Saturday 16 December 2017

Leinster were exposed but they are still good enough to finish with silverware

Paddy Jackson Photo: Sportsfile
Paddy Jackson Photo: Sportsfile

Victor Costello

at the start of the season, as Leinster's European ambitions were scuppered from the off with defeat to Wasps in the RDS, they could still hold their heads high in the home provincial derbies.

Bragging rights, international selection and, probably most important of all, being able to rate yourself against Munster, Ulster and Connacht were all on the line in the interpro games.

However, Saturday's defeat to Ulster sparks a predictable sequence of events this week; players soul searching, doubting themselves and of course media pressure builds on Leo Cullen, who is almost a year into his role as head coach.

So where are Leinster at the moment?

In recent weeks Connacht and Ulster have won the interpro battles but there still is a war to be won.

Leinster have dragged themselves through this Pro12 season and realistically are capable of a couple of big performances to get them across the line.

Winning the Pro12 will give Leinster breathing space when it comes to dissecting this season.

That inquest should highlight that the only ingredient missing from the golden years is consistency.

Last weekend against Ulster there were fiery moments of aggression from Leinster, which is good.

There was a swagger running on to the pitch, which lays down an aura of confidence in an away arena but not being able to follow it through with performances is their current problem.

If Leinster had the foundation of a consistent season they would be able to cope when the pressure that Ulster exerted. Consistency gives the ability to play with a higher level of aggression but with a cool head.

Ulster were ready for Leinster last weekend and give them their due, they played well and yes, they were aided by some poor decisions by the referee.

Come tomorrow afternoon, Treviso need to be put out of sight in the RDS and then, and only then, can the full focus be on the play-offs.

There is no doubt Les Kiss is good for Ulster. Their defence was well-drilled and made Leinster quite predictable.

Paddy Jackson had an outstanding game but until he can prove that he can transfer his form from an Ulster jersey into an Irish one, he will remain the third best out-half in the country.

Ruan Pienaar pinpointed mismatches in the Leinster defensive line throughout the game. Ulster's backs were potent but their pack was redundant.

They will not win anything unless they get their set pieces sorted.

Leinster had enough possession to win the game but they managed it badly and in those 'championship moments' before half time they failed to score.

As a defence coach Kiss was able to unlock Leinster's guard and this week's video session may well be the most important of the season.

There is nothing like a humiliating beating from your nearest and dearest in the Kingspan to expose their vulnerabilities.


Discipline is still a problem and Luke McGrath, who deserves his opportunities at scrum-half, realised last weekend that needless penalties will cost you dearly in these derbies

Two yellow cards is also unacceptable.

Players need to be in a mindset that if they get a yellow card they might as well keep walking off the pitch and out of the stadium such is the damage to their team's hopes.

An interpro game plays hard on the emotions but after the pain subsides these games never languish or carry into the next one. It's kind of like a row in the family that never crosses the front door.

For the moment at least, nothing has changed for Leinster, the Pro12 title is still well within their grasp

Irish Independent

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