TV View: Leavy full of smiles as he retains post-match Quasimodo look
Sexton comes through unscathed following initial injury concerns in defeat of Saracens
Leinster’s Johnny Sexton and Tadhg Furlong clash with Saracens’s Owen Farrell. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Maro Itoje’s knee. Johnny Sexton’s thigh. Only one of them, the Leinster outhalf, is wincing on the Aviva turf clutching his leg. Just 16 minutes have passed. Never mind Brexit. This is a national crisis.
Then it is scrumhalf Richard Wigglesworth diving into Sexton with his shoulder. A little guy against a bigger guy and only 28 minutes have gone. But Sexton is on the ground again. Someone inform the President.
For the early minutes it was “Johnny Watch” on BT Sports as Leinster and Premiership side Saracens fought for a meeting with Scarlets in the semi-final of the European Champions Cup. It’s a factor of the Sexton persona that he consumes the airwaves, whether he’s injured or not, or kicking penalties or even telling the French referee, Jerome Garces, how his day with the whistle is progressing.
“Johnny is big and bad enough to look after himself,” said former Irish number eight, Jamie Heaslip at half-time. “He’s just getting a bit of love today from the Saracen’s players, to put it mildly.”
Heaslip was introduced to the crowd before the match began, his career cut short by injury. He hadn’t stepped on to the Aviva pitch since his back injury over a year ago and there was just an itsy bitsy hint that the big man was filling up.
But Sexton’s body, much as we are endlessly concerned about its condition, had nothing on Saracens centre Brad Barritt. Nick Mullins in the BT commentary box gave the lowdown on the Saracens captain shortly after an early collision with Leinster centre Garry Ringrose.
“Fractured his cheekbone at the weekend, had a scan on Monday, a plate put in on Tuesday, went to training on Wednesday and a game on Sunday,” Mullins informed. That is surely a terrible untruth.
No. “Mr Titanium, ” BOD called Barritt. BOD with Lorenzo Bruno Nero “Lawrence” Dallaglio and Ben Kay and Martin Bayfield, a million caps or thereabouts between them, informed us as Leinster advanced closer towards the European throne.
BOD occasionally fell into natural habits.
“Last year in the semi-final we had a try ruled out . . . eh Leinster had a try ruled out.” But BOD had his crystal ball.
“I’m intrigued about how Luke McGrath will go,” he said of the Leinster scrumhalf. “He’s clearly not 100 per cent fit. It’s whether 80 per cent is enough.” Sure enough McGrath departed before the end.
The twice champions Saracens were “not quite good enough today,” said Dallaglio. “Too many errors,” added the former England captain as Leinster flanker and man-of-the-match Dan Leavy was ushered towards the cameras.
“I kinda look like Quasimodo more than usual,” said Leavy smiling. No improvement. His left eye was visibly expanding live on air. In fairness it is the Leinster flanker’s regular post-match look.
“Yeah, he did all right,” said Sexton chiming in. “We’d been giving out to him all week.” Sexton, for all of our earlier concern, looked pristine, as if he had just served Easter Sunday Mass with the Holy Ghost Fathers, while Leavy, not Joseph Parker, had gone 12 rounds with world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua in Cardiff on Saturday night.
Champions Cup meat and two veg
On Sky Sports they also had Champions Cup meat and two veg. A Sunday dinner of rugby. Great dollops of big men in Racing and Clermont fought for the prize of meeting Munster in Bordeaux in three weeks’ time.
There’s Greig Laidlaw (Scotland). That’s Dan Carter (New Zealand). There’s Joe Rokocoko (New Zealand) coming in for Racing. That’s Nick Abendanon (England) coming forward. Leone Nakarawa (Fiji), what a game he is having. Pat Lambe (South Africa) kicking it through. Donnacha Ryan (Ireland) in the secondrow.
What else but two French teams playing each other in the other Champions Cup quarter-final. A no borders club game and who is complaining.
What semi-final hosts Bordeaux may not know is that Racing’s beating of Clermont means a possible cultural shock for the wine region. They will do well to remember the 2007 Rugby World Cup and how their town was taken hostage when Ireland were stationed there for the pool phase.
Ryan? Well you can’t take the Munster out of a St Munchin’s man. He may need to get his excuses in first with the Racing executives. How else to explain the extended family arriving to the team hotel decked in Red and singing “Stand Up And Fight Man ‘Till You Hear The Bell?” That would be confusing.
A piece of advice: ditch the mobile phone. Now.