LEINSTER HEAD COACH Matt O’Connor was positive in his assessment of out-half Ian Madigan’s performance during the 22-20 RaboDirect Pro12 win over Ulster at Ravenhill last night.
The 25-year-old Ireland international did not hit the heights he is capable of in an attacking sense, while three misses from the tee will have frustrated him after a season of above 80% place-kicking success.
O’Connor chose to focus on Madigan’s defensive contributions when asked for his initial thoughts on the number 10′s display.
“I thought Ian was alright. He would back himself to kick those goals that he missed. He would be disappointed by that, but I think he managed the front end of the game for us quite well.
We were in a pretty good spot until Tom [Court] got red carded, and that changed the dynamics. I thought things were going along well at that point, I thought he defended very well. They sent a lot of things down his channel and I thought he dealt with those brilliantly.”
While the disjointed nature of the game was not helpful, some Leinster fans will have been concerned by the lack of shape in the eastern province’s attack during certain spells of the game.
O’Connor alluded to as much in rating his side’s overall performance, although he was against positive on the subject.
“I thought we were pretty good by and large. I thought we defended pretty well. I thought we lacked a bit of structure, but that’s gonna happen relative to them doing their damnedest to hold on and do whatever it takes to not let you score tries.
“We’re always happy to come away with a win at Ravenhill. We’ve got a big opportunity next week at home against Edinburgh to control our destiny and put ourselves in a good position.”
Zebre’s win over the Ospreys on Thursday evening ensured that Ulster and Munster were nailed-on to join Leinster in the semi-finals of the competition, ensuring a majority Irish representation alongside Glasgow in the knock-out stages.
Former Australia international O’Connor believes that is a fair marker of where the Irish provinces currently stand in relation to their Pro12 rivals, with inter-provincial competition driving the progress.
Munster has driven Leinster to be good, Leinster’s driven Ulster to be good, and all the provinces are chasing each other, really keen to do well. I think they’re all running really good programmes, they’re all very, very passionate about their rugby and have great support bases.
“It’s a fantastic place for Irish rugby and the Pro12 is getting stronger and stronger. It’s really pleasing that there’s three strong Irish provinces.”
Finally, on a more negative note, O’Connor confirmed that the decision to withdraw Luke Fitzgerald from yesterday’s match-day squad had been made on Thursday evening. The flare-up of the wing’s groin/hip issue was the problem once again.
“I’m sick of talking about it. We’re trying to get to the bottom of it… it’s incredibly frustrating. He wants to play footy; we want him to play footy. End of.”
- Additional reporting by Sean Farrell.