Liam Toland: Leinster need to ignite their support with some ‘chaos attack’

Out-thinking Toulon the key to gaining Champions Cup semi-final win

 Toulon’s  Mathieu Bastareaud:  “Time and again the Leinster midfield will get him down but if they miss him just once it will be a certain try for Toulon.” Photograph: Bertrand Langlois/AFP.

Toulon’s Mathieu Bastareaud: “Time and again the Leinster midfield will get him down but if they miss him just once it will be a certain try for Toulon.” Photograph: Bertrand Langlois/AFP.

 

‘Wherever you go, that’s where you are’ and I’m not referring to Stade Vélodrome, Marseille where I’ll be on Sunday but to the mental journey Leinster must take to get this game beyond 50:50. Or as Bath’s Mike Ford said on their build- up to Leinster “we were concentrating on chaos attack”. He clarified that chaos attack is “an attack from a turnover or when the opponents kick the ball to you”.

Is this what’s missing? Leinster players igniting their team and their crowd as they’ve done throughout their illustrious history.

Sunday’s referee Wayne Barnes, like all referees, reacts to the picture given by the players. So try to put your eyes into Barnes’ head to appreciate the unique picture he sees; his view is all that counts – such as in the case of that final scrum when Ireland lost 23-16 to Wales.

Last weekend he awarded a scrum penalty try for Exeter Chiefs over Northampton Saints. Interestingly Exeter got a ‘straightish’ drive with their number eight Thomas Waldron staying square while their loosehead chased a clockwise wheel. Later Saints’ replacement loosehead Alex Waller was bizarrely sin-binned in a subsequent crumbling scrum. In both cases Exeter got the drive with Barnes deciding their loosehead was okay and pinging Saints, thus rewarding the stronger scrum.

Clear change

Toulon

So too is their lineout defence. Why are teams not targeting the air in defence? Hookers’ lineout throws have flattened, as in the Dragons’ first try against Leinster. Why make it so easy; get Devin Toner into the air up front to force an arched lineout throw from Toulon. Beyond that Leinster’s lineout defensive maul was not violent enough last week, with Dragons scoring twice off their developed, steady maul.

Mathieu Bastareaud has been examined to death in this column, noting that his poaching is ridiculous, as too is his power but one area I’ve not dwelt on is the law of diminishing returns. Yes he fatigues but the key while he is on the field is the required percentage tackle success on him. He carried seven times against Wasps, beating no defenders and with no clean breaks. This may suggest there are more dangerous carriers from Toulon such as number eight Chris Masoe who had 10 carries, three defenders beaten and a clean break. This is an error. Why?

Masoe’s success can be masked and repaired in heavy traffic; Bastareaud’s can not. Time and again the Leinster midfield will get him down but if they miss him just once it will be a certain try for Toulon. Why? Centres of more normal physique will power into him and get him down the first four or five times but all it takes is a half broken tackle and Bastareaud is through the first line of defence with Toulon’s world stars flooding in behind Leinster.

More conservative

Whether Matt Giteau or Frédéric Michalak is selected at 10 is the key. Giteau is pure class with Michalak a version of class. But unlike Bath, Toulon don’t have the same starter move off their breakdowns. Toloun’s outhalf does, however, have options all around him and like Bath’s George Ford both Giteau and Michalak are equally comfortable on the gain line, much more so than Jimmy Gopperth. These options force defenders into keeping their eyes on the bigger prize of Bastareaud et al. This turns shoulders inwards or outwards away from Michalak who can ghost through.

Leinster have always been a gain line team where Felipe Contepomi, Johnny Sexton and Ian Madigan create opportunity for others on the line. Twice Gopperth attacked the Dragons’ line last week. Both times he made ground, adding value to the ball, and pleasing Ben Te’o who hit the line and fed off Gopperth for Te’o’s second try to get to 8-22.

What then is Gopperth’s role? What is he asked to do as he certainly can hit the gainline. Historically, Leinster’s tactics have never required over 50 per cent possession by virtue of their accuracy around the gainline. Now they are losing games with majority possession.

A thinking team

Toulon shouldn’t be allowed to sleep their way to the final so it’s crucial Leinster recognise and react to Toulon’s explosion from sound asleep to all-out attack. Out-thinking Toulon, allied to dollops of chaos, can get them the win. liamtoland@yahoo.com

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