Planet Rugby

Streetwise Leinster make Glasgow pay

31st May 2014 21:35


leone nakarawa glasgow warriors leinster pro12 final

All-action: Leone Nakarawa

Outplayed by a Leinster team who have been here before, defeat will sting for Glasgow Warriors. All, however, is far from lost.

It all turned in an instant. Early in the second half, with the Warriors on the attack, the white jerseys pounding the Leinster line and just two points separating the teams on the scoreboard, things went pear-shaped.

Niko Matawalu, ever the free spirit, chose to stoop low as a glimpse of the whitewash lured him in like a mermaid of the deep, forcing himself under the blue wall in a feat of physics even his own impossibly supple Fijian frame could not negotiate. It was the wrong option.

The ball was lost, snaffled and swallowed up by the burly Blues, and with so many in visiting ranks flooding the blind side or attacking the ruck, Jimmy Gopperth did what scores of Kiwi fly-halves have done before. He played what was in front of him.

As the glorious Dublin sunshine cast the shadow of his own uprights across his path, Leinster's lynchpin broke from deep. The home crowd, realising with an almost comical sense of disbelief that no defenders blocked his route, roared their approval.

Gopperth seared downfield, slaloming this way and that, and finding support on his shoulders. The outstanding Sean Cronin, the combative Gordon D'Arcy and the slick Ian Madigan were all on hand. Leinster went some eighty metres from where the pivot first collected possession, and though they did not score from that particular move, the tone was set for the final quarter.

It was, in truth, the difference between the two sides in microcosm.

Matawalu's ill-advised lunge was as close as Glasgow would come to a try. Indeed, with the game in the balance, the decision to introduce the maverick at the expense of the cool head and grittiness of Chris Cusiter so early on proved costly.

The Fijian, in tandem with countryman Leone Nakarawa, is a genius with the ball in his grasp, but all too often at the RDS, the magician flirted with the suicidal. He wasn't the only one of his team-mates to do so.

Inexplicably, Glasgow chose to do things the hard way, throwing the ball around with abandon and discarding all pretence of the pragmatic, controlled and indeed composed style through which they had racked up nine wins on the trot heading into Saturday's showpiece.

The Island duo will always clutch the pill in one hand; wave it wildly about the heads, behind the backs and below the knees of their opposition, before delivering an offload most of us - including, sometimes, the recipient - don't realise is on.

But that is not, for instance, the default style of Ryan Grant or Peter Murchie, just two of those guilty of forcing play and letting slip their offensive discipline. And so mistakes crept in. Silly passes were thrown and then dropped. Josh Strauss spilled possession more often than I have ever seen since he swapped Johannesburg for Glasgow.

Was it panic setting in? Did the hitherto unflappable Warriors feel the pressure of the final, the weight of expectation back home? I'm not sure I agree. Earlier in the season, this Glasgow team won at a packed Ravenhill and an admittedly flat Thomond Park precisely by sticking to their game-plan and performing the basics with consistent excellence.

It seemed more a case of naivety, a sense that even though the scores were tight and the clock on their side, the onus was on the Warriors to make something happen.

Meanwhile, Leinster did what Leinster do. Their squad may lack the venerable appearance of old, but this team have been in more big matches and won more silverware than their Glasgow counterparts have spent nights on Sauchiehall Street.

Zane Kirchner, one of the line-breaking, try-scoring stars of the show, is a Springbok of some 28 Tests. In his trophy cabinet lurk two Super Rugby medals, and a Currie Cup gong; the stuff of dreams for the Warriors, whose resources pale in comparison.

The tries Leinster scored were, for a squad that prides itself on defence, undeniably soft. The home pack made inroads with far too much ease for Kirchner's opener. A tackle was slipped and a simple inside ball set free for Shane Jennings' on the stroke of half-time. A lineout misfired chronically in the lead-up to Cian Healy's disallowed effort, before a combination of fatigue and lethargy from the visitors and ruthlessness from the hosts saw Matt O'Connor's men dot down twice more in the closing minutes.

It was injury rather than Glasgow that put a damper of Brian O'Driscoll's farewell bash, and though failure at the final hurdle will sting, a steadily maturing - and most importantly, heavily Scottish - side and their rookie coach, Gregor Townsend, can take comfort from another stellar season, and the knowledge that they are on the cusp.

For the first time in what seems an eternity, Scottish rugby has a smile on its face.

By Jamie Lyall

Forthcoming Fixtures
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 19
Gloucester vs Exeter19:45
Saturday , September 20
Sale vs London Welsh14:00
London Irish vs Saracens15:00
Harlequins vs Wasps15:00
Bath vs Leicester15:15
Sunday , September 21
Newcastle vs Northampton14:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 19
Munster vs Zebre19:30
Cardiff Blues vs Ulster19:35
Connacht vs Leinster19:35
Saturday , September 20
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Glasgow14:40
Scarlets vs Benetton Treviso18:00
Sunday , September 21
Ospreys vs Edinburgh16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , September 19
Brive vs Toulon18:00
Saturday , September 20
Racing Metro Paris vs Toulouse18:00
La Rochelle vs Bordeaux-Begles18:00
Clermont Auvergne vs Lyon18:00
Castres vs Oyonnax18:00
Grenoble vs Bayonne18:00
Montpellier vs Stade Francais18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 19
Lions vs Pumas19:10
Saturday , September 20
Western Province vs Griquas15:00
Blue Bulls vs Sharks17:05
Eastern Province Kings vs Cheetahs19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
Wednesday, September 17
Southland vs TasmanSouthland vs Tasman Preview
Thursday , September 18
Northland vs Taranaki19:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 14
Wasps 20 - 16 NorthamptonWasps vs Northampton Report
Newcastle 18 - 20 London IrishNewcastle vs London Irish Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Cardiff Blues 12 - 33 GlasgowCardiff Blues vs Glasgow Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Bordeaux-Begles 27 - 21 MontpellierBordeaux-Begles vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
Waikato 26 - 21 Counties ManukauWaikato vs Counties Manukau Report
Hawkes Bay 41 - 0 Otago
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 13
Gloucester 34 - 27 Sale SharksGloucester vs Sale Sharks Report
Bath 53 - 26 London WelshBath vs London Welsh Report
Exeter 20 - 24 LeicesterExeter vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Rugby Championship
New Zealand 14 - 10 South AfricaNew Zealand vs South Africa Report
Australia 32 - 25 ArgentinaAustralia vs Argentina Report
More Rugby Championship results
Guinness PRO12
Leinster 42 - 12 ScarletsLeinster vs Scarlets Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Toulouse 9 - 13 Clermont AuvergneToulouse vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Racing Metro Paris 28 - 11 LyonRacing Metro Paris vs Lyon Report
Bayonne 23 - 6 Brive
Oyonnax 40 - 27 Grenoble
Toulon 24 - 28 Stade FrancaisToulon vs Stade Francais Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Griquas 31 - 27 PumasGriquas vs Pumas Report
Cheetahs 30 - 30 SharksCheetahs vs Sharks Report
Lions 35 - 33 Western ProvinceLions vs Western Province Report
More Currie Cup results
Bay Of Plenty 12 - 27 AucklandBay Of Plenty vs Auckland Report
Southland 36 - 34 Northland
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 12
Harlequins 0 - 39 SaracensHarlequins vs Saracens Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Benetton Treviso 10 - 21 MunsterBenetton Treviso vs Munster Report
Newport Gwent D'gons 15 - 17 Ospreys
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership Table
3Leicester Tigers29