It must have been an awful match for a neutral with ineffective attacks and poor handling made worse by the wet conditions.
For Leinster fans, it was a glorious, shocking victory. There were a minority of optimists talking up our chances before the game, but the vast majority of fans and press reckoned on a Munster win, by a hefty margin.
Twenty minutes into the game I was even more convinced of the upcoming Munster victory as Leinster failed to secure their own ruck ball time after time, and racked up handling error after error when they did get the ball to the back line.
It Really Matters
Let’s be clear what this game meant. For Munster it was revenge for the past four defeats, the usual bragging rights, and a few league points. For a Leinster team without form and in serious trouble at the wrong end of the table this was already “do or die” stuff – lose this game and the season is effectively over, even before the first round of Heineken Cup.
By half-time the mood amongst the Leinster fans was surprise that we were evens on the scorecard – it felt like we should have been a long way down.
My Usual One-sided Anti-ref Rant
Yet another poor Magners League ref. Awarded Leinster a scrum after Munster conceded not one, but two penalty offences in front of their posts (offside, deliberate slap down). He didn’t enforce players coming through the gate at the ruck, causing Leinster to lose ruck ball time and time again (Schmidt: how about committing another man or two there?). And the worst, most blatant of all, the countless crooked-in throws to the Munster line-out. This is unforgivable – if the jumper needs to reach back towards his own try-line to catch the ball IT’S CROOKED IN REF!
We didn’t have the luxury of replays in the stadium (and of course, neither did the ref), but Mafi’s yellow for the high tackle on Kearney seemed to be a fair punishment at the time. Those watching on TV suggested a red might have been more appropriate. I need to see the match replay to make a fair call on that and the other incidents I mentioned above (except the lineouts – that is black and white stuff).
The 56th minute introduction of Jonathan Sexton, and to no lesser extend, Eoin Redden had a major impact on Leinster’s effectiveness. Sexton came on for Shane Horgan, and Isa pushed out to the wing where he seems much more comfortable. Redden had a straight swap with Isaac Boss, who was showed up by Reddan’s more obvious danger at the breakdown. For me it’s still evens at the scrum-half position, up until recently Boss was clearly the number two choice but he has improved his game significantly since the start of the season.
For all it’s faults, and it has plenty, the new Lansdowne Road looked fantastic last night, even in the rain. What an incredible atmosphere, spectacular view. Not bad for a wee Magners League game.
Constructive criticism for the organisers: beforehand there were major delays at turnstiles (particularly O and N) as fans used the new self-scan barcode readers to get in. The devices seem to read the tickets ok but with no human untervention what happens in case of a rain-damaged ticket? The device could give more tactile user feedback.
Your stewards did a wonderful job of whisking people out the door immediately after the game, to then stand unmoving outside said door for 20 minutes. Lansdowne Road is not Clonliffe Road. Please keep the bar open for 30 minutes after the game. You will make a lot of money, and the crowd will clear far more easily.
“We’re Still In This!”
Sexton and Redden had a big impact on the game but with 15 minutes to go it was incredible to find that Leinster were still in touching distance – Munster should be well out of sight by now. But the league leaders didn’t seem to be finding their form either.
Then Comes The Magic
Leinster fans are privileged to have a guy like BOD on the team. He hasn’t been on form lately, has had very little game time, and isn’t match-fit.
I would be more confident if I played more than 150 minutes [this season]. It really takes you four or five games to start playing your best stuff — Brian O’Driscoll 30/09/2010
But even when he’s not on form, he’s on form, and was deserving Man of The Match just based on his massive tackling all over the park. And when O’Brien linked with him in the 70th minute the crowd went wild. O’Driscoll, try. Leinster fans, ecstatic.
A nervous final 10 minutes with Leinster playing “up yer jumper” stuff, and the wonderful feeling of relief at the whistle – our season is not yet over, we might yet make it to Christmas!
Leinster 13-9 Munster
Handling and breakdown areas still need a lot of work, and with Top14 leader’s Racing Metro coming up in the first round of the HEC next week is a tough challenge. They were impressive in defeat to Toulouse yesterday afternoon, a particularly tenacious 2nd half fightback stealing a losing bonus point. If Leinster are coming into form it has the potential to be a wonderful game. On the other hand… well let’s leave that unsaid.
See You Next Week
As of last night there were still 5,000 tickets available for the RDS Leinster vs Racing Metro next week – they should sell a little easier now.
Your comments appreciated. I’m on Twitter at @AMcDermott