Thursday 30 March 2017

McFadden shines as Leinster dominate

A GOOD night for Fergus McFadden to make a statement.

The 24-year-old has been in superlative form this season, but the quality of three-quarter competition has not seen that reflected in front-line selection for Leinster and Ireland. Last night he made his case for a central role in Leinster's double trophy-hunt endgame as well as for a berth on Ireland's flight to the World Cup in four months' time.

From his first possession -- a sweet chip and regather after seven minutes -- it was clear he was out to make a point, and he did so emphatically, time and again emphasising his pace, tenacity and strength with some extremely effective hand-offs.

His place-kicking ability is a handy addendum, his 18-point haul incorporating just one missed attempt. Aside from McFadden, there were other World Cup hopefuls looking to put their hands up and, although he would not be the biggest second-row ever to represent Ireland, Kevin McLaughlin showed his capacity to be effective in that position with 80 minutes of industry.

He picked up Leinster's final try to boot, proving the power of that of-overlooked quality in rugby, which is ... wait for it ... depth.

A word that has particular relevance for Leinster's squad at present as designated understudies like Eoin O'Malley, Ian Madigan, Dominic Ryan and substitute David Kearney had some fine moments as Leinster pulled clear in the second half.

carrot

The first had been a grim affair. Joe Schmidt's men had the considerable carrot of a home semi-final to play for, but there was still a rather flat, end-of-season feel in front of a two-thirds full RDS.

This manifested itself in a lack of structure as players struggled to put shape on proceedings. There was precious little kicking for position and varying degrees of accuracy when it did take place, knock-ons, missed penalties to touch, line-out ball secured and then turned over. All in all, flatter than a robbed pint at the end of a wedding.

Glasgow had very little to offer. They are another of those sides that trundles through to the end of the season when, after another early Heineken Cup exit, they should be going nuts in the Magners -- at least banging a few heads if not banging out the results.

They brought some decent players to Ballsbridge -- Chris Cusiter, Johnny Beattie, Richie Vernon -- but barely raised a gallop.

Of course, with James 'Thar He blows' Jones on Moby Dick duty, the risk of being underwhelmed in this contest was always strong. One must respect anyone willing to take on the thankless role of referee, but keeping up with Jones and his love of his whistle is never a pleasant experience.

The penalty count was well into the teens by the time everyone was granted some half-time relief but the score was just 6-3 to the home side -- Duncan Weir missing a couple of kicks for Glasgow after converting his first seventh-minute effort.

McFadden's accuracy off the tee ensured Leinster's advantage, but they will have felt they should have had a try to go with the two penalties.

The showed their intention after Glasgow prop Moray Low (who was sporting a haircut usually found in the Appalachian mountains with accompanying banjo) swung out of Isaac Boss just outside the visitors' 22 and Leinster opted to kick for the corner rather than take the easy three.

They worked the phases from that position, crabbing infield and switching right when Shane Horgan appeared to have touched down in the corner only for Jones to harpoon that notion after going upstairs to one of his crew.

There was a noticeable increase in tempo on the resumption, mainly because Glasgow raised the white flag, beautifully matched with their anaemic playing apparel.

McFadden quickly took advantage, knocking over another penalty two minutes after the resumption and his fourth on 52 minutes.

Horgan got the try he deserved three minutes later, finishing off an exquisite cross-kick from Madigan and this was swiftly followed by another under the posts from Gordon D'Arcy with McFadden converting the second for 24-3.

It stung some kind of response out of Glasgow, but nothing worth recounting and, with the contest over, both coaches emptied their benches.

Watched approvingly by older brother Rob, Kearney made a couple of stunning, weaving runs from full-back, the second of which led to a try from Ryan, again converted by McFadden.

McLaughlin provided the coup de grace and Ulster will travel down to Dublin next week with considerable trepidation -- McFadden's man of the match award was a formality.

LEINSTER -- I Nacewa (D Kearney 60); S Horgan, E O'Malley, G D'Arcy (I McKinley 60), F McFadden; I Madigan, I Boss (P O'Donohoe 68); J McGrath (C Healy 48), R Strauss (A Dundon 48), S Wright (M Ross 53); K McLaughlin, D Toner; D Ryan, S Jennings (R Ruddock 56), J Heaslip (capt).

GLASGOW -- P Murchie; F Aramburu (P Horne 38), M Bennett, G Morrison (capt), D van der Merwe; D Weir (R Jackson 48), C Cusiter (C Gregor 71); R Grant, F Thomson, M Low (K Tkachuk 69); A Muldowney, T Ryder; J Eddie, R Vernon (C Fusaro 54), J Beattie. Yellow card: Murchie (51)

REF -- J Jones (WRU)

Irish Independent

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