Thursday 20 September 2018

Leinster unleash shock and awe in RDS

Leinster 55 Glasgow 19

Scott Fardy celebrates after scoring his side’s eighth try with Leinster team-mates, from left, Jordi Murphy, Dan Leavy, Bryan Byrne and James Lowe. Photo: Sportsfile
Scott Fardy celebrates after scoring his side’s eighth try with Leinster team-mates, from left, Jordi Murphy, Dan Leavy, Bryan Byrne and James Lowe. Photo: Sportsfile

David Kelly at the RDS

On a weekend when Europe shuddered from the impact of stuttering giants crumpling beneath the weight of expectation, the Champions Cup favourites Leinster were determined not to submit to a sensational reverse here.

In fact, they unleashed their own sense of shock and awe at the RDS.

Jordan Larmour in action against Huw Jones, left, and Lee Jones during Leinster’s victory against Glasgow. Photo: Sportsfile
Jordan Larmour in action against Huw Jones, left, and Lee Jones during Leinster’s victory against Glasgow. Photo: Sportsfile

An upset was never on the cards, even after an opening quarter when all concerned seemed to have been lulled into a soft slumber by the gentle nature of a contest - or rather non-contest - that often descended to the level of a pre-season friendly.

Glasgow simply had no defence. They missed anywhere between 30 and 35 tackles, a lamentable number which could have been higher but for the fact that at times they simply opted not to tackle at all.

"It was a lifeless first 40," lamented Dave Rennie, the Glasgow head coach. By the time they stirred themselves, they had no life left to fight for. A 34-7 half-time deficit can do that to a team.

They had come here with nothing to play for, and few of their better squad members to play it with, so it was perhaps inevitable that, in a sporting context at least, there was no edge.

Glasgow's Brandon Thomson tackles Leinster's Rob Kearney. Photo: PA
Glasgow's Brandon Thomson tackles Leinster's Rob Kearney. Photo: PA

The difficulty when playing against a side harbouring such an attitude is that a better team can be dragged down, which is exactly the disease that afflicted Leinster in an opening quarter of startlingly poor quality.

The sides traded soft tries in that period - Jordi Murphy's effort answered by Nikola Matawalu - before the Ulster-bound flanker was ridiculously binned for not retreating 10 yards from a tapped penalty that had been awarded less than 10 yards from the try-line. Dumb rule.

The brief reduction stirred them into more concentrated action and, once they realised that Glasgow were flooding the rucks, the home side focused on exploiting spaces out wide.

Ease

Leinster's Isa Nacewa scores a try. Photo: PA
Leinster's Isa Nacewa scores a try. Photo: PA

The fact that they would make 10 line-breaks, beat 30 defenders, never mind an off-load figure of 15 - at least half of them by their pack - demonstrated the ease with which they managed to detect the variety of locations where Glasgow had a soft centre.

"That was the big thing for us, trying to get those bits right so we could produce some quality ball," said Leinster boss Leo Cullen.

"We have been in that situation before where you are out and you are away from home and it can be a challenge."

Leinster's only real danger was potential self-harm.

Leinster's Jordi Murphy and Glasgow's Rob Harley reach for the ball. Photo: Sportsfile
Leinster's Jordi Murphy and Glasgow's Rob Harley reach for the ball. Photo: Sportsfile

Indeed, the only true scare of the whole exercise arrived on the brink of half-time, after further tries from Isa Nacewa, Sean Cronin and Scott Fardy had already guaranteed the bonus point required to guarantee a home quarter-final next April.

As Jonathan Sexton added a fifth in the corner he fell awkwardly on his back and bounced off the turf - after a prolonged inspection from the medics he resumed his station, but not his kicking duties.

He did re-emerge for the second-half, but only for 10 minutes; there was no need to detain him.

"He's fine, he just jarred his back," reported Cullen. The nation can exhale a collective breath.

Jordan Larmour, relatively subdued despite the free-flowing nature of the game, moved to outside centre to accommodate Rob Kearney's inclusion as Leinster fiddled around with the controls, a reminder of the depth of extraordinary talent on display.

Nacewa added a sixth try in the 57th minute, converted by Ross Byrne, while James Lowe crowned a fine European debut with a score of his own 10 minutes later.

"He did well to create a couple of tries for them as well as a couple for us," noted Rennie mischievously, a nod to his former charge's suspect defence.

"Certain things are going to take a little time, he understands what we're trying to do, and the main thing is he's working away and he's settled into the group," empathised Cullen.

Adam Ashe and Matawalu, with his second, added tries for Glasgow, who improbably ended the day looking for a bonus-point, before Fardy added the final word with his second try- Leinster's eighth of the day.

Leinster are averaging 35 points a game when they take to the field these days and while they are unlikely to replicate that in Montpellier on Saturday, they are building impressive momentum.

Aussie recruit Fardy, another missing link in the chain to create European champions, became the 26th different player to cross the whitewash for Leinster this campaign.

"He brings a real competitive edge to the group, probably the main thing we were attracted to," said Cullen.

"He has played a lot at six and at lock earlier in his career and he is very competitive. He has fitted in well among the group. He is older, slightly more mature. But, he has been a good addition, a good voice, and brings a huge amount of international experience, which is really important for us."

Luke McGrath won the Man of the Match award after another impressive display. His first-half breaks roused his side and his linking between backs and forwards continues to impress as he challenges Kieran Marmion for an Irish slot.

"It's all about playing well for Leinster. It would be great to get into that squad, but only if I play well here," he said.

"I'm just happy to give Johnny the ball and not have him shouting at me! I always say it is like playing with an extra coach out there.

"He doesn't shout too much, but you do want to get the ball to him as quickly as possible because he is a world-class player."

Leinster are brimming with them at the moment, not only within every line of their team, but among those seeking to step into the breach as reserves, as many will do in just five days in Montpellier.

Leinster's only problem is becoming a victim of their own success; they will lose almost a full squad of players to Ireland's Six Nations squad.

"It's a tricky time," adds Cullen. "We'll control what we can."

Leinster: J Larmour; F McFadden, R Henshaw (R Kearney 55), I Nacewa (capt), J Lowe; J Sexton (R Byrne 50), L McGrath (N McCarthy 70); J McGrath (C Healy 50), S Cronin (B Byrne 58), T Furlong (A Porter (58); D Toner (J Ryan 63), S Fardy; J Murphy, J van der Flier, J Conan (D Leavy 55)

Glasgow Warriors: R Jackson; L Jones (H Pyrgos 71), H Jones, N Grigg, N Matawalu; P Thorne (B Thompson 68), A Price (G Horne 46-55; 59); J Bhatti (A Allan 59), G Turner (G Stewart 70), S Halanukonuka (D Rae 60); R Harley (capt), G Peterson (M McDonald 66); M Fagerson, M Smith (C Fusaro 66), A Ashe

Ref - M Mitrea (FIR).

Irish Independent

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