Apologies for the delay in a blog posting on the utterly dominant Leinster Rugby performance against a well fancied Scarlets side yesterday. 38-16 was a clinical performance and like Munster today, Scarlets did not lay a meaningful shot on their opponent during the game. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the performance.
If you read my preview on the Leinster Rugby / Scarlets fixture, a key person in this contest was Gibson-Park. The scrum-half had huge pressure on his shoulders coming into this fixture; his inclusion meaning that in form James Lowe was forced to sit out. An indifferent game against the same opposition last season in Pro 12 playoff action raising questions on whether the New Zealander could produce. He emphatically answered those questions; his passing was on point, his aerial kicking excellent. Gibson-Park did get immense support from his pack who cleared out rucks in sensational fashion negating any threat from Barclay or Davies to proceedings. Luke McGrath’s injury was seen as a blow but the performance of Gibson-Park was on point. Mission accomplished.
Leinster Pack Dominance:
James Ryan is increasing his profile in the game with another emphatic performance. His performance along with Devin Toner was nothing short of sensational; superb work rate, carrying and line out execution. A superb opening try as well. Ryan negated the threat of Tadhg Beirne. The player’s upside is only the tip of iceberg; this player has the ability to be the number one second row in the world in time for the RWC 2019 tournament. Special nod to the front five as well. Furlong, Healy and Cronin were excellent throughout. Furlong’s work rate was ferocious and set the tone. Healy, abrasive at set piece and scored a great try in the second quarter. Cronin in set piece and his running lines on point. Toner as well was superb; good line out management along with Ryan. Fardy, Leavy and Murphy providing physicality and mobility to clear out Scarlets at the breakdown. Fardy was world class.
Here comes Johnny!
Sexton was sensational yesterday; his match-up against Dan Jones was emphatically advantage Leinster Rugby and he launched his three quarters with incredible accuracy. Sexton’s bicep injury will see plenty of column inches in sporting articles for the rest of the season but this was a performance which oozed class, oozed experience and composure in the play making role. Sexton rises to the occasion at this time of the season. Bilbao against his old club Racing 92 will be an intriguing plot line.
Expansive Back Line
No defensive weak links in the Leinster Rugby back line contrary to Shane Williams’ beliefs in the lead up to this fixture. Ringrose and Henshaw absorbed the threat of Parkes and Williams and created with intent particul arly in the third quarter when Scarlets defensively opened up. Sharp offloading. Henshaw’s defensive work was on point; amazing performance considering his lengthy injury layoff. Nacewa, McFadden / Larmor and Kearney provided a good back three threat and defensively were on point throughout; the fact that Scarlets did not their try until the final minute was an incredible defensive display from everyone in the Leinster Rugby side!
With the game safely in the bag, Leinster Rugby management cleared their bench in the third quarter. Jack McGrath, Joey Carbery, Jordan Larmor providing key cameos. This was valuable experience and game time for the bench ahead of the final against Racing 92. Andrew Porter’s performances in the front have being nothing short of sensational. There is zero weak points in this twenty-three man squad for Leinster Rugby. Squad players will be given their opportunity to impress in the lead up to the final but this twenty-three man squad delivered an emphatic performance, put a dangerous opponent out of reach well before the final quarter. Racing 92 have their hands out in Bilbao!