory over what has become an excellent Glasgow side..but we’ll take it! And after a slow start last year, somehow Leinster are no 1 again, and probably odds on now to win the thing.

I also watched a bit of the Force/Cheetahs match – where have the Cheetahs found that game, they can really play now! And also the start of theStormers/Brumbies match, which was really good, great skill, and eye scorching physicality!

RaboDirect PRO12
Saturday , March 23
Munster 22 - 0 Connacht 
Benetton Treviso 26 - 17 Cardiff Blues 
Leinster 22 - 17 Glasgow 
Friday , March 22
Zebre 10 - 24 Scarlets 
Ospreys 52 - 19 Newport Gwent D'gons 
Edinburgh 14 - 8 Ulster 

Friday, March 22, 2013

The young guns of Leinster take on Glasgow

Isa (picture

The less said about the 6N from Ireland’s point of view the better. Now’s a chance for the clubs to restore a bit of Irish pride.

Ulster should be focusing on getting 5 points when Edinburgh visit tonight. They have Muller and Payne back from injury, and Dan Tuohy is in the back row – I’d rather have him in lock to start reclaiming an Irish spot. Ulster should win this comfortably.

Munster have named a strong looking team, even without some of their internationals. They should beat Connacht..but Connacht have been pretty well unaffected by the 6N and have been putting in good performances and picking up points. Munster at home should still do this though.

Finally, Leinster close out the weekend as they entertain Glasgow at the RDS. There hasn’t been much good news for the men in blue in the last few weeks – losing BOD for 3 weeks after some careless footwork against Italy – losing Reddan and Fitzgerald  for a LONG time with injury – and losing Isa forever as he announced his retirement at the end of the season. Isa is a legends legend, is he the best player to not play regularly as a international? Most of the Leinster internationals are missing – but the team looks pretty strong all the same.  I’m pleased to see Madigan, Jordi Muphy and Quinn Roux starting, great opportunity for the young guns to show us what they have. At full strength, I’d back Leinster any day, with this team…we’ll probably still do it. Just!

RaboDirect PRO12
Friday , March 22
Zebre vs Scarlets 
Ospreys vs Newport Gwent D'gons 
Edinburgh vs Ulster 
Saturday , March 23
Munster vs Connacht 17:45
Benetton Treviso vs Cardiff Blues 18:30
Leinster vs Glasgow 19:45

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Wales are champs, France get the spoon, and Ireland finsih with 13 men in honour of BOD!

Ireland dragged their sorry arses out of the 6N with a defeat to Italy. I’m not going to take anything away from Italy, as they were well due to beat us. But it was a pretty dire performance from Ireland, even before the injuries hit. Very little line out ball, and three yellow cards – we were losing our heads. We came within a sniff of victory, and then got blown away.  It’s been a year to forget so far – mostly due to a run of chronic injuries. We’ve got some great new players coming through, so it’s not all doom and gloom, but we are seriously short at prop and lock, and that isn’t going be fixed in a hurry. Feck it anyway, there’s always next year! Nice touch by the team to end the match with 13 men in honour of BOD :)

The match of the day, of the tournament, was Wales demolishing England. The fervent crowd, and a white hot performance from Wales saw them sweep England away in the second half. This is the Wales that won the Slam last year – not good enough to beat Ireland mind :) – but worthy winners of this years championship. And England – they’ll be back, bit more experience under their belts and they are going to start to rumble.

Finally it was Frances turn to perk up a bit, and beat a game Scottish side. Thankfully not by enough to hand Ireland the wooden spoon. My tip for the tournament, showing flashes of what they can do, as well most of their frailties. Declan Kidney gets a hard time for not getting the best of Ireland – Phillipe St Andre leaves French fans weeping.

So that’s it for another year. But it would be completely remiss of me not to mention Ireland’s ladies grand slam. Get in! what a result!

RBS Six Nations
Saturday , March 16
Italy 22 - 15 Ireland 
Wales 30 - 3 England 
France 23 - 16 Scotland

Friday, March 15, 2013

The indignity of a wooden spoon for Ireland hangs in the balance...

First up this Saturday is a season defining match for Ireland. If we lose – then we’ll be dicing it out with France for the wooden spoon. How undignified would that be! And lets’ face it, Italy are due to beat us soon, we already used our get out of jail free card when ROG spared out blushes with a last minute drop kick two years ago. We have a young team, and we’re going to have to play a canny game that takes the Italian scrimmaging prowess and physicality out of the game. The atmosphere in Rome is going to be second to none, a passionate crowd sniffing a victory – gulp! If we win, it’s going to by the skin of our teeth, as this Italian team has confidence like never before.. I’m still going with a win though-  Is FĂ©idir Linn!

The second match is for the championship, although Wales have to win it by 7 points to claim the title. Compared to last year, Wales have had a modest tournament, probably only hitting a few gears against Scotland last weekend. England haven’t done anything fancy, but have withstood pressure when they needed to , and taken points when they needed as well.  Because it’s at home, I can see Wales winning, but not by 7, so England get the championship, and about right with overall for m this year.

Finally, France are going for their first victory at home against Scotland. It’s been a pretty risible effort from them this year – they were my tip for the championship! They showed a fair amount of character to come back and get the draw against us last weekend, and they should finish with a win. Scotland, with two wins, have had a better than average season.

RBS Six Nations
Saturday , March 16
Italy vs Ireland 14:30
Wales vs England 17:00
France vs Scotland 20:00

Sunday, March 10, 2013

After a test that hurt your eyes against Scotland, a test that hurt your heart against France...

After a test that hurt your eyes against Scotland, a test that hurt your heart against France… It  was a brilliant display of heart by the Irish players, absolutely putting their bodies on the line for Ireland.  It could have been BOD’s swansong at the Aviva, and I think the medics realized fairly quickly the only way they would keep him off the pitch was to cosh him and handcuff him to the stretcher. We played the match the wrong way around – if we’d been losing and then come back to get the draw the whole stadium would have been rocking. Instead, it was us letting a lead slip away and the French jumping up and down at the whistle.  There were lots of good things about the match, especially the form of the new players. Two years ago, Connor Murray was a rookie, Paddy Jackson was doing his leaving cert, Luke Marshall was playing underage rugby and Peter O’Mahony was unheard of. We just needed a little bit more that we couldn’t find , so so agonizingly close…

In the first match of the weekend, Scotland and Wales slugged it out and Wales were the last men standing. The size and commitment of the Scottish players is impressive, those are BIG feckers. Their handling and discipline is less impressive though, and they had the crowd raging and gasping in exasperation many a time. Their defense is absolutely top notch, and Wales, like Ireland really struggled to break it down. But they eventually built up a head of steam to win the match and set up a tournament decider with England next week.
it was modest Italy taking on the mighty English at Twickenham.  The first half saw England with all the ball, kicking penalties, but butchering numerous try scoring activities, You could just see them thinking – this is going to get easy like, just now. But it didn’t and Italy came roaring back in the second half, scoring a brilliant opportunistic try, and in the end England were hanging on desperately, praying for the whistle. It was a massive effort for Italy, who deserved a draw, but also determined defence from England to save the day. Best Italian performance I’ve seen I think. Their front row play will have Healy, Best and Ross booking extra chiropractor sessions.

RBS Six Nations
Saturday , March 9
Scotland 18 - 28 Wales 
Ireland 13 - 13 France 
Sunday , March 10
England 18 - 11 Italy

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

I'm hovering between optimism and morbid fascination for the Ireland France match

Out of form and favour - still a legend (picture

Sometimes you sit down to write the weekend review thinking you may come up with something to rival Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. This week I feel like a pathologist with a fresh stiff slapped down before me on the slab… The road that started so well for Ireland 4 weeks ago with a win against Wales, took a wrong turn against England and then doubled back on itself against Scotland. We’re missing Sexton, Bowe, Ferris,  Zebo, and POC. It’s a fairly momentous occasion unfortunately for Ronan O’Gara, fit available to play and not selected at all. It’s probably the right move though.  And we’re coming up against the most talented, well resourced, and underperforming teams in the world. Now I’ve really lifted your spirits –it’s not all bad news.  The team has a good balance, with Healy and Mccarthy back, McFadden in, Madigan on the bench. It’s a team with a good few elements of the future in it – let’s give a lash, the season is down the tube already. In  terms of results – France always break our hearts, and I’m going with a French victory by 8-10 points

Scotland welcome Wales on the back of a workmanlike victory over Ireland. If Wales show any of their potential, they’ll win this and set up an awesome final match against England. Scotland are likely to be wonderfully erratic again, but as they played their get out of free card against Ireland, I think they’ll lose this weekend.

Finally England are going to make pretty short work of Italy, as they roll on to what is probably going to be a slam for them this year.

RBS Six Nations
Saturday , March 9
Scotland vs Wales 14:30
Ireland vs France 17:00
Sunday , March 10
England vs Italy 15:00

Sunday, March 3, 2013

On the bright side, no Irish province lost this weekend!

Gareth Steenson - Ireland Calling? (picture

On the bright side, no Irish province lost this weekend! On the negative side, Ulster let the lead of the table slip to Glasgow, and Munster are marooned in 6th place, needing some other results  to go their way to make it into the playoffs.

The Leinster match was nowhere to be found on TV, but they won in some style, with Cronin and Dave Kearney getting two trys each. They are motoring up the table, and could top it by the end of the season if they keep going like that. Connacht also did enough to put Zebre away, although they left the win until the last minute. They could finish 7th, if they keep on winning, which is some result for a small side.
I did get to watch the Ulster match, where Ulster snatched a draw out of the jaws of victory. Treviso played for 80 minutes, and Ulster didn’t – Ulster gave away two yellows and Treviso only one. Ulster, even without their considerable list of absentees, had the beating of Treviso, but a lack of concentration, and probably by not showing enough respect to the Italian side who are growing game by game. It’s something that can be fixed, and needs to be.

Finally, it was a chance for Munster to show us what they had, or didn’t have as it turns out. It was pretty frustrating stuff, as Munster toiled earnestly away, got a lead, and then saw it slip away. I say frustrating because they seemed to spend ages fecking around behind the gainline,  with lots of passing – to anyone else. They need someone to grab the team by the scruff of the neck, say give me the ball, and follow me! There is indecision from the scrum half, ROG kicking a lot but not as well as he used to, and just about no incision. ROG kicked well for posts at least. Didn’t do enough to get into the Ireland squad anyway. At least Munster are still going in the HC…

Elsewhere, I saw Gareth Steenson put in a storming performance as Exeter beat Quins, and was impressed by the new artificial pitch at Saracens.

RaboDirect PRO12
Saturday , March 2
Munster 13 - 13 Ospreys 
Friday , March 1
Newport Gwent D'gons 19 - 26 Leinster 
Scarlets 14 - 13 Edinburgh 
Ulster 29 - 29 Benetton Treviso 
Connacht 23 - 19 Zebre 
Glasgow 29 - 13 Cardiff Blues