Brilliant O’Driscoll back to bewitch, bother and bamboozle visiting Blues at the RDS

Speed, rivalry and cash seem to have everything moving that bit quicker for Leinster than for Munster

 Brian O’Driscoll (lef) bamboozled opposite man  Owen Williams of the Cardiff Blues more than once in last week’s Rabo Direct Pro 12  game at the RDS. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Brian O’Driscoll (lef) bamboozled opposite man Owen Williams of the Cardiff Blues more than once in last week’s Rabo Direct Pro 12 game at the RDS. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Fri, Oct 4, 2013, 09:00

Forget the Lions Test series, forget the Autumn Internationals and, at a push, forget the Six Nations or the All-Irelands, for the best two-horse race I’ve ever seen was the America’s Cup series where the USA pipped New Zealand in the 17th and last race of the series.

That Emirates Team New Zealand were 8 to 1 up and lost to Oracle Team USA made the rivalries at crew, skipper, owner and country sensational.

These catamaran boats sail at three times the wind, in fact the speedboat RIB bringing the crew across the water is slower!

Oracle Team USA skipper James Spithill (from Australia!) hammered Emirates Team New Zealand’s skipper Dean Barker (from New Zealand) up wind. To see the effect of this loss on Barker google his interview “Campbell Live talks to Dean Barker”.

Considering the week that’s in it with the ERC debacle and Thomond Park tomorrow three things strike me from the America’s Cup; speed, rivalry and crucially if you lack either of these, a bottomless pit of money can get everything moving quicker.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison is listed by Forbes as the third wealthiest person in America and on winning the Cup in 2010 decided the sport needed to be faster and more exciting (sound familiar?).

Sentiment walks
Money talks and with almost no American crew on board Oracle, sentiment walks.

Well, Brian O’Driscoll is back and in the 13th minute showed all his class, against the Cradiff Blues. Isaac Boss fired out to Ian Madigan, who found O’Driscoll; facing a three-on-five defence disadvantage O’Driscoll carried in both hands, as he did for Simon Zebo’s Six Nations try.

He had hooker Seán Cronin outside him and centre Noel Reid on the touch line. With Matthew Rees correctly lining up inside shoulder, O’Driscoll targeted the Cardiff hooker before simply slipping outward towards Cardiff’s scrumhalf Lloyd Williams, who, inexplicably, completely ignored the brilliant line from Cronin (clearly he’s never watched Cronin before!).

Once again O’Driscoll had transfixed a midfield by simply carrying in both hands, moving at speed and adjusting the lines of running. Williams, unforgivably, stepped in to O’Driscoll even though Rees had him and all it took was a gentle pop to a great line and over Cronin went; three attackers versus five defenders!

Moments after the restart O’Driscoll fired a flat pass out the line before getting back on the ball, with both hands, to slip around Williams (again) with a left-hand fend. Then, he fixes his eyes on Cardiff’s Dafydd Hewitt and “backdoors” with one hand to Quinn Roux.

However, O’Driscoll’s greatest asset continues to be his comfort on the gain line in heavy traffic, fixing defenders before finding a pattern pop, offload or flat pass, as he did when bamboozling his opposite man, Owen Williams, with moments left in the half.

Off an uncontested Devin Toner lineout catch and maul with decoy runners to aid, Ian Madigan carried to the line and fired a bullet into midfield. With only inches to spare, O’Driscoll slid outside Williams into space just as the ball arrived, with Rob Kearney barely able to keep up.

Light on his toes
O’Driscoll looks very light on his toes and very fresh.

Leinster have enjoyed stiff opposition thus far, which will stand to them, but Newport Gwent Dragons last weekend in Musgrave Park were appalling.

On their 22, six minutes before half-time, hooker Hugh Gustafson threw the easiest of balls into a Dragons defensive lineout. Secondrow Matthew Screech, jumping at two, was his target. Munster’s Dave Foley got a great steal, with Donncha O’Callaghan’s massive lift from the front, and off Peter O’Mahony headed around the tail.

He stole 10 clean yards before a meek drag down halted him. Paddy Butler carried it on for more cheap yards, with inside centre Ivan Dineen carrying again to set up James Cronin, who barged and skipped past five Dragon defenders.

Both Cronin and O’Mahony took their tries well but they were deplorable scores to concede by the Dragons; a flogging offence.

In the Rabo, the key difference between Leinster, Munster and, at times, Ulster remains time and space; a luxury they are unwilling to afford the opposition.

Cardiff limited it a tad but Dragons gave it away freely; tomorrow we will see how the new boys do when time and space are at a premium.

Although miles off Larry Ellison’s money, Leinster have stolen a march on Munster, who have been unable to finance real top-end investment in replacing their world class players. Only time will tell if Penney’s Munster can repeat past glories from within.

The scrum!
Finally, the scrum! In the first scrum of the second half in the RDS last week Leinster’s Boss presented perfectly straight and, amazingly, Cronin didn’t strike the ball; neither did Cardiff’s Matthew Rees and it simply sat in the channel. Cronin was clearly unable to lift his right leg, such was the pressure Rees and tighthead Taufa’ao Filise were putting through his right shoulder.

As both packs squeezed it out Rees grew impatient and kicked it towards Leinster, hoping for a rebound; a tactic not seen for many years.

In subsequent scrums Cronin elected to backheel, as opposed to sweep the ball, such was the pressure. Fascinating, keep a close eye tomorrow!

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