Tadhg Furlong’s tackle on Nadolo more than just a statistic
Prop prevented the monstrous Fijian winger from scoring a potential game-changing try
Leinster’s Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong after the match against Montpellier, which the province won 23-14 at the Altrad Stadium. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
“There are three kinds of lies,” Benjamin Disraeli may or may not have said, “lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
Modern politics has shown the danger of believing poll promises and while rugby stats can be irresistible, we see Tadhg Furlong felling Nemani Nadolo and know moments matter just as much as the numbers chart.
Tale of the tape: Furlong, a prop, is 4kg lighter and three inches shorter than the monstrous Fijian winger.
Defensively, Nadolo is suspect. He was stepped by Robbie Henshaw for the killer try in this 23-14 victory but in attack he remains peerless.
At Altrad Stadium on Saturday, Nadolo carried 14 times for 102 metres, beating five defenders – Jordan Larmour’s defensive reputation was enhanced despite three missed tackles, two on Nadolo – and making three clean breaks.
The fourth clean break, denied by Furlong, could have altered this result.
Along with a rock-solid Leinster scrum, the 25-year-old tighthead made five carries for a combined total of zero yards. Furlong also banked five tackles. One of these groundings, with half-time in sight, proved as valuable as any action in Leinster’s first victory on French soil since 2014.
The contest was evenly poised, with Bismarck du Plessis’s lineout maul constructing a 14-8 lead, when Ross Byrne found touch inside Montpellier’s half. However, Timoci Nagusa caught Byrne’s kick and flung it to Aaron Cruden who launched a garryowen. Benjamin Fall, for the second time, beat Rob Kearney to regather the dropping pill (expect this battle to be renewed on February 3rd in Paris and it’s worth noting Kearney’s assist for Henshaw’s try shows that distribution skills can be improved at any time in a player’s career).
Furlong was in the defensive line, only linked to the touchline by Larmour, and understandably having a breather. It didn’t last long.
Ruan Pienaar arrived at the Fall breakdown, instantly floating the ball towards Frans Steyn on the left wing. Larmour hit the former Springbok prodigy in the midriff but the offload to Nadolo looked to have created a try until Furlong’s embrace. Josh van der Flier arrived to snaffle the turnover.
Leinster played a tighter game in the second half but they kept moving these huge South African and Georgian specimens around the park knowing they would wilt.
Other statistics make interesting reading but seeing is believing. Take James Ryan. This growing force in Irish rugby is putting enormous pressure on Devin Toner to maintain the newly established secondrow partnership with Iain Henderson come the Six Nations – especially considering Henderson calls the lineout now – with Ryan clocking up 12 tackles (none missed), 13 carries (for 14 punishing metres) and a game-changing offload to Dan Leavy on 50 minutes.
Ryan offers a skillset unlike any Irish lock before him. Having soaked a double hit – from two Montpellier giants – he sent Leavy sprinting over the halfway line. The flanker’s offload led to Jamison Gibson-Park chipping into the opposition 22 and in the ensuing foot rush Cruden beat James Lowe to the ball. On the next play, Seán Cronin piloted the Leinster maul over for a try.
“Yeah, we came here and matched them,” said Cronin, who also looks primed for a return to the Ireland match squad after his man of the match display. “As a squad we are going in the right direction.”
Growing evidence tell us that direction leads to Bilbao in May.
“Just glad to get over the group stages, that’s as far as we look,” said Isa Nacewa.
The rest of Ireland can look further into the future and plan their travels to coincide with these honest young men.