Leinster 21 – Edinburgh 13
Well that was interesting! And not interesting in that it was a great match to watch. Interesting in terms of seeing how far off Leinster are from competing at the highest level. Harsh? I don’t think so. Leinster failed to play as a cohesive unit and put meaningful phases together. The team looked rudderless at times and didn’t show any flair or execute some tactical plays to get over the try line. Leo Cullen mentioned during the week that he and the coaching staff had been focusing on preparing the Leinster team to be more “ruthless” following the disappointing defeat to the Cheetahs last weekend. I didn’t see that tonight, it was more toothless than ruthless!
Harsh? We lost three line outs in a row and got turned over in Edinburgh’s 22 on 8 occasions, 4 of which when we were parked on their try line. It doesn’t bode well when you begin to realise what the next five weeks have in store for us! Those five weeks involve the following; Munster at the Aviva, Montpellier at the RDS, Glasgow away, Ulster away, and Glasgow away again!!
If Leinster was a person and was a friend of mine, I would definitely be saying something to him/her along the lines of “are you alright, you’re not yourself lately. Is there something wrong or something on your mind? Do you want to talk about it?” What I’m trying to say is that I’m quite worried about Leinster, it’s not like this squad to look so shabby and unprepared for a match, especially a match at home in the RDS where they’re world renowned for putting out excellent performances.
No matter what is going on with the squad, I’m sure there is a fix for it. Sure, we’ve seen Leinster perform badly before, it’s not the first time we as supporters have been left feeling frustrated after a match. The big question on my mind is this. Will Leinster learn from this game? I presume they can, but will they? They should, there’s a lot to learn surely, look at the amount of mistakes! The theory of cognitive dissonance comes to mind here. The term cognitive dissonance is used to describe the feelings of discomfort that result from holding two conflicting beliefs. When there is a difference between beliefs or behaviours, something must change in order to eliminate or reduce the dissonance. Like the supporters, I’m sure the Leinster players are sharing the feeling that they want to succeed but they just cant transfer that feeling & need for success into impressive and convincing performances. The belief isn’t flowing into actions and the actions aren’t backed with belief. There’s a conflict there and I think Leo and co need to take a good look at that. We all know that Leinster has one of, if not the best squad in Europe. Yet, this squad with all it’s immense talent almost got turned over by a lack lustre Edinburgh side. Towards the end of last season, Leinster started to suffer similarly from what we saw on the pitch against Edinburgh. The issue in my opinion is not skill based, it’s a mental issue. Great teams don’t go bad overnight but the mental issues certainly still appear to be haunting the team. There is a mental rot that is affecting some of the players and it’s resulting in a very low standard of rugby on the pitch. Harsh? Well, I think harsh words are warranted after this game, there’s no time to be biting tongues and carefully choosing words. Yes, we still won the game by the skin of our teeth but is that good enough? Remember the upcoming fixtures I mentioned earlier. The harsh words are needed now while the issues can hopefully be mended, not in one or two weeks’ time when it could well be far too late.
Leinster scored three fine tries to Edinburgh’s one. The try that Edinburgh got was born of a bad pass which ended up gifting an intercept try. This put Leinster on the back foot and required calm heads and strong direction to get themselves back into the game. This didn’t appear to happen for quite a while but as the second half unfolded, you could certainly see more ambition coming from boys in blue. They took great strides towards the 22 on many occasions and even camped on the Edinburgh try line on a few occasions, but the lads just couldn’t get that ball over the white wash. Even Fardy caught a wonderful cross-field kick from man of the match Sexton and dived over the line, only to drop the ball before grounding it. Other attempts ended in players getting turned over in rucks close to the line or Sean Cronin spilling the ball as he tried to recycle it in contact. Regardless of the intent and ambition, the finishing ability from 1-23 (bar Sexton) was very weak, and is very worrying. It was only when Max Deegan, Ed Byrne and Jamison Gobson Park came that it looked like we could maybe get another score on the board. And we did, Max Deegan defied the laws of physics to collect a high flying cross field kick from Ross Byrne which hurtled towards the try line, and Gibson Park did the rest from close range.
Sexton pulled the strings and lead the team extremely well during his time on the pitch. His first game back from injury was a master class and he was very well deserving of his man of the match award. You could see however that he was very frustrated and grumpy throughout the match, but sure we all know that he’s at his best when he’s a grump! I for one absolutely love seeing his tenacity and passion on display in every single match he plays.
Anyway, the job is done, Leinster came away with three tries and ultimately won the match. Are there lessons to be learned from the match? Well here’s what Leo Cullen had to say after the game:
“I was concerned for sure, and I was concerned in the preparations”.
“It was a lot of really what we expected. Very abrasive, hard to play against team. Caused us some problems and when we give away the intercept we dig ourselves into a bit of a hole and we had to fight to get out. We were very inaccurate across the board but it’s a win and it was important to get back to winning ways today.”
“When you have a lot of players coming in for their first game against guys who have been playing five/six games it’s always challenging and you never know how they’re going to go in the first game of the season. Nothing beats playing and also the fact our preparations for this game wasn’t ideal when you travel back and some of us get back in on Monday off a very long flight.
“We were very inaccurate today, we had so many chances to score tries. We dropped the ball over the line and struggled to recycle the ball a metre from the line. A serious case of white-line fever on a couple of occasions but we got the win. It would have been nice to get a fourth try but we didn’t. I thought we scrambled well at various stages and we fought well for each other.”
“We looked a bit disjointed and missed a couple of calls which is unusual for us because I haven’t seen that in a while. It’s definitely a cause for concern but that Edinburgh team have caused us problems in the past. We talked about their threat there and we’ll work hard over the next few weeks.”
“Huge game next week against Munster, who will put up a huge physical challenge. They base so much of their game on that. Two huge weeks for our set-piece but with guys coming back in, we will get better. We will get better.”
It’s heartening that Cullen has realised that there were issues and he sounds like he’s quite concerned about them. This is great news! He knows that the game against Munster will be even tougher than this game and as a result, the level of our performance will need to be raised significantly. Lets hope that he can transform this team into a very assertive, ambitious and confident unit next week. We’ll need every man to be on point if we want to come out of the Aviva on top. I for one will be cheering them on to glory!