Josh van der Flier
Leinster and Ulster got the Irish derbies going on Friday night. And we got to see the best and worst of Leinster again. There is lot more intensity, and lot more urgency from Leinster, and thankfully the scrum managed to hold together, and even dominate at times. And you can see Sexton starting to ease into his role, exerting the control that he used to have. But there’s the bad as well, you’d have to be 8 foot tall to catch some of Reddan’s passes, and then just our handling and keeping your head – how did Ben Te’o not score? Still, we got the win, against an Ulster side that defended well and tried really hard to make up for last week. Fitzgerald is on fire at the moment, and van der Flier is just hungry for work. Ulster meanwhile, have a lot of talent, a lot of experienced players, but just seem to be struggling to pull a pattern of play together.
After that intense, low scoring affair, the action moved to Thomond Park for the visit of Connacht to take on Munster. For 29 years, there’s only been one result, it had to change one day, and this Saturday it did. On paper, Munster are way way stronger – Irish, Australian, Argentinian and All Black internationals, versus a team of decent but not (mostly) outstanding players. You have to hand it to Pat Lam, as he said – that win started on the training ground, everyone knows what their role is, and they carry it out. That enabled them to retain the ball so impressively, and make space when they needed to. You’d still be scratching your head as to how such a physical side like Munster didn’t dominate Connacht in the collisions. And where in Ireland can we find a turnover machine that the Southern Hemisphere seem to churn out all the time – Munster could so badly do with that. Also, I’m a bit like a broken record, but they’ve been persisting with Keatley forever, and it’s not working – he’s an inconsistent play maker – give someone else a chance, and stick with them. Whatever Munster’s deficiencies were though, you can’t take away from Connacht who just deserved that win all day long.
Edinburgh 32 - 13 Dragons
Glasgow Warriors 13 - 6 Benetton Treviso
Leinster 8 - 3 Ulster
Saturday, November 28
Ospreys 13 - 6 Cardiff Blues
Munster 12 - 18 Connacht