What can the Leinster and Ireland managers learn from games against the Ospreys and USA in which the result was never really in doubt?
Leinster beat the Ospreys 52-7 and at one point is seemed assured that they would keep the visitors scoreless, such was their dominance. The Leinster academy players all put in good shifts including debutant Scott Penny, who picked up a try.
Ireland took longer to exert their dominance. USA scored two tries in the first half, keeping in touch with the home side for a while. At 14-14 it looked like they might be tough to shake off.
Unfortunately for the game as a spectacle, their second try was their last score of the game, and really their last time in possession in the Irish half. The game ended 57-14.
Leo Cullen was able to take a good look at some of his younger players. The conveyor belt of talent does not seem to be running out. The possession (61%) and territory (62%) statistics show that the home side dominated this game.
He will be happy with the result, but it won’t provide too many lessons for his team to learn from. The Ospreys were simply not up to the standard, shorn of the majority of their first team players, who were on International duty.
Scott Fardy, as expected, lead as a captain. His deft side step through a weak Ospreys defensive line allowed him to set up the games first try, Conor O’Brien touching down.
Scott Penny, Nick McCarthy, Scott Fardy, Ed Byrne, Max Deegan and Bryan Byrne all scored tries. Ciarán Frawley converted all the tries and also took three points from a penalty early on. The only response was a Hanno Dirkson try in the last play of the game, converted by Sam Davies.
There was a lot of commentary about the omission of Jordan Larmour from the squad for last night’s game. Has he been dropped? Is he injured? Why won’t they tell us?
I think the right question is: Did he show enough in his outings against Italy and Argentina to cement his place as Rob Kearney’s back up? The answer is yes, but he has some things to work on.
Including Will Addison as full back was a stroke of genius by Joe Schmidt. Full back is a position you need strength in depth, given that they are called upon to attempt one of the more dangerous tasks in rugby union multiple times per game – the fielding of high balls, both in defence and attack.
It is not unusual for injuries to result from this activity, and Joe has a good selection of players to choose from. Rob Kearney is out in front with Joey Carberry likely to start on the bench as cover.
It was interesting that Joey did not slot into the full back position last night when Ross Byrne came on. Despite what the commentary team said, he went to the left wing and Addison stayed at fifteen. Presumably Joe wanted to keep the less experienced player there to assess him.
I was glad to see Andrew Conway score a hat trick and win man of the match. His omission from the earlier games of the series was an oversight, as he is a quality player and his form is excellent. He faces a tough battle to make the World Cup squad, possibly missing out on Six Nations game unless injuries give him a chance.
He took his tries well and was unselfish twice, taking a tackle and getting an offload in, although Luke McGrath’s try was called back by the TMO for an earlier forward pass. Conway is a team player, skilful, but on the fringe. Just as Larmour used the Italy game to put his hand up, Conway used last night’s performance to try to give his boss a selection headache.
Back to the Day Job
So we have made it through the November International series and everybody is happy. A few worrying injuries along the way, but the replacements showed that if a man comes out of the line, his replacement is so well-drilled, that there is little or no loss in performance.
Jack Conan had his arm in a sling after last night’s game and Robbie Henshaw and Dan Leavy are still not available for selection. But the victories have given Ireland and the provinces a feeling of confidence that the fringe can do as good a job as those injured.
The Spring will bring Conor Murray back into the squad, finally recovered from injury. At least we hope it will. With tricky games away to Scotland and Wales, we need his experience in those games if we want to retain the championship.
December approaches fast with two tasty European weekends fast approaching. We play Bath away in the Rec and at home at the Aviva Stadium the following week, both Saturday afternoon, prime-time matches. It feels like Santa Claus is delivering early, although we will wait until the results are in the bag before calling that one.
Leo has a short enough period to work the international players back into the mix. We play away to Dragons next week. Sexton and Kearney may be available but Ringrose will surely get the weekend off. Five more points and an unassailable lead in our conference is the target.