Sunday, January 31, 2016

Leinster develop their academy, while Ulster, Connacht and Munster win!

Denis Buckley 
Denis Buckley

Friday night was not happy viewing for Leinster fans. We were nearly good enough to bring a B team to the Dragons and win, but not quite. There were a few bright spots – that scrum is rock solid, and Zane Kirchner is showing some of the poise and skill that brought him to Leinster. We fell down in a few areas too – there’s not enough mongrel in the pack to take us over the try line in those close exchanges. And our defence (with that selection) is not what it should be, especially against a quality backline player. We also struggled to clear our lines, being kept down on our line for far too long. And discipline, two yellow cards, not good enough.

The Dragons defended well, and could attack with purpose when they had chances. That pitch of theirs is appalling – I had serious health and safety concerns about the sidelines. So not a great day really. But what we’re doing is developing our youngsters. If Toulon need a scrum half or a fly half, they look at the best players in the world and buy one of them. We look at our academy and make someone into a world class player! Eventually.

Munster managed to spare their blushes by coming back to win in the second half against mighty Zebre. And Ulster got the bonus point against Treviso.

Finally, Connacht put Scarlets away pretty easily to go second in the league. They completely atomised the Scarlet scrum, picked up a yellow card from that, and then the Scarlets were even more generous with another well deserved yellow. Heenan and Buckley looked good, and great to see Henshaw back.

Friday, January 29
Dragons 23 - 13    Leinster
Saturday, January 30
Zebre 12 - 16    Munster
Connacht 30 - 17    Scarlets
Benetton Treviso 13 - 32    Ulster
Cardiff Blues 10 - 3    Edinburgh
Sunday, January 31
Ospreys 20 - 20    Glasgow Warriors

Thursday, January 28, 2016

With 30 players out.. Leinster still put out a decent team!

 adam byrne
 Adam Byrne

It’s going to be an interesting outing for Leinster on Friday, with 30 players called up for either the main Irish or u20 squad. So the side features just three of the starters from last week and is captained by Luke McGrath. But it’s certainly not the worst team, with Ben Te’O and Ringrose in the centres, Adam Byrne on the wing, Ross Moloney in the pack, and Madigan and Boss on the bench – the Dragons are going to have to bring their A game to win!

Leinster: 15 Zane  Kirchner, 14 Adam Byrne, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Ben Te’o, 11 Fergus McFadden, 10 Cathal Marsh, 9 Luke McGrath (captain), 1Peter Dooley, 2 James  Tracy, 3 Michael Bent, aRoss Molony, 5Hayden Triggs, 6 Dominic Ryan, 7 Dan Leavy, 8 Jodi Murphy
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 Oisin Heffernan, 19 Tadhg Beirne, 20 Peadar Timmins, 21 Isaac Boss, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Noel Reid

Munster travel to Zebre and I’m going to stick my neck out here but I think Munster will win.

Connacht have the Scarlets, and that’s the game of the weekend, as neither side has lost a huge amount of internationals. I would say Connacht may struggle, but at home they’ll dig deep and come through.

Finally, Ulster will have no problem sorting out Treviso

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Bit of doom and gloom about Irish provincial rugby, with lots of giving out!

 Jared Payne

The weekend started with just Ulster in contention for the play offs. They had to beat Oyannax, and get a bonus point, which they duly did. There was a real stellar performance from Jared Payne, so much time on the ball, and plenty of clever interplay between him and the wings. Could he play there for Ireland, with Fitzgerald and McCloskey in the centres? Luke Marshalls star is rising strongly too.

Then it was Leinster’s turn to have another crack at Wasps, and their first half was halfway decent, their second was their worst in the competition ever as Wasps romped home with a blitz of tries. And Jonny Sexton went off injured early as well. It wasn’t our A team, and we could get nothing of out of the game, so the loss wasn't unexpected

What it does show is a few worrying things for next season. At the moment, if Jonny gets badly injured in the first Champions Cup next year, Cathal Marsh will be pulling the strings for the rest of the games. Ian Madigans departure looks more ominous all the time. Then it’s back to our lock problems – why are we playing Ruddock at lock? Because we don’t have enough other lock options. The departure of Madigan and Te’O, the near loss of Moore, really brings into question our ablity to  maintain a squad capable of  challenging for the PRO 12 and Champions Cup, while losing a rake of players every 6 nations.It’s hard to hang onto the stars we have, and even if we had the money the IRFU wouldn’t let us buy outside. It doesn’t look viable.

And overall, is a coincidence that with the lifting of the English salary cap, no Pro 12 side has made into the last 8?

Connacht got their quarter final spot, after scoring 8 tries, and Brive lost to Newcastle. One bright light in a pretty bleak weekend for Irish rugby.
Finally, Munster ended up 3 from 6 in their group after a bonus point over Treviso, with Leicester and Stade going through from their group, as in Leinsters group with Wasps and Toulon going through.

And the quarters are:
Saracens v Northampton
Wasps v Exeter
Racing V Toulon
Leicester v Stade Francaise

Ulster Rugby    56 - 3    Oyonnax   
Toulouse    17 - 28    Saracens   
Bath Rugby    14 - 19    RC Toulon
Wasps    51 - 10    Leinster Rugby
Glasgow Warriors    22-5    Racing 92   
Scarlets    10-22    Northampton Saints
Benetton Treviso    5-28    Munster Rugby
Stade Francais Paris    36 - 21    Leicester Tigers
Exeter Chiefs    33 - 17    Ospreys   
ASM Clermont Auvergne    28 -37    Bordeaux-Begles