Hawkeye Sidekick

European Cup Rugby Review

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A weekend which was dominated away from the rugby pitch, Hawkeye Sidekick reviews the action on the pitch and looks at where do Leinster go after a disastrous home defeat to Wasps at the RDS.

Paris

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This weekend in Europe will be dominated by one story and one story. The brutal scenes which unfolded in Paris last Friday evening resulted in several European rugby ties involving French clubs postponed due to the security situation in the country as well as out of respect for the victims of this atrocity. Deepest condolences to all families and friends who are affected by this tragedy. Hoping that the powers that be can eliminate this scourge on society globally.

Leinster- Empire Breakdown

Leinster are out of the European Rugby Cup tournament after only one game. The enormity of this defeat will be felt long and hard after this campaign has concluded.as Leinster head coach Leo Cullen starts to dissect this woeful performance against a Wasps team who capitalized on Leinster mistakes to score an emphatic victory. The Leinster performance for the first thirty minutes was actually decent; the hosts consistently deep in Wasps territory but unable to break a resolute a defense.

The turning point came just before half-time when Dave Kearney unforced error attempting to catch a long relieving kick clearance was gleefully accepted by speed merchant Christian Wade. Kearney has being under the microscope for some time in his defensive duties. Argentina’s abilty to isolate Kearney out wide defensively was key to their quarter final success. The mistake committed by Kearney today could not be legislated for but it does show that opposition teams are now keen to test Kearney in his defensive duties, today’s erratic performance will do little to appease both management or the head coach.

Kearney’s mistake aside, you would have expected Leinster to regroup at the interval and back each other to get back into the contest but the second half performance was arguably one of the worse performances seen by a Leinster team in recent memory. The level of unforced errors and inability to slow Wasps ball by the back row were shocking. The pack were well beaten before the final whistle as Wasps scored two easy tries from Simpson (not touched in a forty meter run) and the impressive Charles Piutau who showed Ulster fans his full range of rugby skills who touched down in the corner. Sexton’s ineffective game management meant that the Leinster were on the back foot for long periods of the second half. The errand kick to the corner in the second half spoke volumes; Sexton was rattled. Leinster’s composure was out the window and Wasps enjoyed their trip to the RDS.

Leo Cullen must be brave in the weeks to come. Cullen must be pragmatic and identify the players who are flat out not performing to the standards required. Kirchner is a full back and unless he plays there should be released. Dave Kearney will surely be dropped for the trip to Bath; blessing for the player as he needs to work on his defensive duties. Eoin Reddan’s future at Leinster is now under the microscope. Yes, the pack struggled but Reddan offered little to the party today. His game plan was one dimensional and did not test Wasps fringe defense or out wide (grubber kicks behind). The days of Leo Cullen, Shane Jennings, Brad Thorne are long gone. Leinster’s second row and back row were second best today. Launchbury owned Toner today in open play and led his pack impeccably alongside the rampaging Smith.

Leo Cullen must blood new players to the team. Ringrose, Twigg and Van Der Flier must be allowed to get game time in this tournament to develop into key players for the club in seasons to come. Leinster join Munster in the transitional rebuild mode. It is going to get tougher before it gets better for Leinster.

Munster

The weather was horrendous in Limerick last night. Kudos to the 12,000 fans who turned out to watch a drab affair. Munster’s victory over Treviso lent more about Munster’s ability to adapt to the weather conditions than their performance levels. Munster made extremely hard work of this encounter when it should have being routine after Botha’s early try. Botha on another day should have his second try after only eight minutes as Treviso shuddered in the wind and rain.

Ian Keatley’s telegraphed kick down the pitch midway through the first half was given the service it deserved; an interception from Steyn who scored for Treviso. It highlighted the issues in the out-half position when push comes to shove. Munster’s three quarters were anonymous throughout, the weather was abysmal but Saiili decided to offload at will when he should have taken ball into contact and set quick phrase possession. The New Zealand import needs to adapt his game as his offloading caused endless problems for his receivers.

Munster’s discipline was on point but Treviso were limited offensively. Stander and Murray’s performances were outstanding and set the platform for this result. Stander’s leadership in this side was superb on the night when several Munster players played below par. Five points on the board but the acid test next weekend looks titantic. When you add the inevitable emotion of Stade France stadium next Sunday to remember the Paris victims, Munster if they are not careful are looking at a thumping loss.

Munster are doing enough at the moment and the games between Leicester in December will ultimately decide their fate as Stade France have decided to use their second string in these away games (evident in their lineup against Leicester). The Thomond Park crowd will swell for the Stade and Leicester home games but the performance levels are not at the level required to realistically push into a last eight berth at this time. The injury to Mike Sharry adds more pressure on an already stretched squad. Axel Foley’s tactical nous to be viewed in full effect next weekend. Has he learned anything from the drubbings in Saracens and Glasgow last season? Next Sunday will answer those questions.

Connacht

The Siberian adventure continues for the Connacht players and management as they are still stranded due to weather conditions. The long journey was rewarded with a bonus point victory over Ensei who were gutsy throughout. The brutal cold conditions made ball handling a lottery in the opening period but once McGinty and pack started to impose their will on the game, the result was never in doubt. The -20 temperatures will arouse plenty of hilarious stories among the Connacht squad who were on duty for years to come. Connacht continue to go in an upward curve and is this the season where they can clinch a top six Pro 12 berth with Munster and Leinster in transitional mode. Interesting derby in Thomond Park awaits on November 28th and will answer this core question.