Madigan getting better and better – Schmidt
Leinster coach Joe Schmidt was reported to be deeply disappointed when Johnny Sexton decided to leave Leinster for Racing Metro a few months back. Who wouldn't be?
There has been much talk about Ian Madigan. Many believed he should have started for Ireland against Scotland in the Six Nations and he gave more credence to that view with his most complete performance for Leinster against Glasgow Warriors on Saturday night.
It looked very much like a coming-of-age contribution as Leinster moved to the top of the table, one point ahead of Glasgow and Ulster.
"I thought his goal-kicking was first rate. He made a couple of good line breaks. Defensively, also, he was working really hard," said Schmidt.
"The great thing about him is that he is so adaptable. He has played full-back for us. He has filled in at 12 and 13 for us. He is getting better and better at running the game for us. That was in evidence for the bulk of the game."
Sexton will probably be out for the next three weeks, giving Madigan possession of the No 10 jersey at home to Ulster on Saturday and away to London Wasps in the Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final on Friday, April 5.
That will leave Leinster's away date at Munster in the Pro12 as the likely time when Schmidt will have to decide whether to keep with the prospering Madigan with one eye on next year or return to Sexton. It might not be a straight-forward selection.
It was Madigan (pictured) who kept Leinster in touch on Saturday, striking four penalties in the 13th, 24th, 36th and 39th minutes to prevent Glasgow from disappearing over the horizon on the back of tries by prop Ed Kalman, created by Josh Strauss, and centre Peter Horne, created by DTH van der Merwe.
While Leinster managed to keep the Warriors scoreless in an exciting but error-strewn second half, it took a flash of brilliance from Madigan to trigger the comeback.
Out of nothing, the fly-half seized on a mistake and set off for 60 metres only to ruin his work by ignoring Sean Cronin on the left. It didn't put him off, however.
Madigan soon slipped in between out-half Duncan Weir and Horne for a try and added the conversion to catapult Leinster to the front in the 72nd minute. He then displayed the coolness and class of an international when converting a 77th-minute penalty after Dominic Ryan forced Glasgow captain Ali Kellock to hold on too long on the ground.
There was still time for Glasgow to launch one more assault and 'assault' was appropriate given the way players hurled themselves at each other with scant regard for personal safety, Glasgow's final chance going abegging on Horne's forward pass.
"I think they are a very good team, to be honest, I would be delighted if we didn't see them again this year," smiled Schmidt.
"They're very big, very physical. I though (Josh) Strauss was very hard to contain. (Alex) Dunbar through the middle was hard to contain".
Those well-meaning plaudits would have done little to ease the suffering of Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend after a match they could have, and maybe should have, won.
The former Lion wore the expression of a man who had just had his pocket picked: "We are desperately disappointed not to get a win," he said.
"The weather played a factor. The team that played into the wind held possession. I thought we did a lot of good things in attack when we did have that ball".
The losing bonus point just about keeps Glasgow on course for a home semi-final by the sliver of points-difference from Ulster.
"To have led for most of the game, it is really disappointing to pick up only one point. We've got a very tough match against Munster. We've got to bounce back with a win".
What an advert for the league. The rematch would make for a wonderful final.
Leinster – I Nacewa; D Kearney, E O'Malley, G D'Arcy, A Conway; I Madigan, I Boss; H van der Merwe (J McGrath 61), S Cronin, M Bent (J Hagan 47); L Cullen, Q Roux (D Toner 50); K McLaughlin (D Ryan 61), S Jennings, J Murphy (A Dundon 78).
Glasgow Warriors – P Murchie; T Seymour (S Lamont 56), A Dunbar, P Horne, DTH Van der Merwe; D Weir, N Matawalu (H Pyrgos 62); M Low (J Welsh 50), D Hall (P MacArthur 62), E Kalman (G Reid 62); T Ryder, A Kellock; R Harley (R Wilson 50), J Barclay, J Strauss (J Eddie 75).
Ref – N Owens (WRU)