‘Hopefully he is not a million miles away’: Leo Cullen on Frawley’s Ireland hopes

Leinster boss keen to see inside centre progress after player-of-the-match display

 

Leinster 50 Scarlets 15

The performance aesthetics contained a few blemishes but the victory superseded most of those concerns as Leinster continued their unbeaten start to the United Rugby Championship. Jack Conan and Tadhg Furlong were conspicuous contributors on their first day back since swapping Lions red for Leinster blue.

Five different scorers from a tally of seven, six of which came from forwards, the other, the penalty try, a reward for the destructive power of the pack, offered a window into the win. Leinster dominated in the tight, an irresistible force once they got within touching distance of the Scarlets’ line.

It was something of a slow burn for the home side initially, early mistakes in handling and decision making gradually giving way to more assured passages. Leinster never quite fully abandoned the errors but that willingness to push passes and offload while playing at a very high tempo engineered numerous line breaks. Stressing those skill-sets may be rewarded down the line.

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen said: “Some of the line breaks were created by good attacking play where you are pushing the pass, so it’s just trying to get the right balance.” The result informs the post game analysis to a degree but it’s a fair point as that sense of adventure and commitment to evolving attacking patterns is crucial. Standing still in every sense won’t win trophies.

Last week’s thrashing by Munster was always going to elicit a response from the Scarlets but despite a bristling aggression early on and a well taken try by Johnny McNicholl, Leinster’s physical superiority up front had a pivotal influence on the outcome.

Cullen admitted: “We knew that Scarlets would be pretty fired up at the start and they were pretty aggressive in general phase play. We know that they are always a threat from the speed they have. They (were) missing a couple of players in the forwards, so for us it was about trying to exert a little bit of dominance in the forwards’ exchanges.

“The players did that pretty well which (gave) us a fair bit of access into the game. A couple of lineout drive tries and the penalty try just on halftime was a good moment.”

At that point Leinster led 22-8 through tries from Andrew Porter and Rónan Kelleher, both outstanding, as well as a penalty try, the result of pulverising the Scarlets scrum. Ross Molony, James Ryan and Furlong were also diligent while Ciarán Frawley and especially Garry Ringrose found some space, so too the back three from time to time.

There were times when Leinster’s orientation behind the scrum was a little lateral, running towards touchlines, and that’s something that will need to be improved upon, especially given that in Robbie Henshaw’s enforced absence this is close to Leinster’s first choice backline, one or two selection decisions aside.

A try by Caelan Doris five minutes after the restart guaranteed the bonus point and from then the only matter up for debate was the final score-line. Prior to the match Cullen and his coaching staff had challenged the bench to make more of an impact; the response was impressive. Cian Healy and Dan Sheehan (2) tagged on three more tries with the latter a powerful and mobile one. Ryan Baird threw in one of his trademark surges that saw him pursued by five rather desperate tacklers.

There were a couple of legacy issues ahead of next Friday night’s game away to the Glasgow Warriors. Frawley passed a head injury assessment to return to the pitch, Ryan (HIA) did not and will follow the return to play protocols. Johnny Sexton took a bang on a hip flexor but according to Cullen was unencumbered by the knock post match.

Cullen said: “The bench had a much better impact this week. That was pleasing to see. We have a short week. We have had three home games so it is back on the road. Our last away performance wasn’t fantastic, it’s fair to say, away to Dragons. We need to be a hell of a lot better in Glasgow. It’s a tough place to go with a hostile atmosphere.”

He was asked whether the official man of the match, Frawley, was ready to take the next step and command a place in Andy Farrell’s squad for the November tests. “Ciarán is improving all the time. He is building up his experience.

“Hopefully he is not a million miles away from it (squad). It’s good to see guys progressing and he’s in that bracket of younger guys. You want to see them kick on now and hopefully get an opportunity up the ranks.”

Scoring sequence – 2 mins: Costelow penalty, 0-3; 7: Sexton penalty, 3-3; 17: McNicholl try, 3-8; 23: Kelleher try, 8-8; 28: Porter, Sexton conversion, 15-8; 40 (+3) penalty try, 22-8. Half-time: 22-8. 45: Doris try, Frawley conversion, 29-8; 49: Lezana try, Jones conversion, 29-15; 61: Healy try, Byrne conversion, 36-15; 69: Sheehan try, Byrne conversion, 43-15; 77: Sheehan try, Byrne conversion, 50-15.

Leinster: H Keenan; J Larmour, G Ringrose, C Frawley, J Lowe; J Sexton (capt), J Gibson-Park; A Porter, R Kelleher, T Furlong; R Molony, J Ryan; C Doris, J van der Flier, J Conan. Replacements: T O’Brien for Frawley 47-57 (HIA) and 65 mins; R Byrne for Sexton 50 mins; L McGrath for Gibson-Park 56 mins; D Sheehan for Kelleher 56 mins; C Healy for Porter 56 mins; M Ala’alatoa for Furlong 56 mins; R Baird for Molony 60 mins; Moloney for Ryan (HIA) 68 mins; R Ruddock for Doris 69 mins.

Scarlets: I Nicholas; J McNicholl, J Davies (capt), J Williams, R Conbeer; S Costelow, G Davies; W Jones, K Owens, WG John; S Lousi, L Ashley; A Shingler, T Lezana, B Thomson. Replacements: T Rogers for McNicholl (HIA) 20-29 mins; S Lee for John half-time; R Elias for Owens 47 mins; D Jones for Costelow 47 mins; R Evans for W Jones 56 mins; K Hardy for Davies 56 mins; Rogers for J Davies 61 mins; S Evans for Shingler 61 mins; M Jones for Ashley 73 mins.

Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa).

Sin Bin: J McNicholl (Scarlets) 68 mins.

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