Leinster registered the solitary win for the Irish provinces this weekend, and the feeling even then at the final whistle was one of relief rather than elation. Yes, they got a four try bonus point, but that’s not a fair reflection of the match, which Cardiff were in right until the end. Two big postives from the match were the form of Ruddock and Douglas. Ruddock goes from strength to strength, he’s impossibly hard to put down, and Douglas is exactly what we need, a big bruising, hard working lock. Tries from McGrath and D’Arcy made it look safe, but we have a habit of making things hard these days. Gopperth is not controlling the game well – too many aimless kicks, and speculative cross field kicks, one of which ultimately led to the try where Madigan spilled the ball. Then another quick try for the Blues, and suddenly Leinster were hanging on for dear life. Composure is not our signature anymore, nor is slick handling, but, at least we won.
Ulster paid the price for making too many changes, and underestimating Zebre, allowing the Italians to add to their handful of wins. And Glasgow didn’t have too much trouble putting away Connacht, pity they didn’t send their A team and have a good crack at the Scots.
Finally, Munster completed a woeful weekend for the Irish, conceding at home to a sharp looking Ospreys side. What’s worrying is that they outmuscled Munster, traditionally the home of prime Irish Beef. They are missing O’Mahoney, they are missing Varley, while Dougall and Butler together did less work than Stander. Behind them, Keately seemed to be reacting to the game rather than controlling it. Four weeks in, they still look undercooked. In fairness to the good play of the Ospreys, I don’t know if Leinster would have beaten them either though.
New Zealand wrapped up the Rugby Championship with a win over the Pumas, in a match they always had under control. Fekatoa had an awesome match, and the All Blacks showed how it’s done – massive carries, high tempo rugby which lets the gaps develop on their own.
In the earlier match, it took a late, late show from the Springboks to run out with a handsome win. It probably didn’t reflect the closeness of the match, and to me as soon as the Springboks had an experienced scrum half and experienced scrum half on, the match just flowed for them. I would absolutely start Reinhach and Lambie next week. Hougaard was superb, but he doesn’t play scrum half regularly. The Wallabies did a great job for the first 70 minutes, then just fell away. The Boks will be kicking themselves for the last minute loss to the Wallabies that would have kept this championship alive.
Saturday , September 27
Zebre 13 - 6 Ulster
Munster 14 - 19 Ospreys
Friday , September 26
Leinster 37 - 23 Cardiff Blues
Glasgow 39 - 21 Connacht
Edinburgh 20 - 20 Scarlets
Saturday , September 13
New Zealand 14 - 10 South Africa
Australia 32 - 25 Argentina