By going a little bit crooked with their feeds, Leinster broke the law and they won
The home side were in trouble in the scrum against Connacht until they started testing the refereee
Connacht put enormous pressure on the Leinster scrum. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Having been to Beamer’s wedding on Saturday I missed all the live rugby, so settled in on Monday to catch up. It was amazing to experience the Leinster-Connacht game knowing the outcome. With a massive 67 minutes remaining and Connacht ahead 13-3 , I searched for the reasons they lost.
Much of it was tough viewing. Leinster struggled in many areas but most notably with their buckling offence. I lost count of the times the ball was passed behind the receiver’s shoulder forcing him to check his run, stunting any creative rhythm.
Why Connacht failed to score for over an hour was rooted in many aspects of their game – most notably an ability to select the wrong option at the wrong time. This of course improves with experience. Either way, neither Leinster nor Connacht played consistently well, with Leinster searching for rhythm and Connacht confidence.
That said, the game came down to a few key moments; all in the scrum.
Several times this season I’ve noticed Seán Cronin and others having difficulty getting the strike away. The first time was against Cardiff, where the pressure prevented Cronin from lifting his striking leg. The result was a lonely, non-moving ball in the middle of the scrum channel with both hookers staring forlornly. In the end Matthew Rees flung a foot at the ball hoping to rebound it off the Leinster frontrow’s legs back into the Cardiff scrum.
Brett Wilkinson, Connacht’s loosehead has been doing credible damage to his opposition all season. Against Michael Bent last week he repeated this domination, with the knock-on effect on Cronin’s strike. For much of the game Cronin was unable to lift his striking leg when Eoin Reddan fed the ball.
Here’s where the new laws and developing tactics come into play. The opposition, Connacht in this case, placed enormous pressure the striking hooker – both Wilkinson and his hooker Seán Henry trapped Cronin down. The new laws give an unfair advantage to Connacht as, at this point, they are scrummaging eight against seven. Once this is achieved the ball will sit in the centre of no man’s land.
The next step makes the Leinster scrum extremely vulnerable. As Cronin attempts to swing at the ball, the opposition time a secondary snap right with Cronin at his weakest; hence destabilising the scrum enormously. Against Castres in similar circumstances Jamie Heaslip was magnificent in managing ball control in a retreating scrum.