Madigan and McFadden make cases for a green jersey
Leinster 32 Scarlets 5:In the context of sport the most persuasive argument is often not vocalised but instead framed by actions. Eloquence can be gleaned from a performance. Leinster duo Ian Madigan and Fergus McFadden found their national team aspirations thwarted and so used their respective second half introductions to restate their cases.
Madigan came on as a half-time replacement for Noel Reid, initially as much to address place-kicking foibles that had seen the home side land just two from six in the opening 40 minutes. Andrew Goodman had received a knock to his knee and Reid, who stepped up to place-kick while his team-mate was receiving treatment, clattered a post with a relatively straightforward opportunity.
Joe Schmidt explained: “We hadn’t played for Noel to kick; Andrew got a whack on the knee and was pretty uncomfortable. We just thought about getting Ian (Madigan) on there.
“As well as that he was desperate to play. We kept faith with the guys who trained all week but we also know if anything happens tomorrow, guys need game time and therefore, we want to try and put them in the shop window effectively. I suppose that’s across the board with any of our players.”
Madigan didn’t disappoint bringing a vibrancy and cutting edge to Leinster’s back play and assuming the responsibility to get his team over the gain-line, making several coruscating breaks. McFadden was no less enthusiastic upon his entrance on 48 minutes. Schmidt observed with a smile. “When I said to Ferg, ‘you are playing on the flank,’ I meant in the backline not in the forward pack.
“I think he spent a lot of time picking and going, hitting, cleaning out. I think he just wanted to be as close to whatever action was happening as possible. It is great to have him because he brings a real physical presence despite him not being a massive guy.”
Well as the two played it would be wrong to lay victory at their feet. There were others more privy to the core of winning and none more so than Jordi Murphy. Aaron Dundon, received the man of the match accolade but the celebration ball could just as easily have gone to the number eight, who spent last Thursday training with Ireland. He was superb, employing pace, power and guile to punch holes or accelerate through them. His try was suitable reimbursement.
In the last number of weeks, Murphy, Dominic Ryan and Rhys Ruddock have challenged each other with a series of excellent individual displays: the bar is pretty high at the moment. There are others too. Jack McGrath had a fine game, carrying powerfully and consistently.
It wasn’t just Leinster’s newer faces that monopolised the headlines as Leo Cullen, and Shane Jennings were very much to the fore. Those who want to pursue the role of the openside would do well to watch Jennings play; in education terms it’s a higher level paper. Nor is it the preserve of the tyros to want a place in the Ireland squad.
Cullen admitted: “I was disappointed not be involved in national camp. I still feel I have a point to prove. I am happy with the way that I am playing at the moment. People refer to age quite a lot which is frustrating. If we learnt anything from Brad Thorn it is that you can play to whatever age you want.
“Yeah the boys (Madigan and McFadden) were disappointed to miss out on (Ireland) selection and they had a point to prove when they came in.”
Leinster led 11-5 at the interval, Goodman landing a brace of penalties and muscularly finishing off a fine counter-attack initiated by Fionn Carr. Dundon burrowed over for a score and Murphy’s try on 69 minutes, the product of a good line, brought the prospect of a bonus point.
It looked unlikely in injury time, Leinster swept into the Scarlets’ 22 and following a series of rucks, John Cooney demonstrated his poacher’s nous to plunge over.
A good night individually and collectively.