Sunday, September 8, 2013

Leinster, Munster, the Dragons and the Springboks bring the pain!

 Brendan Macken (picture

Leinster were up and running again on Friday night in Wales against the Scarlets, in a match I kind of fancied them to lose. Losing their first match of the season is a great Leinster tradition these days. They went in at the break behind, and then came storming back to hand the Scarlets a bit of a thrashing. Their running game is up and running again, and there is a lot of graft before the flair is brought out. The loose trio, and in particular Devon Toner put in a lot of solid work. I was well impressed by Jack McGrath too, he looks to be developing in the mold of another Cian Healy. In the backs, Gopperth showed he hasn’t come to Leinster to sit on the bench and collect a pay packet, Brendan Macken had a great match, and Darragh Fanning is going to provide some interesting competition on the wing.  Leinster have a lot to work on, but not too shabby a start. The Scarlets have a lot of work to do, but most teams are rusty first out.

Ulster were certainly rusty, didn’t see it but the comments from the Ulster fans weren’t too complimentary. The Dragons can be tricky enough at home, and it hasn’t hurt Leinster starting slowly.

Munster beat Edinburgh convincingly, Ronan O'Mahony, JJ Hanrahan and Dave O'Callaghan caught my eye. Their attack is working well, but they conceded a couple of very soft tries too, so their defense needs to improve, which I’m sure it will over the season. Connacht got off to a good start with a win over Zebre.

In Hamilton, the Pumas did a lot better than expected, opening the scoring and gaining dominance over the AB’s in a few areas, notably in the scrum. Lobbe makes a huge difference to their team, and they must fancy a win against Australia now. The All Blacks weren’t at full strength, debutant Francis Saili started slowly then came roaring into the game.  New Zealand are amazingly efficient at turning opportunities into points, and could always score when they needed to. Their biggest concern now is the fitness of Ritchie McCaw.

In Brisbane, the Springboks broke a 40 year losing streak to record their best ever away victory against Australia. It was a close match until the last half hour. Then, in theory, South Africa’s big forwards would run out of steam and Australia would have a chance. Well, the opposite happened – the Wallabies didn’t have much steam to start with and had a power failure for the last half hour. The Boks bench is so strong the pack can keep going for 80 now, and they have the backs with the skills and confidence to rack up big totals now. South Africa are real contenders for the title this year, and I for one, CANNOT wait for the AB’s match. The Wallabies are in disarray – no physicality, no confidence, no plan. It’s going to be a tough road back for them, and Argentina next week isn’t necessarily going to be the turning point either.

RaboDirect PRO12
Scarlets 19 - 42 Leinster 
Glasgow 22 - 15 Cardiff Blues 
Newport Gwent D'gons 15 - 8 Ulster
Connacht 25 - 16 Zebre 
Benetton Treviso 19 - 24 Ospreys 
Munster 34 - 23 Edinburgh 

Rugby Championship
New Zealand 28 - 13 Argentina 
Australia 12 - 38 South Africa

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