With the November international series out of the way for another year, it was back to the brass tax of Guinness Pro 14 action; a round of fixtures which exposed team priorities, squad depth issues and worrying form for teams as they face into the second tranche of European games. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the action.
Performance of the week: Glasgow Warriors
There were a couple of standout teams in this round. Munster Rugby’s opening half performance against an under strength Edinburgh Rugby caught the eye. The Leinster Rugby juggernaut containing numerous academy and fringe squad players continued their ruthless try scoring exploits on the road to the Dragons. Connacht Rugby’s road trip at Bloemfontein has to be called out too but it is Glasgow Warriors win over Scarlets that is the defining display this weekend. When the hosts were reduced to fourteen players after Alex Allan’s red card early, it looked like a long day at the office for the Warriors but instead of contain, they produced a quite scintillating second and third quarter performance with two eye catching tries. Thomson lights out with the boot against a Scarlets which was loaded with first team players. A massive statement of intent.
Player of the week: Keith Earls / Chris Farrell
The Moyross native helped himself to a eight minute hat-trick. The opposition may not have being up to much but take nothing away from the running lines and try scoring execution on show for those tries. Earls oozed class every time he picked up the ball. Munster Rugby’s running lines and offload game was a joy to watch and this has to be the template for the side going forward. Chris Farrell was incredible with his ball carrying duties and what a boost it is for Munster Rugby to have the Tyrone native back in the squad again.
Walking the plank this week: Bernard Jackman
A couple of weeks, I hated to point out that Dragons head coach Bernard Jackman was under pressure after an abject road trip loss to Connacht Rugby. A timely win last time out against Edinburgh Rugby looked to have eased those concerns but the manner of their home loss to Leinster Rugby has seen massive negative reaction from Dragons supporters.
Dragons were second best on all facets of play; their defensive line speed and organization was labored and the young Leinster Rugby players on show were only too grateful to exploit the space. 50+ points again and the pressure is back on Jackman.
Dragons is a project in progress but the manner of these defeats is a massive concern. The board will need to be strong here but Jackman could be increasingly isolated from the fan base which could spell doom.
Disappointment of the week: Team Selections
There was big disparity in certain team selections this weekend. Leinster Rugby’s side was without numerous first team personnel but it did not matter as they trounced Dragons showing their incredible squad depth.
However, other team’s squad depth is not as strong and for Edinburgh Rugby, it was a chastening experience in Cork on Friday night. Munster Rugby were rampant throughout and the three quarter and ten channel was isolated throughout.
The tournament has seen quite a few representational team selections in preference for bigger fixtures in recent rounds. Sad to see as it devalues the league completely.