I travelled over to Montpellier for our first European away game last weekend. In the end the result didn’t go our way and our performance wasn’t up to scratch. But considering how the game looked in the 60th minute, to get a losing bonus point, whilst denying them a winning bonus point was a fantastic achievement.
The game was very poor for 70 minutes from a Leinster perspective. They made countless errors, especially knocking on the ball in contact. They lacked accuracy in attack and a lot of the time when the play went beyond four or five phases, Leinster appeared to run out of ideas and a cohesive plan.
However the sheer size of the Montpellier team must be mentioned. Throughout most of the game they bullied Leinster and looked to physically pound Leinster into submission. For most of the game they succeeded, but Leinster kept hanging on and eventually their fitness levels showed, as the Montpellier giants began to tire.
Despite all this, the game showed how mighty Leinster’s character is. To refuse to roll over and to fight right up until the very end showed great spirit and meant I actually left the ground with hope and pride. Anyone that has watched European campaigns in the last decade will know how important each point is come the end of the group stages. I also believe that any team that has any serious notions of winning the tournament shouldn’t leave an away game empty handed.
I thought 4 players put in excellent performances in this game. I thought Ringrose was terrific. He kickstarted the move that resulted in us eventually going over in the corner. He also appeared to be our most dangerous attacking threat throughout most of the game. Carbery did extremely well when he was called on at the beginning of the second half. He controlled the game well and looked settled throughout. This is amazing considering it is still his first season and only his second European game. It looks like the outhalf role is in good hands if Johnny gets injured. Nacewa as always had a brilliant game, he nailed all his kicks and provided calm for the team when the going got tough. As well as getting the try at the end, he also had the presence of mind to run as close to the posts as possible to make sure he got the kick that got us the point. Finally I thought Dan Leavy had a really strong impact when he came on and provided some important breaks and go-forward ball.
Even though I am rather positive throughout this post about the point, it is important to remember this was a loss! The performance apart from the dying minutes was nowhere near the standard required in this tournament. A massive improvement is needed if we want to progress from this pool. Also in the last three games, defending mauls has looked a real issue. In the games against Munster and Castres we conceded tries defending mauls. Against Montpellier we seemed to constantly be giving away penalties whilst trying to defend mauls and lineouts. In the end is was encouraging to see the attitude and spirit Leinster showed in this game and it’s always to see your team achieve something even on an off day but they will need to up their game before the visit of Connacht next weekend.
(Read 26/08/16 – 16/10/16)
I’ve always wanted to read this book for a number of reasons. Firstly, I’ve always regarded Hemingway as one of my favourite authors. The novel the Old Man and the Sea is one of my favourite books by any author along with Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises, therefore I approached this book about the Spanish Civil War with great excitement. I had also regularly heard how this novel was Hemingway’s finest one so I was excited to tuck in! The novel tells the story of an American, Robert Jordan and how he joins a group of guerrilla fighters in the mountains of Spain in the fight against the Fascist forces. Robert Jordan’s main aim is to blow up a bridge during a planned attack. The story revolves around the few days before the attack and Robert Jordan living with the group of guerrilla fighters.
The first thing I must mention is how strong the characters are in the novel. Each one of them is well layered and has their own story. The main character, Robert Jordan is one of the strongest characters in any book. Throughout the novel we see his quiet and calculated mind begin to waver in the face of his surroundings. His internal struggle between executing the job with a surgeon’s precision and objectivity and his growing friendship between him and many members of the group. He also begins to wonder throughout the course of the novel whether he really supports the Republic or whether he is just merely against the Fascists. This internal struggles reach a climax with the growing fondness for Maria. Hemingway also constructs characters that we hate such as Pablo, the leader of the band, whom we come to dislike despite being sympathetic to why he acts the way he does.
The novel, like most war novels shows the brutal side of war. One chapter in particular, Chapter 10 recounts the story of her town and what happened to the people who were discovered as fascists in the town. It reveals the brutality of the Spanish Civil War and how in many Civil War, a neighbour and friend can turn into a bitter foe. The novel also shows how disillusionment can strike people in war times as they see the realities of what is occurring around them. Despite all this, there is also almost an innocence about this group of guerrilla fighters and how they speak and act throughout the novel which means that it is never too heavy going or difficult to read.
Despite all this, it wasn’t as good as the other two novels I mentioned in the beginning. I don’t think the narrative was as strong as it was in his other novels. I thought it was too long and didn’t keep me gripped throughout. I think perhaps I had built the novel up in my mind before starting, due to my fondness of his other works and rarely for Hemingway, this piece didn’t live up to my expectations. I would still recommend this book as there is a lot to take away from it and in classic Hemingway fashion the language is simple yet elegant and evocative.
Last weekend saw the opening of the European campaign. Leinster’s first game was against familiar French opponents, Castres. The game only near the end of the first half looked somewhat like a contest, other than that it was a relatively easy afternoon for Leinster. The bonus point was wrapped up by the 50th minute. Castres don’t have the financial power of other French counterparts and can normally only focus on domestic matters. However, they only typically admit defeat in Europe come the latter rounds of the group stages, normally starting off quite competitively. So in this match it was important to strike early and make sure that Castres didn’t gain a glimmer of an upset. Leinster did this well and took an early lead which they never seriously looked in danger of surrendering.
The main subplot of the afternoon was Joey Carberry filling in for Jonathan Sexton as outhalf. This was Joey’s first European start but you would never have guessed. As a young player, he has just taken every challenge put in front of him in his stride and performed brilliantly every time he has been given an opportunity. He managed the backline superbly, kicked out of hand accurately and even up until the very end was still making breaks and offloading. Before this game I had a serious concern over how far we would go in either competition if Sexton were to get injured, now my fears have been largely wiped.
Despite some really eye catching performances from the likes of Ringrose, Henshaw and especially Nacewa, the real star of this performance was the forward unit. Four of the five tries came from really strong forward play and John Fogarty and Leo must be delighted with their showing. The first two tries came from really good mauling, which I saw as a possible weakness following the Munster game. The final try was also a penalty try which resulted from scrum penalties, which is very impressive given the size of the Castes forwards. The substitute forwards also came on and added to the pressure which is always promising to see. In regards to the bench, the replacements for the forwards all are excellent players who have a lot to prove and add when they appear. The backs on the bench will improve as more players begin to return from injuries.
My only complaint after the game and result is that perhaps Leinster weren’t clinical enough. My feeling after the game was that they left one or two try opportunities out there on the day. At the end of round 5 this group could well come down to points difference, in which case Leinster may rue some of the opportunities they failed to convert. This is however a pretty minor complaint on what was otherwise an excellent afternoon for Leinster.
So the European campaign has started brightly after last year’s disappointing start. However the games are only going to get tougher, starting with Leinster’s game away to Montpellier next weekend.
Last Saturday was the biggest game of the season so far. This derby match has traditionally been the first match where we see a big step up in terms of intensity and performance. This game was by no means a classic, unlike some of the last decade’s brilliant matches. Despite this it’s always important to have form going into the European competition and of course it’s brilliant to win one over your rivals!
I think for me the most evident difference was that Leinster appeared far more dangerous with ball in hand. I thought that every time that Leinster spread the ball through the hands, they were able to find space or a soft shoulder to make ground. I thought Sexton managed the game well and along with his midfield partners, they constantly looked a threat.
In comparison I thought that Munster looked one-dimensional and predictable. They seemed to rely a lot on Murray’s box kicks and didn’t play too much with ball in hand. I don’t know if this was due to Leinster’s aggressive defending, but they never really looked like scoring from a line break. Despite this, Munster looked extremely solid in their mauls and Leinster will have to try and quickly fix this before next week. Despite the scoreline at the end I believe if Munster had been a bit more patient when they got pinged with the double-movement, the game could have been a lot closer.
Another great outcome from the game was to finally see Henshaw wear the blue jersey. And what was even more impressive was the fact he managed to last 80 minutes despite not playing since last May. It was also promising to see how he covered full back in the final few minutes, which could give Leinster options for lineups before and during the game.
The main positive for both teams is that this is a perfect warm-up match before they both tackle French teams next weekend. I think Munster can take heart that the things they did wrong in this game are easy to fix, but Racing still look a bridge too far. Leinster, I feel if they can maintain the same intensity in attack and defence may well start righting the wrongs of last year’s European season.