5 talking points after Leinster suffer disappointing loss to Harlequins

Forcing passes, a poor performance overall, Harlequins backing themselves and Madigan’s kicking.

O’Connor’s men poor again

LEINSTER WON’T BE happy with their performance in London as they lost 24-18, stunted as it was by several poor decisions, some sloppy handling and a general lack of urgency until Isaac Boss looked to threaten around the fringes in the closing quarter.

Leinster players dejected after the game Leinster trudge off at the Stoop. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

There were flashes of attacking ability, as for Jimmy Gopperth’s half-break and offload in the first half, but when the pressure came on after the break, the Kiwi out-half dropped deeper and played into the hands of the ‘Quins rush defence.

Ian Madigan was excellent off the tee, but if Leinster are to progress further than the pool stages of the Champions Cup, their use of possession will need to be more clinical. Big ball carriers are being missed close to the gainline.

Leinster forcing passes

Leinster fans might have been encouraged to see their team shifting the ball into wide channels in the first half, but those efforts were a little forced if truth be told.

Rob Kearney fumed at Darragh Fanning for not taking a switch down the right in the first half, the fullback’s pass to Gordon D’Arcy slipped into touch and then Fanning spilled another Kearney tap-on in the opening 40.

It just never clicked for O’Connor’s men close to the touchline, and the Aseli Tikoirotuma intercept try came in that wide-right channel. Of course, the former Chiefs wing deserves credit for reading Kearney’s intention to pass to Zane Kirchner.

‘Quins back themselves

A crucial moment in this encounter from Harlequins’ point of view was the decision to go to the corner in the lead-up to Nick Easter’s 53rd-minute try. Trailing 12-9 at that point, Conor O’Shea’s side opted not to kick at goal from wide on the left.

Aseli Tikoirotuma breaks free to score their second try Aseli Tikoirotuma scorched away for an intercept try. Source: Andrew Fosker/INPHO

Instead, they went to the corner and then battered the Leinster tryline until O’Connor’s defence cracked and Easter stretched through Jack McGrath’s tackle to score. That decision spoke volumes of ‘Quins’ composure in closing out the game.

While an intercept try goes against the run of play by its very nature, it was the English side who made the smarter calls under pressure in the second half. Chris Robshaw was an important leader on his 200th appearance for Harlequins.

Madigan’s kicking remains a strength

As in the away victory against Castres back in October, all of Leinster’s points came from the boot of Ian Madigan. This time, however, the result was negative. Playing at inside centre, Madigan’s involvements were largely centred around the tee.

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Having such an assured place-kicker is of some comfort for Leinster, but Madigan’s attacking ability is getting limited opportunity to flourish. He had a handful of sharp passes, but barely managed to threaten the gainline.

The debate will rage on, but one again Leinster’s lack of creative spark when they needed them late on was apparent. That said, intermittent issues at the scrum and some poor decision making at the base of the rucks meant Leinster’s backs didn’t always have a favourable platform.

‘Quins top Pool 2

With three wins from three, O’Shea’s men are top of Pool 2 and will now look to back up that positive start with a win on the road in Ireland. Leinster at the Aviva are often a different beast, but Harlequins won’t have been in awe of the province this evening.

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 17.25.39 Source: EPCR Rugby

Topping the group is far from out of reach for Leinster and a win next weekend would bring them straight back into contention. Matt O’Connor mentioned the importance of Leinster’s losing bonus point post-match, while O’Shea’s pointed out that this is simply half time.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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