It is justifiable to fear for the future of the Rabo Direct Pro 12 in it’s current guise on nights like we saw on Saturday as Leinster easily dispatched Connacht 17-0, writes Rob Murphy
A sold out RDS and a live television audience were made sit through a turgid affair between a second string Leinster and a full strength Connacht side that just couldn’t score against them.
The result was the same as it always is and you have to wonder if that worries anyone?
Leinster will front up for six games each season in this competition and that’s usually enough to get to the play offs.
Connacht cause the odd big upset at home, pick up a few points off sides in the lower half the table as well and that’s usually enough to get the pats on the back.
- Caption: Connacht supporters have had their good days this year, like watching their team’s 34-6 home win over Leinster in September, is that enough to keep them coming back? Pic: Jonathan Curran Sporting Occasions.
Everything just stays the same in the Pro12, season after season, nothing changes, the Heineken Cup has illuminated the problem for us in the west as it has give us a taste of real rugby. Intense, edge of your seat, front up or get hammered, rugby. That’s non existent the Rabo and in the Challenge Cup, at least until the semi final stages of each competition.
Rugby as a sport just isn’t interesting at a reduced tempo with nothing at stake and teams like Connacht really do offer little or nothing once bodies aren’t on the line and a ‘win or bust’ mentality isn’t prevalent.
There was no sense of entitlement in Connacht’s play on Saturday, no evidence that they had looked at a Leinster team sheet made up largely of their A squad from the British and Irish Cup and said ‘we’re better than these guys, by some distance’.
They respected their opponents – the blue jersey and the venue – played it like any other Leinster game and the result was the same as it ever was. Line breaks were made but nothing came from them due to poor support play, poor ball protection in the tackle and handling errors, so many handling errors. Nine in the first 30 minutes.
It was cold and windy at the RDS, and the rugby was somewhat exciting early doors but by half time with Leinster leading 7-0 thanks to a try from their only attack playing into a strong wind, the game was clearly a dour affair and inevitable heading towards a home win.
The RaboDirect Pro12 is competition in dire need of a overhaul. The big teams can put out a second string team for 60% of games, the weaker teams from Italy and Scotland can focus on the Heineken Cup and ignore it while Connacht need to make it a priority but have little or no hope of achieving anything in it.
Connacht’s one and only objective in this competition is to try and finish ahead of another Irish province and qualify automatically for the following season’s Heineken Cup. It’s ten years and 30 games since they won away at another Irish province, so as long as that continues, they are not going to come anywhere close to that goal.
This season, they’ve been ‘nilled; twice on their travels within the island at Ulster and now here but that’s made all the worse by the fact that Leinster rested 13 front line players for this encounter. The key question afterwards was whether or not this was a low point in the season? We asked Eric Elwood.
“People got to understand. It’s extremely difficult here, we don’t have a good record away to Leinster. It’s disappointing that after 30 minutes that we have nothing on the board having dominated. Then they go up the field, ricocheted off a few tackles and got in for a try off a quick tap penalty.”
So there you have it, this wasn’t a shambles or a total disaster, it was one that got away after a promising start. Connacht believed they could win on Saturday if the chances were turned it to points and the defence held firm. They came close. It didn’t happen, lets learn from it and move on.
Connacht’s Ten Year Away Inter-pro Record
|12 - 13||Leinster||Lost||17||0|
|12 - 13||Ulster||Lost||25||0|
|11 - 12||Leinster||Lost||30||20|
|11 - 12||Ulster||Lost||22||3|
|11 - 12||Munster||Lost||24||9|
|10 - 11||Leinster||Lost||30||8|
|10 - 11||Ulster||Lost||27||16|
|10 - 11||Munster||Lost||22||6|
|09 - 10||Munster||Lost||35||3|
|09 - 10||Leinster||Lost||17||14|
|09 - 10||Ulster||Lost||41||10|
|08 - 09||Ulster||Lost||53||10|
|08 - 09||Leinster||Lost||26||18|
|08 - 09||Munster||Lost||25||10|
|07 - 08||Leinster||Lost||29||9|
|07 - 08||Munster||Lost||17||0|
|07 - 08||Ulster||Lost||18||6|
|06 - 07||Munster||Lost||13||0|
|06 - 07||Ulster||Lost||20||10|
|06 - 07||Leinster||Lost||30||21|
|05 - 06||Ulster||Lost||36||10|
|05 - 06||Munster||Lost||36||17|
|05 - 06||Leinster||Lost||16||13|
|04 - 05||Munster||Drawn||27||27|
|04 - 05||Leinster||Lost||18||9|
|04 - 05||Ulster||Lost||23||14|
|03 - 04||Leinster||Lost||21||6|
|03 - 04||Ulster||Lost||42||27|
|03 - 04||Munster||Lost||39||10|
|02 - 03||Munster||Lost||33||3|
|02 - 03||Leinster||Won||23||26|
Leinster led 7-0 at the break thanks to a direct and cohesive attack that took them into the 22 with Fergus McFadden to the fore before Madigan caught the visitors cold with a quick tap penalty to score and convert the game’s opening try for a 7-0 half time lead turning with the wind.
The only area where Connacht held any advantage was the front row and it provided a rare high point after half time on 54 minutes when Denis Buckley got the better of Michael Bent in a Leinster scrum five metres from the Connacht line to force a turnover.
A penalty followed and Connacht cleared only for the lineout to misfire to hand the possession right back. Leinster then secured a penalty on the second phase from the scrum with Andrew Browne going in off his feet and the gap was up to 10-0.
That all but finished the contest, Kieran Marmion underlined his class with two hair raising breaks in the closing stages that saw Connacht gain 30 plus metres each time but both breaks came to nothing, the second ended with no Connacht player realising they didn’t have a scrum half and Leinster easily turning over possession.
That incident encapsulated the overall performance from the visitors. The final try came after a poor piece of play from Parks when caught in two minds on the blind side with no support. His kick was blocked and the turnover gave Leinster a platform for a five minute attack that ended with a try from replacement Jack McGrath.
Next up for Connacht are the Dragons this Saturday at 5pm in the Sportsground. Second and third bottom coming face to face. In any other league this would have relegation implications but it doesn’t.
The Pro12 is a league with an exciting couple of weeks of play offs and a whole bunch of games that just feel meaningless. This was just another in the list.
To Win Just Once