80+ column : 02/05/23

Welcome to my 80+ column, a weekly post featuring final thoughts from the week of rugby just gone.  


Hopefully Mark Jackson will be able to return to our pod lineup soon, and we’re grateful to Conor Cronin for stepping in for him on Sunday to join Tom Coleman, and as ever they did a bang up job covering all the harpin’ points.  There were a couple of incidents that needed some video to help illustrate so I’ll deal with them further down the column, as well as the very selective interpretations from those who MIGHT have been using a little bias…

If you missed it, check it out here on Spotify or on most major platforms.


Disagreeing or at least debating the award of Player or Star of the Match awards (Sidebar – why are some people making such a big deal about the switch away from MotM? Get over it FFS) has been common this season which ain’t a bad position for any team to be in.  This match was certainly no exception so for the bonus clip we each selected a player and harped on their performance.  And even THAT wasn’t enough so there was an extra name thrown into our main TikTiok clip, see below.

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.


See above for the reason behind the Conan TikTok, but I also thought it was worth producing a 2nd from the Toulouse match because watching it with the naked eye I was blown away by James Ryan’s determined grab ahead of the JVDF try at the weekend.  It really did look like it had been turned over but he simply wasn’t having it.


We decided to harp on a little more than the Bulls result on this week’s wrap! I wonder why…

♬ original sound – Harpinonrugby.com – Harpinonrugby.com


All day Sunday there was a heated discussion online about a supposed travesty that might have helped Leinster win…well, I suppose that could be said about pretty much ANY given Sunday over the past few seasons, but this time it was over the incidents involving Porter and Neti. When I was watching the match live I missed the Porter one, and while I did see the Neti hit on JVDF, I missed the very important context of the clash just before it, and after watching all the subsequent replays, I still missed it.

This continued online with sometimes still photos and more often slowed-down footage of the second clash somehow serving as “proof” that the incident shouldn’t have been a penalty. Thankfully someone ended up sharing the full incident which you can see below.

But I’d rather focus on the groupthink that is behind these campaigns for now. We started the season by talking about this ABL or “Anyone But Leinster” groupthink. To be clear, I don’t actually mind it, the only thing I’d want to do is acknowledge that it exists. A team that wins as often as Leinster do is bound to have haters, even or possibly especially Irish ones.

Generally their MO is to search for one or two gombeen Leinster fan comments (of which there will be some for sure, because being a gombeen has nothing to do with where you’re from) and make it out like that represents the whole province. Or in the case of Sunday, just make it look like there’s some grand conspiracy to help Leinster and/or Ireland win.

Sad, really.


I wouldn’t class this as an example of ABL, more someone trying to suit a narrative of online commentary in general.

But anyway I’ll include our exchange as well as my original tweet that sparked it. For full disclosure when Conor said on the pod that it shouldn’t have been a 5022 that was news to me so I went back to confirm it and just wanted to share that with my followers.

I mean, of COURSE it’s over analysis, but isn’t that what’s to be expected from a fansite????


I’ve never met Greg, and all I’ve heard is that he’s a nice guy who apparently has been thrown under the bus. I really think his “I see them as my daughters” comment during the Six Nations campaign was incredibly tone deaf but overall to make it look like it was just his coaching that led to the results over the past month or so doesn’t exactly sit well.

As Tom pointed out on our pod, the fact that Cliodhna Moloney scored two tries and won PotM for Exeter in the Allianz Cup final on the very same day the test side was picking up the wooden spoon speak volumes.

For me this line in a recent article from Sinead Kissane says it all…

She was the only person in the player’s representative group after the explosive letter to the Government who didn’t retire from international rugby. Since then, she hasn’t had a look-in with the national squad.

Sinéad Kissane: Ireland hit rock bottom as Cliodhna Moloney snub comes back to bite Greg McWilliams’ side

…assuming this to be true, the question does need to be asked if there is a blackballing policy in place, and if so, then it surely must be a major contributory factor to all that is going on in Irish Women’s rugby.

And here we see what makes speaking out about these things very difficult. Because when you talk about the Moloneys and the Griffins who aren’t there, plus the likes of Parsons who are prioritised for the Sevens circuit, you end up throwing a good bit of shade at those who actually togged out for those five matches. Unless you’re Ewan McKenna of course, who chose simply to mock them to satisfy his Army of Incels followers.

I know I don’t follow the women’s game regularly but from my vantage point at least within the overall sport, it really does look like it’s not so much dinosaurs in the decision making positions, rather ostriches who don’t want to see what really needs to be done.

Just. Listen.

UPDATE – Just saw a report that rumours of his leaving the post were greatly exaggerated? Very strange to see a story linger in the news cycle for so long if it was that wrong. Anyway, whether he’s still the coach or not, the fundamental issues remain the same.


Not sure where this story is heading but the point to be made is that it is hardly a surprise as it was clear when both Worcester and Wasps were in trouble that they weren’t the only ones.

It’s difficult enough to understand how 8th place in the Premiership can qualify for Europe when it only has 11 clubs without another one going under as well. Fingers crossed they are able to sort something out mostly for the sake of all those employed by the club.


Been dabbling in AI in recent weeks, and this time I decided to ask ChatGPT on Friday to “play out” a match between Leinster and Toulouse using the selected teams. Below you see the prompt and how it played out, wasn’t a million miles off the actual result and I have to say I like the way it even had a try disallowed by the TMO!!!

Imagine a game of 15-a-side rugby union between Leinster Rugby and Stade Toulousain over two halves of 40 minutes with the two lineups outlined below, taking into account the reputation and form of all the players involved.

Leinster : 15. Hugo Keenan 14. Jordan Larmour 13. Garry Ringrose 12. Charlie Ngatai 11. Jimmy O’Brien 10. Ross Byrne 9. Jamison Gibson-Park

1. Andrew Porter 2. Dan Sheehan 3. Tadhg Furlong 4. Ross Molony 5. James Ryan (c) 6. Caelan Doris 7. Josh van der Flier 8. Jack Conan

16. John McKee 17. Cian Healy 18. Michael Ala’alatoa 19. Jason Jenkins 20. Ryan Baird 21. Luke McGrath 22. Harry Byrne 23. Ciarán Frawley. 

Toulouse : 15 T Ramos 14 JC Mailla 13 PL Barassi 12 P Ahki 11 M Lebel 10 R Ntamack 9 A Dupont

1 C Baille 2 P Mauvaka 3 D Aldegheri 4 R Arnold 5 E Meafou 6 J Willis 7 T Flament 8 F Cros

16 J Marchand 17 R Neti 18 D Ainu’u 19 A Roumat 20 R Elstadt 21 A Placines 22 P Graou 23 A Retière

Write 2000 words on the progress of the match in the form of a timeline (no conclusion, just the timeline only) reporting incidents like tries, conversions, penalties, injuries and yellow or red cards.

0’ – The match kicks off with Leinster receiving the ball and making their way up the field with several phases of play.

2’ – Toulouse gives away a penalty in their own half, which Ross Byrne converts to give Leinster an early lead of 3-0.

7’ – Toulouse’s Romain Ntamack takes a quick tap penalty and makes a break into Leinster’s half, but is tackled well by James Ryan.

10’ – After a couple of turnovers, Leinster’s Hugo Keenan collects a high ball and makes a run down the wing, but is eventually tackled into touch by Toulouse’s Matthis Lebel.

12’ – Toulouse’s Antoine Dupont spots a gap around the ruck and makes a break, but is brought down just short of the try line by Garry Ringrose.

15’ – Toulouse gives away another penalty in front of their own posts, which Ross Byrne slots over to make the score 6-0 in Leinster’s favour.

18’ – Toulouse’s Romain Ntamack misses a long-range penalty attempt, with the ball going wide of the posts.

20’ – Leinster’s Caelan Doris makes a break down the middle of the field and offloads to Garry Ringrose, who finds Jordan Larmour on the wing to score the first try of the game. Ross Byrne converts to make the score 13-0 to Leinster.

24’ – Toulouse’s Cyril Baille gives away a penalty at the scrum, and Ross Byrne makes no mistake in slotting it over to extend Leinster’s lead to 16-0.

28’ – Toulouse’s Piula Faasalele is shown a yellow card for a high tackle on Leinster’s Jimmy O’Brien.

30’ – Leinster opt for a scrum from the penalty, and after several phases of play, Andrew Porter crashes over the line to score Leinster’s second try of the game. Ross Byrne converts to make the score 23-0 to Leinster.

35’ – Toulouse finally get on the scoreboard, with Romain Ntamack sending a perfectly-weighted crossfield kick for Matthis Lebel to catch and score in the corner. Ntamack misses the conversion, leaving the score at 23-5.

40’ – The referee blows for half-time, with Leinster leading Toulouse 23-5.

42’ – The second half begins with Toulouse receiving the ball and making a strong start, working their way up the field through several phases of play.

50’ – Toulouse’s Pita Ahki breaks through Leinster’s defence and is brought down just short of the try line by Hugo Keenan.

54’ – Leinster’s Dan Sheehan is shown a yellow card for collapsing the maul.

57’ – Toulouse opt for a scrum from the penalty, and after a few phases of play, Thomas Ramos scores their second try of the game. Romain Ntamack adds the extras to make the score 23-12.

61’ – Leinster’s Jack Conan makes a break down the wing and offloads to Ciarán Frawley, who crashes over the line to score Leinster’s third try of the game. Frawley converts his own try to make the score 30-12 to Leinster.

65’ – Toulouse makes several substitutions, bringing on fresh legs in an attempt to turn the game around.

70’ – Leinster’s Ross Byrne kicks a penalty to extend their lead to 33-12.

75’ – Toulouse’s Romain Ntamack sends a crossfield kick for Matthis Lebel, who collects and scores his second try of the game. Ntamack adds the extras to make the score 33-19.

79’ – Leinster’s Harry Byrne scores a try in the corner, but it is disallowed by the TMO for a forward pass in the build-up.

80’ – The referee blows for full-time, with Leinster sealing a convincing 33-19 win over Toulouse in a game that saw their defence hold strong and their attack score three tries.


Good to see there are no new additions to the treatment table, but that doesn’t take away the headache of selection for the Sharks in the quarterfinal.  With the HCC final date secured we really have no choice but to take out a decent amount of cotton wool even if the Sharks will use that to motivate them in their quest to prove us wrong to underestimate them.

I definitely think Hugo Keenan and our two props should be left out altogether, but elsewhere we might need some first team back up in case we’re chasing the game in the final quarter.  


Frawley, Larmour, Ringrose, Henshaw, Kearney, R Byrne, McGrath

Healy, McKee, Ala’alatoa, Molony, Jenkins, Ruddock (c), Penny, Deegan

Sheehan, Milne, Clarkson, Ryan, Conan, Foley, H Byrne, J O’Brien.

(note – the above team is purely from my imagination, it’s certainly not one of those quasi-leaked Thornley teams which are always 22 out of 23 correct)

Cormac Foley trained fully last week after recovering from a hamstring injury and is available for selection this week.

Ryan Baird came through the game at the weekend with no issues after his recovery from a shoulder injury.

Josh van der Flier came through the game at the weekend with no issues after his recovery from an ankle injury.

Charlie Ngatai came through the game at the weekend with no issues after his recovery from a hamstring injury.

Michael Milne has come through the Graduated Return to Play Protocols and will be available for selection this week.

Joe McCarthy will step up his rehabilitation this week as he recovers from an ankle injury.

Rónan Kelleher will step up his rehabilitation programme this week as he recovers from a shoulder injury.

Tommy O’Brien will be further assessed this week as he continues to recover from a shoulder injury picked up against Vodacom Bulls.

Robbie Henshaw will be further assessed this week after picking up a minor quad issue at training last week before a final decision is made on availability.

There are no further updates on:

Vakhtang Abdaladze (neck), Ed Byrne (tricep), Rhys Ruddock (hamstring), James Lowe (calf), Johnny Sexton (groin), Jamie Osborne (knee) and Martin Moloney (knee).


My plan to watch a game every week via The Rugby Network has been foiled for the past few rounds by that ol’ thing called “real life” but over the bank holiday weekend I was able to catch the Eastern Conference derby between the New England Free Jacks and the reigning MLR Champions (albeit rebranded) New York.

Before I describe what happened, just to note that I have chosen New England as my adopted team for this season.  I actually hail from the Bay Area but since they are yet to be represented I have to go for New England as I also have a good few relatives out there.  And luckily, they are doing pretty well this season so for the rest of the 2023 campaign I’ll be focusing on their matches, although they are on a bye week in round 12.

Anyway for this clash they were at home in Veteran’s Memorial Stadium which is in a town called Quincy on the outskirts of Boston.  The weather was awful throughout and the main camera angle was cursed with raindrops on the lens pretty much from start to finish.

Overall I enjoyed this match a lot more than I should have given the scoreline – at first it looked like the Free Jacks would romp to a big win as they went straight into the NY 22 from the kickoff and a sweet crossfield kick from outhalf Portroz to Balekana saw them 5-0 up after just 5m.

But from there thanks to a combination of stubborn NY defence, about a gagillion handling errors mostly forced by the conditions, and missed place kicks from Portroz, they really struggled to add to that lead.  In fact there was to be only one more score throughout as Portroz did manage one before halftime.

Even though the second half was scoreless the fact that it remained so close kept the interest up, especially when a deliberate knockon by the NE fullback gave the visitors the last ten minutes with an extra man but they just couldn’t manage it and the home side held on right to the final whistle to secure the four points and keep themselves top of the east.

More on the league next week, since my new team has a bye I might look west and focus on the leaders San Diego as they face the Utah Warriors.


SEA 61-19 DAL


NOLA 40-24 TOR

SD 29-16 HOU







The URC is back for the next couple of weekends with 6 of the remaining 7 matches being played which means the title could be won or lost before the final. As you can see Kino went back ahead in Rd 18 and we certainly can’t rule out Mark Jackson from contention either, will be very interesting to see how the quarterfinals pan out.


Next up are the “Cell C Sharks” and I can confidently predict I will screw up saying that out loud at least once in both weekend pods. Keego will help me with the preview on Friday and will actually return for the wrap on Sunday along with Rugby Kino so be sure to subscribe to our pod feed to catch those as well as all our other online accounts where we post pretty much every day.

 In the meantime, be sure to enjoy your rugby wherever you are.  JLP

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