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Dublin: 12°C Friday 23 April 2021
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Half term report: Leinster doing just enough to stay in the hunt

It’s function over fashion around the RDS these days.

FRIDAY’S LOSS TO Munster marked the halfway point in Leinster’s Pro12 season. So it’s time to get the red biro out and run the rule over their campaign so far.

Overall record

Won 9. Lost 5. Drawn 1 (Fifth in Pro12, 2nd in Champions Cup pool).

High point

It has been a relatively tough season for Matt O’Connor, but the high points and positives to take from the first half of the season are that the eastern province are neck and neck at the top of their Champions Cup pool.

To that end, the home win over Wasps was arguably one of Leinster’s more complete performances this season. Though Leinster’s injury woes are obvious, that was a game that saw Jamie Heaslip proving that he’s more than capable of carrying his side over the gainline if asked to do the job.

Low Point

The 18 – 12 victory over an under-strength Ospreys captured Leinster’s season in a nut-shell. There was a win to celebrate, but only after this late November game (in the shadow of the joy surrounding Ireland’s series sweep) had inched past in frustratingly stop-start fashion.

Try of the season so far

Rhys Ruddock v Cardiff Blues (after 2.20 in the clip below).

Source: Leinster Rugby TV/YouTube

Player of the season so far

Ian Madigan: While the Blackrock boy is commonly lauded for his skills as a playmaker, he has been unable to make the Leinster backline hum this season. However, his mechanical kicking routine is incredibly impressive and that accuracy has so often proved to be the difference for Leinster in their biggest European games this season.

Breakthrough talent

Jack Conan: The powerful number eight made his debut in blue early in the year, but this season (perhaps aided to injuries above and beside him in the depth chart) he has seen more opportunities to make his presence felt in the first team and does not look an inch out of his depth.

Playing style

As captain, Heaslip was eager to stress how he felt that Leinster were now playing a less ‘robotic’ game under O’Connor with players given more license to play off the cuff. This may well be the case, however, the plan has rarely materialised in that free and easy rhythm. And while Leinster rightly point to their 28 tries as the best in the Pro12, they are level with Treviso as the side with the fewest tries in the European Cup.

LeinsterÕs Rob Kearney Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

In the away fixture against Harlequins, Leinster showed attacking ambition throughout with Jimmy Gopperth conspicuously operating very flat to his scrum-half. More often, though, the Kiwi (departing at the end of the season) has looked short on the confidence needed to run that style of gameplan and the uncertainty spreads to the kick-chase game and so to the rest of the side.

One thing to work on in 2015

Force out the unforced errors: Changing an out-half is not the solution for Leinster. For an attacking team to flourish, they must return to doing the basics well at every ruck and every collision. If they can come together, playing on the same page, then this group of players will always be incredibly effective.

Marks out of 10? 6.

‘Out goes the sledge, in comes the vice’: It’s the rugby quotes of the year

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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