Could the inexperience in Ulster’s backline prove the difference? asks Keego…
Last weekend was a rollercoaster of emotions.
With thanks to @jameschew14 (give him a follow) I was sitting in the south stand in the RDS a row in front of big Mal watching Leinster decimate Stade Francais. This was how we thought the game would go. As soon as Mad-dog scored after 3 minutes after a move that cut the opposition to shreds we all knew how this was going to go. I could see the heads drop on the Stade players, well all the players bar Sergio Parisse. If Stade want to compete at the highest level of European rugby they will need to close their 8. He was trying to single handedly hold out Leinster. It was very impressive to watch, but ultimately futile.
When the Stade players heads dropped Leinster heads went even further …..Up. There was a 5 minute spell where the foot was taken off the gas, but it was a dominant performance from the second best team in Europe. The place was so packed, that some former players weren’t able to get tickets. I was surprised to see Mal in the south stand with us commoners.
The selection for this game was brave. I think we all picked a team close to the one I wrote about last week. The one positive about the injuries that faced Leinster in the early part of the season is that 52 players in total have played in blue this season. This meant that they could step into a final situation with minimal pressure and perform at a high level.
It was great to see Isa and Sexton raise the trophy; it was even greater to see them raise it to their team mates before turning to face the crowd. It is quite obvious that Sexto doesn’t want to go anywhere. Knowing that doesn’t make it easier though ….
Then it was into the final in Lansdowne. 4 rows from the pitch had me close enough to hear the collisions. It was absolutely insane. I would not run at Bastaraud if I was in my jeep. He is a big lump of humanity that moves like a lightweight boxer. I did pick Toulon from the outset, I had said previously said that I think Clérmont had let things get to their head. They were rattled by a lacklustre, but brave, Munster team in the semi final, and if Toulon could stick with them for 40-50 minutes I thought that they would win. The second half was a great spectacle. The longer it went on, the more I wished that the blue team was in the game.
Now we move on to this Saturday and the Rabo Super Direct Cider 12 final in the RDS. Ulster is coming to the 4tress. Ulster is quite similar to Clermont in that they have not been able to handle any sort of pressure in 2 years. In the Heineken cup semi final against Edinburgh they looked horrible; they collapsed in the final against Leinster. They did the exact same thing against Saracens this year in the Heineken Cup. It will be interesting to see how they manage the game. Afoa is a doubt with a hamstring injury; if he is gone they may as well hand over the medals ahead of time. Ulster have some great young players, Olding looks to be absolute class. But with every Olding they have a Gilroy or a Jackson, who seem to get rattled in the big occasion. That may be because they are both 14 years of age! There is a huge amount of pressure being put on the younger players; this may well turn out to be Ulster’s downfall. Ulster sending back 500 tickets during the week may also mean that some supporters feel the same way.
Whatever happens this will hopefully be a cracking game to finish off the season. Leinster to win in the last 20 minutes.
In closing, just a quick message to Warren Gatland (we all know he reads HoR), please refrain from ruling out Leinster players without consulting the team doctor. He has been having a higher dose than usual of the crazy juice.
I hope you all have a ticket for Saturday. It should be a good one.
Until next week…
Keego (@nkeegan): Blogger, former professional wrestler, sometime attempted rugby player (@TheThirsty3rds), professional procrastinator and attempted musician with a fondness for long walks on the bar, tea and the couch. Opinionated Leinster fan and constant gardener.