First things first, Sunday’s 28-0 victory over Connacht at Moher Road was far from a vintage display from Leinster.
The game lacked a little intensity for long periods, on a heavy, clammy day in Ballinasloe, neither side seemed to be able to find their mojo for long periods but Leinster were that bit stronger, that bit more focused and a lot more resilient than their opponents and that was the difference.
There is something about this Leinster squad that makes them more formidable than last season. Let’s not forget, it took a vintage display from Munster last year to topple them at Grove Island and Ben Martin played a key role in that, so they weren’t far off but the men in red were in at a different point in their development this time last year.
Caption: Action from Sunday’s clash in Ballinasloe. Pic: Voicu Duma, full gallery here.
This squad of players feel they are due a title but crucially, they are not playing with a sense of entitlement and that’s important. Sunday’s win was workmanlike, disciplined and defensively flawless.
For Dave Mahon, Niall Moran and Brett Igoe the challenges have been there in the build up, even last week, a string of injuries led to a number of changes but the depth of the squad was clear to all after this one. Cathal Bannon, Adrian Hanley and Barry Stewart up front along with Daniel Pim and Stephen McGee out wide all came into the squad and performing very well.
Then there was the strength of the bench. Cill Dara pair Damien Broughall and Conor McCormack both made telling impacts in the second half but the replacements all had a role to play in the third quarter drive to the bonus point.
The opening try was cleverly worked after some good forward pressure, patience and a neat offloading game paid off with Stewart timing a perfect pop pass out of the tackle to the ever reliable Killian Everard from Kilkenny. Bill Duggan’s boot had them 13-0 ahead.
The first hour of the game was well contested with Connacht defending well and offering glimpses of their best but despite a spirited effort from the westerners the confidence was lacking after the Round 1 loss in Ulster.
The finish underlined a fine all round display. Coolmine’s openside David Gilchrist has been a standout player for Leinster in both games so far and his try came from a skillful offload by the on song Niall Smullen in the second row.
Ben Swindlehurst’s score came from an intercept and was well finished by the Newbridge man while the fourth and final score came after McCormack was driven over.
That all sets up this Sunday’s trip to Dromore nicely as the Leinster side look to complete the Grand Slam and Ulster look for the win that will give them the title despite a heartbreaking loss in Munster last weekend. A showpiece finale.