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.