RICHARDT STRAUSS MAY have been awarded the sponsors’ man-of-the-match but RTÉ reporter Michael Corcoran knows his rugby and knew who he wanted to speak to.
So, on RTÉ’s request, Luke Fitzgerald was presented for our televisual pleasure. The winger, who missed out on the Six Nations after succumbing to groin and abdominal injury niggles, scored a brace of tries in the left-hand corner as Leinster beat Zebre 27-0.
Fitzgerald’s face will certainly be sore in the morning as he took a forearm to the shrón in the first-half and fielded elbow-dropping cheap shots from the Italians after crossing for both of his scores. This game may have left some scratches and bruises but, for Fitzgerald, he was delighted to be back out and contributing again.
The tempo of the game was very slow, he admitted, but Leinster did not help themselves by making handling errors and ‘letting Zebre off the hook when we got into their 22′. “I did my best to get involved as much as I could,” he added, “I was lucky that the ball came my way a couple of times and I was able to dot down.”
Fitzgerald paid credit to Leinster captain Leo Cullen and experienced heads Shane Jennings and Eoin Reddan for refocusing the Blues’ efforts in the final half hour. With the score at 8-0, Fitzgerald finished off a sweeping move to settle both the home side and their fans. A second Fitzgerald score followed after fine play from Noel Reid in the Leinster backline. Jordi Murphy secured the bonus point after touching down at the rear of a steaming, rolling maul.
In the grand scheme, Fitzgerald reasoned, the extra point could prove crucial. Leinster boss Matt O’Connor paid credit to the 27-year-old’s resilience in coming back from yet another injury that dragged out longer than expected. Fitzgerald had played outside centre in the harrowing defeat to New Zealand but was jousting it out with provincial teammate for a starting role on the left week for the Six Nations opener, with Scotland, before he was laid low.
Fitzgerald said, “It has been a frustrating few weeks. I tried to push hard to come back and by pushing myself like that I cost myself the chance to get, I would like to think, into the [Ireland] matchday squads… It was frustrating to watch it unfold on TV but good to see the lads win; they fully deserved it.”