Wednesday 18 October 2017

In-form Madigan must take centre stage in final

Leinster's Ian Madigan
Leinster's Ian Madigan
Tony Ward

Tony Ward

Quite whether the more deserving team won at the RDS I'm not so sure.

Credit Leinster for the quality of their defending, the extent of their discipline and the strength in depth in reserve.

Matt O'Connor has brought a steely Cheika-like edge to Leinster, albeit at the expense of an inconsistent attacking game.

They are still in a different league to Munster, and with Jimmy Gopperth oozing class and confidence, there is a strong case for playing game-turner Ian Madigan alongside the New Zealander, irrespective of the world's most decorated centre pairing being fit for the final.

On the assumption Brian O'Driscoll is given the all-clear, then the Leinster head coach has a very big decision to make, ahead of taking on a Glasgow side in which Alex Dunbar is playing out of his skin.

Leinster would not be in the final were it not for Madigan's second-half impact against Ulster, and that surely must see him take centre stage for the final – but not at out-half.

The Leinster bench made all the difference when it really mattered in another RDS play-off sizzler, while Sean Cronin, Devin Toner and Shane Jennings were absolutely top notch.

That said, Mark Anscombe must be beating himself up. Ulster will hardly play as well again without coming away with the spoils. Iain Henderson, like Toner and indeed Dave Foley for Munster, was a colossus at lock, while the back three of Craig Gilroy (by no means perfect but a revelation still at full-back), Tommy Bowe and Andrew Trimble were so full of energy and innovation at this stage of the season.

Jared Payne and Darren Cave more than stifled their opposites numbers, for the best part of an hour at least.

In the end, composure, patience and discipline got the defending champions over the finishing line in front.

Top of the league and now in control of a home final under a new main man, the rugby may not be all that easy on the eye but surely that gong for top coach should be awaiting the outcome of Saturday week's final when O'Connor and Gregor Townsend come head to head.

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