Sport Rugby

Saturday 24 March 2018

Fergus McFadden delighted to be back for the end of season buzz

Victory over Edinburgh vital to secure home semi-final and keep us on course to provide a fitting finale for Leo and Drico

Fergus McFadden believes that victory, rather than the performance, was the most important thing against Ulster
Fergus McFadden believes that victory, rather than the performance, was the most important thing against Ulster
Shane Jennings scored the crucial first try against Ulster

Player diary: Fergus McFadden

The business end of the season has come around and, not surprisingly, all the focus is on the Pro12 for Leinster these last few weeks.

We are in a strong position now going into the final league game before the play-offs and it's crucial we win this last outing against Edinburgh to ensure a home semi-final.

It was tough seeing the semis of the Heineken last week knowing we weren't in the mix. I thought Munster really dug in against Toulon in Marseille and it highlights the fact that they are definitely on an upward curve as a team.

The likes of Conor Murray and Ian Keatley really stood up to the challenge and it is those atmospheres and those games that will stand to you as you develop as a player.

Ultimately, you want the win, though, and they will have regrets just like we will as we watch the last Heineken Cup season as we know it unfold.

With the three Irish sides falling short in the knock-out stages there, it puts more emphasis on the Pro12 title.

It's great for Irish rugby to see three of the four provinces reaching the semi-finals, while Connacht have also had a really progressive season in the league with some big performances and wins.

You only have to look at their recent signings, most recently Mils Muliaina, to know that they will not rest on those results, but want to drive on next year, especially with the new format in the Pro12 and the importance of finishing high up that table.

In my last diary entry I had received the bad news about my knee injury and, according to the physios, it was going to be tough to get back before the end of the season.

My first week of recovery was very slow and it was pretty frustrating. I could do very little on my feet and it was all about rehab, physio, ice and recovery.

Thankfully, I turned a corner with it in the last 10 days and that has been a huge boost when you were thinking that your season could be gone.

So I was back to full training this week, which is exciting for me.

Thankfully, we have become familiar with this time of the year at Leinster and the excitement that knockout rugby brings.

I would have hated to have missed out on that buzz. It just lifts everyone at training. The good weather, the hard ground, the dry ball ... it is everything that you play rugby for – to be involved at critical points in a season.

Hopefully, we will have three more games left in the season and that is what the focus is on. Doing our utmost every day to ensure we put ourselves in the best place to perform.

With legends like Leo and Drico hanging up their boots at the end of the season, I also want to cherish every game I have with them now.

They have had incredible careers spanning nearly 15 seasons. It is going to be very weird not having them in the changing-room next year. They are both top lads and I will really miss them. I just hope we can finish the season for them on a winning note.


Last week's trip to Ravenhill had big significance for a few reasons. The opening of the new stadium was always going to add incentive for them to get a win in front of a packed home crowd.

Also, with the likes of Tom Court and Johann Muller playing their last games in Belfast, it was going to give them further focus. Ultimately, it was a massive challenge for us going there.

We started the game very well and I thought we were playing all the rugby in the first 10 minutes. We went 6-0 up and had the scoreboard ticking over nicely.

I can imagine the Ulster frustrations when the red card was shown to Court. It really was a case of deja vu for the Ulstermen when Tom got his marching orders for the tip-tackle on Devin after 15 minutes. However, the ruling is pretty clear these days and unfortunately you really have to be very careful when you make a tackle – the onus is on the tackler.

To be fair to Tom, he showed his class with his tweet after the game wishing Devin well.

In some ways the Saracens red card had them well drilled! After playing 75 minutes against Saracens with only 14 men they knew what to do.

I'd say Mark Anscombe was delighted his team went into half-time only trailing 9-8. An opportunist Paddy Jackson try off a blocked kick was just what Ulster needed to get the crowd behind them.

It was a very good game and had plenty of excitement, from the tries to the yellow and red cards.

Ulster really battened down the hatches and made it difficult for Leinster to break them down. Some of their scramble defence was pretty impressive – and it had to be as they were playing with 14 men.

Thankfully, Jenno (Shane Jennings) got over for the decisive try and Ian kicked the conversion and followed it with another penalty.

Ulster got back into it, though, and Paddy Jackson did what he had to do from the boot, so it was a nervy last five minutes with the score at 22-20 to Leinster.

We ran down the clock and held out for what was a crucial four points for us. I think the performance was not up to scratch, but getting out of there with the win was the main thing.

It left us with plenty to ponder and to work on. With our final home game of the regular season against Edinburgh, it is a really exciting prospect leading into the semis.


I also think tomorrow night is going to be special for Leo and Brian and, while it can't overshadow our preparations or our focus, it will be nice to mark their retirement publicly before we then batten down the hatches for the knockout rounds.

It's important for the RDS to be at its best for them and I know it will be. I know there is some activity after the game on the pitch with Des Cahill as MC, and a souvenir match programme has been put together too.

It is now up to us, as players, and you, as supporters, to give them the result and the reception that they deserve!

See you all tomorrow!

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