Contepomi adding to heady Leinster mix
While four of Leinster’s tries came from outside backs, much of the dominance was based on the excellence of the forwards
Leinster’s Johnny Sexton goes over for a try against Edinburgh despite the tackle of Juan Pablo Socino. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Too many chefs can perhaps spoil a broth, but already the early signs are that the co-opting of Felipe Contepomi onto the Leinster brains trust has added some Latin spice to the Anglo-Irish flavour on the coaching ticket.
Although this was only their second game of the season for the bulk of the backline, much of Leinster’s choreographed lines of running and handling pointed to high quality work at their UCD high-performance base.
With Johnny Sexton pulling the strings in his 150th game for Leinster (that’s despite that 40-game, two-year sabbatical in Racing), some were old moves, or variations on them, and some have been newly-introduced by Contepomi. While Stuart Lancaster remains the senior coach, head coach Leo Cullen believes “Felipe has been good in terms of some of the detail he has delivered to the backs”.
“It was nice getting five tries all from the backs. We’ll see if the forwards can shift that balance in the next few weeks,” added Cullen with a laugh, his membership of the forwards’ club still intact.
Yet while four of the tries came from the outside backs, much of Leinster’s dominance was predicated on the excellence and work rate of their forwards. Their increasingly dominant scrum and maul – which also resisted three Edinburgh line-outs in the corner – provided the platform for the second, third and fourth of their five tries.
For the first of these the home crowd played its part in encouraging referee Dan Jones and TMO Simon McDowell to overturn a line-out in Leinster’s favour after James Lowe had cleverly offloaded before being tackled into touch, with the ball ricocheting off the head of Edinburgh winger Jamie Farndale.
Cue Max Deegan taking James Tracy’s throw, Luke McGrath coming from the front of the line-out as Jack Conan drifted infield as a decoy and Robbie Henshaw trucked it up. From the recycle McGrath wrapped around Devin Tonder’s deft little pull back, with Mick Kearney part of the screen, and passed beyond Garry Ringrose’s dummy run to Johnny Sexton, who feinted inside to Tracy before shifting the ball on to Jordan Larmour. His step and out-the-back offload enabled Loweto come across from his wing and finish adroitly in the right corner.
This was a variation on an old move, with the left winger appearing outside the full-back. There were only two phases and six passes, yet virtually everybody contributed to the slickest of team tries – witness the work rate off the ball as much as on it with those four decoy runners.
This, presumably, is evidence of the “detail” Contepomi brings, and as one suspected when Lowe’s arrival followed Larmour’s breakthrough early last season, with their amalgam of pace, strength, footwork and offloading, this wasn’t the first try these two have combined for. And it certainly won’t be the last. It must be tough being a Leinster fan these days.
The third try emanated from a big scrum and then a lineout maul, Henshaw trucking it up, swivelling and pulling the ball back deftly for Sexton to hit Larmour, who stepped two defenders to score under the posts.
For try four Henshaw fixed the defence with his straight dummy run off a rock solid scrum, and Sexton dummied to Lowe out wide before taking the tackle to score his 25th try for Leinster.
By contrast, Edinburgh were brutally direct if blunt. Instigated by a faintly ridiculous penalty against Larmour for supposedly clearing out Jaco van der Walt beyond the ruck and the latter’s 50m touch-finder, Edinburgh spent a dozen minutes attacking off four set-pieces. One 36-phase attack began with 31 “pick-and-jams” before even risking a pass to a one-off runner.
Down and dirty
Leinster rolled up their sleeves and got down and dirty, none more so than Josh van der Flier (23 tackles, none missed), Tracy (19, none missed) and Devin Toner (16, one missed), while the Sexton-Henshaw-Ringrose axis also provided a fairly impenetrable wall. Indeed, Henshaw and Ringrose looked in good order too.
The opening and closing tries emanated from Leinster’s good work in defence, Toner’s charge down, pick up and lay-off leading to Fergus McFadden’s finish, before Ringrose and McFadden sprang from deep for Ringrose to score. This exploited the gap left by left-winger Duhan van der Merwe being sacrificed after Pierre Schoeman had been sent off for leading with his elbow into the face of Dan Leavy.
There will still be plenty for Cullen, Lancaster, Contepomi and co to work on. In truth, Leinster actually left a few tries behind. Lowe was twice over the line with no reward – one being pulled back for a final, forward pass by van der Flier – and he was also banging the turf after his inside pass to Jamison Gibson-Park drifted forward.
But all things being equal, with Contepomi added to the mix the expectation must be that Leinster will only improve and become even slicker over the course of the season.
Scoring sequence: 16 mins McFadden try, Sexton con 7-0; 38 mins Lowe try 12-0; (half-time 12-0); 45 mins Bradbury try, van der walt con 12-7; 50 mins Larmour try, Sexton con 19-7; 65 mins Sexton try and con 26-7; 79 mins Ringrose try 31-7.
LEINSTER: Jordan Larmour; Fergus McFadden, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Jonathan Sexton (capt), Luke McGrath; Cian Healy, James Tracy, Michael Bent, Devin Toner, James Ryan, Max Deegan, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan. Replacements: _ Mick Kearney for Ryan (20 mins), Sean Cronin for Tracey, Tadhg Furlong for Bent (both 48 mins), Peter Dooley for Healy, Dan Leavy for Deegan, Jamison Gibson-Park for McGrath (all 65 mins), Ross Byrne for Sexton (66 mins), Joe Tomane for Henshaw (69 mins), Deegan for Leavy (71 mins).
EDINBURGH: Dougie Fife; Jamie Farndale, Chris Dean, Juan Pablo Socino, Duhan van der Merwe; Jaco van der Walt, Sean Kennedy; Allan Dell, Ross Ford, Simon Berghan, Fraser McKenzie (capt), Ben Toolis, Luke Hamilton, Jamie Ritchie, Magnus Bradbury. Replacements: Pierre Schoeman for Dell, Murray McCallum for Berghan, Nathan Fowles for Kennedy (all 49 mins), Dave Cherry for Ford (56 mins), Simon Hickey for van der Walt (60 mins), Callum Hunter-Hill for Toolis, Luke Crosbie for Bradbury (both 65 mins), James Johnstone for Dean (69 mins), Dell for van der Merwe (73 mins).
Referee: Dan Jones (Wales)