Connacht swashed and Leinster just buckled
Old foes Munster offer the perfect opportunity for the province to get their mojo working again
LITTLE DID I realise last week discussing isolation and exposure of space that the heavens would open in The Sportsground with a five-try feast. How big is that pitch? That the home team dominated is cause for celebration and possible concern. How do the IRFU view the result? How do the European champions, the driving force behind Northern Hemisphere rugby, view the result? And how do Eric Elwood and the Tribesmen view it?
The danger for Connacht is last week’s result could do more for Leinster than for themselves and last week would be nothing but a marvellous one-off.
Parking the obvious squad injuries (on both sides – David McSharry was the only Connacht back from the previous week) Connacht’s result was built on tangible core principles that can be replicated against any opposition. This, of course, does not guarantee positive results but it does increase the chances.
I was initially taken by the symbiotic nature of Leinster’s play as the phases evolved. Total confidence oozed where pods and lines were preparing for future events, resulting in a hum of activity off the ball, all controlled, all comfortable. But Connacht brought infinitely more to the table, which nullified Leinster. It started with Michael Swift hunting down and then smashing Fionn Carr as Connacht poured over the carcass. Leinster struggled physically and more worryingly, displayed an ebbing interest in the contest. Swift went on to make a monumental 22 tackles.
With Ulster in mind, Connacht didn’t limit their play to smashing Leinster; when on the ball, they consistently tested the Leinster tackle. Numerous turnovers favouring Connacht were treated with great ambition, organisation, testing weak shoulders and carrying in both hands as both young fullback Robbie Henshaw and winger Tiernan O’Halloran managed to create indecision in the Leinster defence.
The danger for Connacht is possibly over emphasising the influence of Dan Parks, who provided so much stability and guidance to his team. Yes he was important in spotting Leinster running out of the line and knew when to kick or hold but he is but a part of the team and not the team. I can’t wait for tonight!
Leinster have a golden opportunity tomorrow to get back that crucial physical edge they lacked terribly in Galway. As always it must come from the secondrow and blindside; as Swift has done for Connacht so now must the walking wounded in Leinster.
To see them concede two set-piece tries within minutes is extraordinary. The first, brilliantly scored by McSharry, was a shambles in the 10, 12 and 13 channel where the trinity was all bent out of shape with no aggressive line, inviting trouble.
Top marks to the Connacht scrum and to scrumhalf Kieran Marmion’s very flat pass to Parks, and indeed to McSharry’s line, but Leinster were at sea in defence, which was simply numbers on space. The second, although a yellow-card-man down, was also poor, with O’Halloran going over way out wide.