Razor-sharp Reddan's message for Schmidt
Leinster 28 Glasgow W 25
Published 03/03/2014 | 02:30
AFTER a week in which Joe Schmidt questioned the quality of the Pro12 as a testing ground for international rugby, the Ireland coach would have been pleased with the work-out many of his second string got at the RDS on Saturday night.
Leinster were far from fluent, but they were tested by this repeat of last year's semi-final by a Glasgow Warriors team who add huge value to this much-maligned league.
The Scots always come to play and they asked serious questions of a team that included nine players hopeful of pushing their way into the Ireland team this week, with a further two on the bench.
For Matt O'Connor, the time when he can take full control of the tiller once again is looming large, but the depth of his squad is such that Leinster are likely to go into the Aviva Stadium meeting with Munster at the end of the month on top of the table, having already reached the summit without half of their frontline internationals.
That will please the province, but, with a Six Nations still there for the national team to win, most of the focus in the post-match exchanges surrounded the Ireland hopefuls.
One was struck down before he could get going, with Luke Fitzgerald's abductor strain forcing him to miss out. That ruled out any chance the winger had of forcing his way into Schmidt's thoughts.
For others, it was a better night, particularly half-backs Eoin Reddan and Ian Madigan.
Scrum-half Reddan looked sharp throughout and, given the Ireland coach is a signed-up member of the Limerick native's fan club, he looks sure to get game-time against Italy this Saturday as Isaac Boss has been omitted from the squad altogether.
Madigan, meanwhile, was given the full 80 minutes to press his claims for starting against Italy if Jonathan Sexton's thumb hasn't healed sufficiently. The 24-year-old kicked five out of his six attempts at goals in difficult conditions and ran the backline well against a tough Warriors defence.
"Mads has got things in his game to work on – as has Paddy (Jackson) – but the ability to kick goals like he does and the threat that he has with ball in hand gives you the ability to play a certain way," O'Connor said.
With Peter O'Mahony's hamstring forcing him out of Ireland training last week and rendering him a doubt this time around, Rhys Ruddock's try-scoring outing was timely and his coach backed him to the hilt to see off Iain Henderson for the No 6 jersey – if it was to become vacant.
Up front, Marty Moore put in a good shift, while Sean Cronin's combination of power and sleight of hand in creating Noel Reid's opening try won't have gone unnoticed, but Jack McGrath may rue the missed tackle that allowed Ruaridh Jackson set up Richie Vernon for the Glasgow score that helped level things at 7-7.
Madigan nudged his team back in front, but Darragh Fanning then missed a tackle on Tommy Seymour. He was initially saved by impressive home debutant Sam Coghlan-Murray – Fitzgerald's late replacement – but Glasgow worked their way across field, with Jordi Murphy stopping Niko Matawalu with a great tackle before Vernon managed to make his way over the line.
Fanning atoned for his error with a try before the break thanks to slick hands from Madigan and Zane Kirchner, but an ill-judged '22' drop-out from the fly-half allowed the Warriors to hit back at the hosts again, and Fijian winger Matawalu scored from close range to restore his side's lead.
In worsening conditions, Leinster piled on the pressure with Coghlan- Murray and Reid to the fore in pressurising Glasgow in their own half, before the forwards took over and Ruddock touched down from a pick and go.
Madigan converted to add breathing space and, although Finn Russell's penalty made it a three-point game with four minutes remaining, Gregor Townsend's men couldn't get close to a levelling or winning score to prevent the champions going ahead of Munster.
"Did Munster get beaten? That's a shame for them," O'Connor said with a wry smile after the game. "There's a bit of footy to be played yet."
LEINSTER – Z Kirchner; D Fanning, F McFadden, N Reid, S Coghlan Murray (D Hudson 75); I Madigan, E Reddan (I Boss 51); J McGrath (M Bent 73), S Cronin (R Strauss 51), M Moore (M Ross 51); L Cullen, M McCarthy; R Ruddock, S Jennings (D Ryan 68), J Murphy.
GLASGOW WARRIORS – P Murchie; T Seymour (L Jones 65), R Vernon, R Finn, N Matawalu; R Jackson, C Cusiter (H Pyrgos 68); G Reid (J Yanuyanutawa 51), P MacArthur (F Brown 69), E Kalman (J Welsh 51); T Swinson, J Gray; E James, R Harley (T Holmes 65), J Strauss (L Nakaware 65).
Ref – N Owens (WRU)