Friday 22 September 2017

Conway must hone raw talent - Schmidt

LEINSTER 19
EDINBURGH 18

Edinburgh's Netani Talei is tackled by Shane Horgan of Leinster during their Magners League clash on Saturday. Photo: Paul Mohan / Sportsfile
Edinburgh's Netani Talei is tackled by Shane Horgan of Leinster during their Magners League clash on Saturday. Photo: Paul Mohan / Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

The word "clumsied" may not have any place in the Oxford English Dictionary, but Joe Schmidt's linguistic creation used to describe Leinster's efforts to close out their win on Saturday night was an apt one.

This one-point victory over Edinburgh was no classic and the hosts almost fell over the line at the RDS, but it made October the perfect month for the New Zealander, who ended September all a fluster after losing to the Scots and emerged 31 days later with five successive wins and a redeeming victory over the men from the Scottish capital.

Understrength in important areas of the field, perhaps it wasn't surprising that Leinster never looked in complete control. But the likes of Leo Cullen, Shane Jennings and Isa Nacewa steered the ship, and some magic moments from youngsters Ian Madigan and Andrew Conway provided the cutting edge.

With hooker Richardt Strauss further enhancing his burgeoning reputation with another barnstorming performance, there was plenty for Schmidt to be enthusiastic about. In the deficit column were Edinburgh's two tries and a high rate of turnovers -- but that they got over the line was enough for a delighted coach.

"We kind of clumsied it out a little bit, but we managed to close it out," he said. "I think some of the more experienced guys really helped the younger guys and the younger guys sparked us to get over the line.

"It's been a fantastic October -- we just had to make sure that we got that five-in-a-row and we had massive support from the players in the international set-up. Jonny Sexton ran water for us, and his knowledge and experience was getting on to Ian Madigan.

Ethos

"That's part of the squad ethos at the moment. We're playing for each other, helping each other out and that's important."

It was Conway, making his fifth appearance and still just 19 years old, who scored the all-important try early in the second half, taking a Nacewa pass and scorching over. The latest talent to emerge from the Blackrock College nursery has been on the radar since his schooldays and after scoring his first professional try, he drew guarded praise from his coach.

The winger showed his raw pace on a number of occasions and the RDS crowd buzzed in anticipation whenever the ball went near the left wing. He was unlucky not to get in for another try, but while Schmidt was impressed, he says there is still plenty of room for improvement.

"He's an exciting raw talent," Schmidt said. "There are lots of edges that we need to mould a bit. He catches himself out; it's his timing and angled running we're building on. A couple of times in the '22' he was turned over -- once put into touch, once on the ground.

"One other time he shot through a gap and scored a try, so we'll take that. It was a mixed bag, but his raw talent is pretty evident. He's good enough to play for Leinster so he's a good player. He's very, very young. It shows his talent and we need to channel it."

Conway's try came with the match delicately poised at 9-8 to the hosts, after Tim Visser's try -- outpacing Strauss to pounce on Mike Blair's chip -- kept Edinburgh ticking over behind Nacewa's three penalties.

The New Zealand-born Fiji international created the try with an incisive counter and chip, before Eoin O'Malley bundled an Edinburgh defender into touch and took the lineout quickly. With the Scots on the back foot, Nacewa fed Conway and he blitzed over.

Chris Paterson and Nacewa exchanged penalties, but despite losing David Young to the sin-bin, the visitors clawed their way back as Ross Ford stepped inside Strauss and Paterson finished the job.

After the game Schmidt lamented his side's defensive balance, but he paid tribute to the Scottish team, who had scored four tries the last two times the sides met.

"You're always disappointed when you concede tries, especially at home," he said. "We had two tries scored against us in four games and then we concede two tries tonight.

Toughest

"But I believe Edinburgh are one of the toughest teams to keep under wraps. You have got to be really well balanced defensively all the time and if you turn ball over -- as we did when they scored their first try -- you don't have that balance in your defence and you are going to be caught short.

"A guy like Visser -- I thought he got a bit of luck in the bounce, but you get that sometimes and he got away and scored. Yeah, it was a misread in the defensive line and an over-read that cost us dearly and they broke the line.

"Chris Paterson's got a bit of speed and a bit of class and he didn't need too many chances to finish off."

Paterson's try closed the gap to a point and set up the edgy finish. And although Leinster's attempts to close the game out weren't perfect, they were effective.

LEINSTER -- I Nacewa; S Horgan, E O'Malley, F McFadden, A Conway; I Madigan (S Berne 78), P O'Donohoe (I Boss 54); H van der Merwe, R Strauss, M Ross; L Cullen, N Hines; D Ryan, S Jennings, S Keogh (R Ruddock 68).

EDINBURGH -- C Paterson; J Thomson, A Grove, J Houston (D Bishop 68), T Visser; A Blair, M Blair (G Laidlaw 60); A Jacobson (K Traynor 61), R Ford, G Cross (D Young 51); S MacLeod, E Lozada (C Hamilton 70); R Grant, R Rennie, N Talei (S Newlands 68).

REF -- C Damasco (FIR)

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