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Sunday was an interesting sporting day of contrast. We had the ‘super derby Sunday’ of premier league football, the over marketed over hyped sporting let down that is the sky sports sponsored game. And we had another round of European rugby that had all of the Irish provinces in action, with things to prove.
I watched the football and I haven’t been that let down since my first trip to Funderland! Liverpool played Everton in Liverpool, but they are both from Liverpool but they have different teams. You get the idea! A thrilling 1 nil game was in progress, a game where no one was interested in going forward, taking responsibility to win or just being interested at all. The stadium appeared to lose the will to live at various points. It was all about getting the set piece, penalty etc. etc. It was pathetic to watch. Everton where awarded a penalty in the second half that was so childish it was laughable. As soon as the player felt a Liverpool player behind him, he hit the ground like he had been shot by Omar in Baltimore! A thrilling and tactical nouse filled game ended at 1-1.
The battle of Manchester followed. 2 teams, 1 city! The worst sequel to 2 girls 1 cup I have ever seen! The red team played like scared teenagers and the blue team played like they were only slightly less scared. Pathetic all around and I turned the TV off. Never to watch football again.
And now on to the rugby. Leinster played the Exeter Chiefs in sunny Exeter on Sunday night. It is still 1989 in Exeter, and I believe they just got dial up internet. But they have one serious team. Big, strong honest and skilful. The champions of England last year and they wanted to take the scalp of a rugby dynasty. Leinster came into town with their Irish players back in action, with form and with a great run of results behind them. But they knew this was the first big test of the season. Following on from the other provinces performing and winning it was down to Leinster to make the clean sweep.
Within 30 minutes there were 2 disallowed tries for the visitors which had me thinking it was going to be one of those days with massive intensity and skill but nothing to show for it. But in fairness to Leinster they stuck at it. Sometimes using some flowing rugby but mostly using the Exeter game against them. Being monsters all day and hammering the home red zone like it owed them money. There where multiple phases of 35+ plays which shows monster fitness as well as setting down a marker for the rest of the competition. No other team was putting in that kind of effort.
But Exeter remained in the game.in the championship minutes they stepped up a bit. Intensity raised and the match kicked into another gear. 53 minutes gone and a tiny lapse from Leinster allowed Exeter to show some flair, a great passage of play was finished off nicely. 10-8 at 54 minutes and the game was on. It was a skilful fight on the pitch with both teams standing on the line of the rulebook, which is how this game should be played. The home side battled bravely to keep Leinster out but Conan got over at 70 minutes with a hard work battle try. This lead to a great Leinster win 18-8. Not only did they leave with the points, but there was no bonus point for Exeter. A massive marker set down for the other teams.
As for the competition as a hole, the old guard appear to be in transition. Toulon and Saracens won’t hold the same fear as they have done in previous years. Munster demolished an old school Leicester team; Ulster had a great win against another rugby institution that is Harlequins. That game took place in snow that would have you suffering from hypothermia just watching. It was a great showing and the Irish contingent who came back looked like their time in green has bolstered their confidence which permeated through the team. The corner has been turned by Cooney at 10 too. Their season starts now.
Connacht also but in a massive shift in beating Brive by 7 points away.
So we go into the Christmas week with Irish rugby at a high. If a repeat of this weekend’s points haul happens, then the other teams with be looking at the Irish provinces like boxer looked at Tyson in the 80’s.
@nkeegan on twitter