Richardt Strauss returns to action
The original news of the Ireland hooker’s heart problems put rugby swiftly into perspective. Hearing of any heart-related issues in sport can be a shock, but the fact that such a fit, evidently-healthy man had such a deficiency was harrowing.
To see Strauss back on the pitch just three short months after his procedure, when there had been major doubts as to whether he would be seen again this season, was uplifting. In making three carries over the gain-line, as well as hitting his man at three line-outs, the 27-year-old demonstrated that all is well.
The standing ovation he received from Leinster’s support was the moment of the match.
Cian Healy is a ‘freak’
It’s hard to disagree with Matt O’Connor’s post-match description of the loosehead prop as a person of abnormal physical capability. To return so swiftly from a serious ankle injury in order to play in the final two Heineken Cup pool games was incredible at all, but to come back in such remarkable shape was even more impressive.
Healy looks to have spent his time on the sidelines working hard in the gym, as his power appears greater than ever. He man-handled Adam Jones at the scrum and bounced defenders off in attack, as well as scoring a memorably-celebrated try.
Joe Schmidt will have been grinning to himself smugly as the Six Nations approaches.
Leinster’s stuttering display
Sean Cronin brought to the deck as Justin Tipuric gets set to pounce. ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan.
Yes, there were five tries scored in a 33-point victory to ensure a Heineken Cup quarter final, but Leinster set demanding standards for themselves, so we should question them when they don’t hit those targets.
The handling last night was sloppy, contributing to a slightly worrying 25 turnovers conceded. There was a lack of mutual understanding between the players at times too, minor miscommunications and some lack of sympathy in the passing.
The tries through Healy and Jordi Murphy were excellent, and it was a shame that O’Connor’s men couldn’t produce further direct, high-tempo passages of attack like those ones.
Luke Fitzgerald is Ireland’s most in-form wing
If not our most in-form player. The 26-year-old is having a fantastic season and goes from strength to strength with each passing game. Fitzgerald is developing into the world-class talent that so many knowledgeable commentators have long-expected him to become.
The former Naomh Olafs man looks close to unstoppable right now and marking him must be a nightmare. Sometimes rugby is the most simple game, and Leinster would have been well-rewarded by getting the ball into Fitzgerald’s hands as often as possible last night.
When they did, he beat four defenders and ran for 66 metres of gains. Again, the wing’s form bodes well for Ireland and Fitzgerald surely cannot be left out for the Scotland clash.
A ‘circus’ of a game
Jimmy Gopperth heads to the blood bin before reappearing with a stylish scrum cap. ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan.
Matt O’Connor put Leinster’s inability to enjoy a free-flowing game down to the “circus” of a match at the RDS. That description immediately brings to mind a suggestion that he found something clownish about the evening, and the Australian touched upon his issue with his side’s five-day turnaround after beating Castres.
The incessant pauses for red cards, penalty tries and other less obvious reasons by Romain Poite were unhelpful to the fluidity of the occasion, although the referee was simply adhering to protocols. Either way, it was an often unmemorable five-try victory and Leinster fans will hope there are better performances to come. We wouldn’t bet against that.
What were the key points from last night’s victory in your opinion? Let us know by leaving a comment below.