Welcome to my 80+ column, a weekly post featuring final thoughts from the week of rugby just gone.
WRAP OF A WRAP
Another Leinster win to harp on this week, naturally I’m tempted to put it all down to my new pod format but I guess I’ll go with the general impression that the lads have not only a winning mentality but we’re also learning how to face up to adversity within a match to dig deep and be ahead by the final whistle. As ever Keego and Rich did an excellent job summarizing the match.
One thing I didn’t mention on the pod was that I was reminded of an Ospreys v Leinster clash from 2012 when arguably the league’s most organic rivalry was at it’s closest, on this occasion rather than go 10-0 down we actually led by that score ourselves in the early stages and I vividly recall us winning a penalty in their half only for Leo Auva’a to take a quick tap only to lose it shortly afterwards.
We weren’t to score again in a 19-10 defeat and I was furious in my writeup which was unusual because even during the lean Matt O’Connor years I would do my best to find some kind of a positive. Anyway as we know the Ospreys went on to have a much longer “lean spell” themselves although there have been signs lately that they are at least on their way back and it would be great to see them and indeed other Welsh regions breaking into the top 8 of the URC.
If you missed the pod, check it out here or on most major platforms.
HARPIN’ ON…KEEPING IRISH PLAYERS
This week’s extended chat on the Sunday pod recording was about the Ben Healy move to Edinburgh/Scotland, Rich gave his views for the main show but myself and Keego joined the discussion for the YouTube clip you see below.
To summarize my own view, yes of course it would be better to keep all Irish players on Irish shores all the time, but we can’t consider it a failure every time one leaves because we can’t expect as many as 6, 7 or 8 players in a particular position, especially one like out-half, to all stick around hoping for a test call up when there is an alternative out there.
If you’re playing the clip above maybe pop over and subscribe to the channel too? That’s where we post our Preview Show as well as other content throughout the week.
BOO TO BOOING THE BOOING
On the pod I mentioned a conversion attempt by Ross Byrne where he not only had to contend with the conditions, the referee complying with the stricter new timing laws and also the pressure of extending our lead to 8 points, but also the loud booing of many in the home crowd.
We never like to hear this kind of behaviour from fans, and we’ve been guilty of it ourselves here in Ireland, I’m remembering a Dan Parks conversion for Scotland at Croke Park in particular. But actually for this particular point I actually want to focus on something different, namely pigeon-holing entire groups of fans.
I’ve seen a lot of comments on social media saying how that booing is somehow typical of what you’d get from “Welsh fans” and I have to say that is absolute bollocks. I don’t like it when I see people take abuse from Leinster fans and tar us all with the same brush so I’m certainly not going to be happy when I see our fans doing it to others.
There is for sure a distinct group of Twitter accounts which we call “WRT” or “Welsh Rugby Twitter” and that’s fine as a collective (that tends to say everything is the URCs fault, reckons the Premiership is some kind of promised land, etc, etc) but I can absolutely guarantee that the vast vast majority of actual Welsh rugby fans are genuine every bit as much as Leinster, Ireland or any other nationality.
For me, failing to distinguish between groups within fan bases is just as much responsible for the toxic sludge we tend to see on social media as the trolling comments themselves.
Ignore. Mute. Block. Report. Whichever seems appropriate. Sharing and generalising only ensures it will continue IMO.
TIK TOK POTM
Disagreeing with the Player of the Match selection is becoming a feature in this column, although I do understand why the Welsh broadcaster would tend to go with a home team player and it is true that Kieran Williams did have a fine outing against Leinster (dropped ball just before hearing his name being called out notwithstanding) but I reckon Jack Conan was definitely in with a shout for the gong as well and as you can see below, Rich concurred.
I always say it, but I’ll still say it again. I would LOVE to have the time to give the Leinster women’s team exactly the same coverage as I do the men’s, but it’s just not possible for the time being so we will try to feature them as much as we can, and they opened their Interpro campaign at the weekend with a convincing enough victory over Connacht at Energia Park, although the score remained 0-0 for a long period in the first half.
Many many thanks for Conor Cronin for providing a report of his experience on the day, it was included in the pod but I have also shared the piece here ICYMI.
Next up it’s Munster at lunchtime on Saturday, and with them also having had a BP victory in round 1, this could be a tournament decider so definitely worth checking out on TG4.
Our worst fears about Charlie Ngatai were realised after he was taken off at halftime in Swansea, hopefully he will be back soon. However despite Robbie also being out I see no drop in our talent with Jamie Osborne stepping in at Kingsholm on Saturday, here is a lineup they may go with…
15. Keenan 14. J O’Brien 13. Ringrose [c] 12. Osborne 11. Lowe 10. R Byrne 9. Gibson-Park
1. Porter 2. Sheehan 3. Alaalatoa 4. Ryan 5. Molony 6. Baird 7. van der Flier 8. Doris
16. Kelleher 17. Milne 18. Healy 19. Joe McCarthy 20. Conan 21. Foley 22. H. Byrne 23. Larmour
…obviously there are one or two tight calls, Dan Sheehan has had a lot of gametime this season including an extra shift in Swansea when John McKee was forced off, so it’s very possible that Kelleher would start instead. Also Jimmy O’Brien/Jordan Larmour are very interchangeable.
INJURY UPDATE – FURTHER ASSESSMENT REQUIRED:
Will Connors: will again look to step up his rehabilitation programme from a bicep injury
Thomas Clarkson: will step up his rehabilitation this week from an arm injury
INJURY UPDATE – UNAVAILABLE FOR SELECTION:
Johnny Sexton: suffered a cheekbone injury against Connacht Rugby and had a procedure last week and will be unavailable for the Gloucester game and will be further assessed next week but is expected to be back ahead of the Six Nations
Tadhg Furlong: has recovered from his ankle injury but had a minor setback last week in training with an unrelated calf injury and will be unavailable for selection this week as a result but is expected to be back ahead of the Six Nations
Charlie Ngatai: suffered a hamstring injury in the game against Ospreys and will be unavailable this week
There are no further updates on:
Luke McGrath (ankle), Max Deegan (ankle), Ed Byrne (knee), Jason Jenkins (hamstring), Robbie Henshaw (wrist), Martin Moloney (knee), Ciarán Frawley (knee), Charlie Ryan (knee) and Tommy O’Brien (knee)
Over in English football last weekend they have the 3rd round of the FA Cup where a drawn match means the teams have to meet again in a replay after a week or so. The reason I mention that is that the AIL men’s Div 1A had something similar as Dublin University and Cork Con played out a dramatic 35-35 draw at College Park in their rearranged round 9 fixture, with the three points keeping them in 3rd and 4th respectively although still inching them closer to the top two. And technically there is to be a replay of sorts, as this weekend’s Round 10 pits them together again, this time at Temple Hill.
Meanwhile at the other end of the table Ballynahinch put some distance between themselves and the relegation zone with a bonus point win over UCD, although the students also benefited getting a try and losing bonuses themselves to move up two places, and they also face a rematch in round 10.
The rest of the action this weekend sees leaders Terenure hoping to return to winning ways, getting another chance to beat Young Munster on their home patch at Lakelands. Clontarf, also in the top four, travel to Dooradoyle to play bottom of the table Garryowen while Shannon and Lansdowne square off each hoping to stay out of the bottom two.
Ballynahinch 31-25 UCD
Dublin University 35-35 Cork Con
Sat Jan 14
Garryowen v Clontarf
Cork Con v Dublin University
Shannon v Lansdowne
Terenure v Young Munster
UCD v Ballynahinch
HARPIN’ PREDICTION LEAGUE
Not only is Kino really starting to pull away at the top of the HPL but I’m also now anxiously looking over my shoulder at Messrs Coleman & Jackson behind me. Although having had to wear the Jersey of Shame for my wooden spoon last season, I wouldn’t really mind slipping a spot or two once Keego stays where he is!
THE NEXT BATCH OF HARPIN’
Back into European action we go, with Kingsholm the destination and we will of course be giving it the usual Harpin treatment with Keego joining me for our preview on Friday, the wrap pod recorded on Sunday evening with the help of Mark Jackson & Conor Cronin, and all of our other usual features in between.
In the meantime, be sure to enjoy your rugby wherever you are. JLP