CJ Stander inspiring breakdown improvement, UCC retain Fitzgibbon Cup

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Ryan Christie celebrates scoring Celtic’s fourth in their 5-0 won over Hearts, which saw the Bhoys extend their lead at the top of the table to 10 points. Photograph: Jane Barlow/PA

Ryan Christie celebrates scoring Celtic’s fourth in their 5-0 won over Hearts, which saw the Bhoys extend their lead at the top of the table to 10 points. Photograph: Jane Barlow/PA

In today’s rugby statistics column John O’Sullivan has reflected on Ireland’s 24-14 win over Wales, and the efficiency of their play at the breakdown in Dublin. And he suggests their improvement on the floor was down to a change in personnel, rather than an increase in the speed of their ruck ball. CJ Stander’s switch from number eight to blindside flanker has also proven inspired, he writes: “Stander was brilliant at the breakdown in both games, his ability to survive the clearing out process underlining his strength and determination. Instead of using him as a primary carrier he’s been redirected where possible to chasing poaching opportunities, an area in which he has excelled with two steals against Scotland and three in the Welsh match.” Meanwhile Owen Doyle has lamented the performance of referee Pascal Gauzere during England’s scrappy 13-6 win over England at Murrayfield, which was played out in brutal conditions. “The breakdown was a shambles, even making some allowance for the weather. It is often thus in France’s domestic competition and Pascale Gauzere brought a similar laissez-faire approach to this match. Whenever these two teams meet the post-tackle contest has the potential to produce mayhem, and that’s what happened.”

Elsewhere University College Cork have retained the Fitzgibbon Cup after they came from behind to break IT Carlow hearts last night, with a 0-18 to 2-11 win at DCU. The defending champions were trailing by five points with 13 minutes to go, having been reduced to 14-men following Niall O’Leary’s red card. However they reeled off seven points without reply - Shane Conway at the heart of their comeback - to secure a 40th title.

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