Cheetahs 38 – Leinster 19
Well that was not what any of us were expecting! The Cheetahs come away with 5 points and Leinster leave with nothing. Credit to the Cheetahs, they performed with huge intensity and took the game to Leinster. The offloading techniques and slick ball handling rattled Leinster from 1-80 minutes and they broke us down well. The persistent attacking onslaught eventually took it’s toll on the Pro14’s best defensive team and in the end, they showed a lot more skill, hunger, passion and ambition to win the match. The mental strength in the Leinster squad is in need of some work as they don’t yet have the skills to manage high pressure environments.
The Cheetahs were clinical in every facet of the game and capitalised fully on every error made by Leinster, and there were quite a few!! Leinster lacked organisation and when patience was required, they opted for panic ball tactics which ended up with turnovers and penalties against them. Isa Nacewa left the field of play early on through injury so Rory O’Loughlin was sprung from the bench to take over the 13 position. His loss was felt straight away as the team looked rudderless at times and seriously needed some leaders to calm the team and take the game by the scruff of the neck.
The only good thing about this match was Barry Daly’s hat trick performance. He was excellent both in defense and attack, and deserved the results he got for that display. There were a lot of decent individual performances but very little team and group cohesion which essentially brought about our downfall.
The game started well with both teams attacking well. After two minutes however, Leinster leaked a silly penalty which Cheetahs’ out half kicked for 3 points. A further three kickable penalties were awarded to Cheetahs during the first half but it was Barry Daly who scored the first try of the night after 5 minutes. Ross Byrne had a difficult day from the kicking tee and missed the conversion and a penalty shortly afterwards. The Cheetahs went on to dominate almost all facets of the game and seemed to grow stronger as the match wore on. The altitude may have had a negative impact on the fitness of the Leinster team as they looked to weaken as the first half got closer to 40 minutes.
I felt that Leinster would do the usual ie; have a quick chat at half time, sort out the ill discipline issues and come out in the second half with a new found intensity that would blow the opposition away. The reality was that Leinster did indeed improve but it was forced on them as the Cheetahs scored a couple more tries to extend a heavy lead. Once Leinster switched on and started playing rugby, they started putting some really great phases togehter which sent Barry Daly in for another two tries. The effort from Leinster in the final quarter was admirable and great to watch, but it was ultimately too late.
We got within 12 points of the Cheetahs with 10 minutes to go and one more try would have gotten us a bonus point, but a late intercept try ended any hopes of that and the home side secured a bonus point win.
The result was great for the new Pro14 format but awful for Leinster. You could see clearly that a lot of work is still required within the squad as they seemed to lose cohesion when pressure was applied. I was pretty certain that Leinster would win this game comfortably and even secure a winning bonus point but I was so so wrong.
Onward and upward for the boys in blue. As long as they learn from this performance which was embarrassing at times, then it’s not all lost for us. We face Edinburgh at the RDS next week and we should hopefully witness a much improved performance.