Sunday 20 January 2013

Review of the provinces weekend

First weekend that all Irish Provinces win. Ever. That's something all Irish Rugby fans should be proud of.

Connacht just scraped through on Friday against Zebre, in what was a really boring match. It was hard to concentrate on it, and with Quins and Biarritz with slight relevance to the permutations.

However, from what I did see, Henshaw performed with confidence that one gets with their first call up to the national squad, and O'Hallorhan continued his great form. He can't be too far away.

Ulster also looked lethargic, but should be boosted by winning for the first time in France, especially with so many key players out; Nick Williams, Johann Muller, Dan Tuohy, Stephen Ferris, Tommy Bowe and Jared Payne. I can't help get the feeling that while that depth is impressive, if anything were to happen to Ruan Pienaar, they would really struggle.

Looking forward to the Heineken quarters for them, they have a great chance away to Saracens in the quarters and possibly hosting Toulon who were so bad against Montpeiller on Saturday or Leicester, who they've beaten before. A second final in a row is a likely possibility. Hopefully too, as I've tickets this year.

Munster looked a different team in the space of a week. It looked like they had the 13 changes. They went from being absolutely awful against a worse Edinburgh "team", to looking like world beaters today. People like Simon Zebo and Conor Murray finally stepped up. They showed that Penney's plan can work, and they looked dangerous at all times.

The have the potential for a great team with a core of young players stepping up, with Kilcoyne, Sherry, Ryan, O'Mahony, O'Donnell, Murray, Keatley and Zebo showing well today. They all need to be more consistent, which is the next challenge for these guys. And they have Stander, Butler and JJ Hanrahan in particular to come through. The future could be bright, but need more consistency. 

I've always thought the difference between a good player and a great player isn't how they are at the top of their game, it's what they are like when not on form. Conor Murray is a good player, who when playing badly, nearly becomes a liability. But someone like Zebo, or Heaslip, who has been getting a lot of criticism, still affects the games in a positive way when they are playing badly. Munster need their good young players to develop into these great players.

As for their European hopes, Quins aren't the toughest side left in the competition, but they have improved since Munsters last meeting with them. It'll be extremely tough, but not impossible. What is impossible, is for this Munster side to get a result against Clermont, in Clermont in the semi's were they to get there.

As for Leinster, It's a case of what could have been. From the lack of bonus points in their first two games, to not capitalising away to Clermont when the games was their. Hopefully they'll go for the Amlin, mostly because I also have tickets to that.

As for their match, they got the 4 tries, but it should have been more. It was like last week, in that they weren't as clinical as they needed to be, even coming away with the 4 tries. And the defence wasn't what it should have been, with Exeter still in the game themselves. 

I don't  know if that's a great team playing badly, or a bad team playing well for Leinster. They looked dangerous again, but rusty. And switched off too much to allow Exeter a chance to win the game with 5 minutes remaining.

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