Sexton helped Madigan through ‘two hours of hell’ at Murrayfield
Fellow outhalf soothed substitute’s fears after late missed penalty
Ian Madigan with Leinster coach Matt O’Connor before the draw with Glasgow at the RDS last Friday. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
As England inched to within a converted try of snatching the Six Nations title from Ireland’s clutches by a solitary point in the nerve-shredding finale against France, one’s thoughts went out to Ian Madigan.
Sure enough, it turns out his missed penalty with the last kick of the game against Scotland at Murrayfield repeatedly flashed through his mind as well.
Substitute Madigan had been standing behind the posts for one of Johnny Sexton’s two missed penalties in the second-half and had then checked the direction of the wind with kicking coach Richie Murphy before he went on.
“Because the wind was blowing left to right I decided to line it up down the middle and expected the wind to keep it straight. I struck it well, went through my process, looked up and the wind didn’t catch it. It was one of those kicks that drifted wide and it made for a hellish two hours as a result.
“He goes, ‘Look, it’s based over five games and everyone in the team could look at something that they could have done that could have added maybe three points or five points or prevented a try or a penalty, so you’ve got to look at the bigger picture’.
“I thought it was a very nice touch. He goes, ‘Here look, if things don’t go our way in this game this evening, we’re in this together’.
“It kind of calmed me down a bit but we were lucky. When they didn’t get over we were in the after-match function and myself and Johnny had a big embrace,” said Madigan yesterday with a chuckle.
“The most relieved I’ve ever been! But it was brilliant, it made for a very special night.”
Encouragingly, normal service was resumed last Friday night in the 34-all draw with Glasgow, when Madigan landed six from six.
Now comes a potentially season-defining match in the Champions Cup quarter-final at home to Bath on Saturday afternoon.
“If you look at the stats since this competition started, the teams that have the home quarter-finals have a massive advantage,” said Madigan in reference to home wins outnumbering away victories by 54 to 18, or three to one, “and for us going to the Aviva, it’s a venue that has been very good to us over the years.
“The support we had for the Harlequins game at home, it wasn’t our best performance but when we fell behind the crowd really got behind us and we managed to grind out a win in the end. We’ll be looking to get the same result this weekend.”
Madigan said of the Bath outhalf George Ford: “He’s very clever. He’s a smart guy. You can see he’s thinking his way through games.
“ He’s a player I’ve watched quite a lot and he’s patient, he’ll wait until it’s the right opportunity to pull the trigger and unleash the quality backs that he has outside him.”
Accordingly, he acknowledged that Leinster would “need to be very switched on in defence this week” and that “it’s got to be our biggest area of improvement”.
Madigan has another two years remaining on a three-year deal and repeated his desire to make the most of Sexton’s return next season.
“For me, with Johnny coming back, I’m not going to be naive. He’s one of the best players in the world, you’re not going to have someone of his ability on the bench so I’ve got to look at where else I can fit into the team and this year I’ve been playing a lot at 12 and I’ve been really enjoying it.
“It is without doubt my most enjoyable season so far and, with Johnny coming back next year, I’d ideally like to play at 12 alongside him.”