It was a weekend that promised so much. There was so much positivity going in that Munster are back to their fighting best and Leinster are silky smooth with an appetite for a scrap and Saracens along with Clermont would be pushed to the point of possibly losing.
Well 50% of that happened. I watch the Munster match on the big screen thinking that this is where the fight would be. Thinking that Saracens would be flustered by the aggression, the skill and the belief that Munster have shown for most of this season. And absolutely none of that happened. The scene was set, Lansdowne road was red and in massive voice as usual. You couldn’t squeeze another Munster person into that stadium. They did their bit.
The players on the other hand, looked flat and a bit worried about the occasion. The group I was with (while admittedly all blue) were hoping for a big red win. Whilst they may be the enemy, there is always respect for Munster from the Blue side of the island. But the goodwill did nothing on the pitch. The talisman CJ Stander looked to be nursing an injury, but still put himself about the pitch with guts very few have. The team itself showed guts, but not a lot of belief or skill. Saracens are a good team, I can’t say great due to my massive dislike for them. But they probably are great, unfortunately. At the end of the day, Munster didn’t show up. They didn’t believe they could show up and had as many ideas as me during maths paper 1.
In fairness, I send out congratulations to every single Munster supporter who stood and applauded Andy and Owen Farrell when they walked into the pub after the match. Absolute class from you all.
But Sunday was another day.
I woke up positive. I thought Clermont wouldn’t have the gas tank for 80 minutes and Leinster have shown some serious class this season.
Then the game started. Where was Leinster? It was hard to miss them in the bright yellow kit, but they may as well have been invisible. For 32 minutes Clermont looked like the team with 3 Heineken cups. Easy through tackles, sexy offloads and hits that would knock down an RSJ (builder joke that made myself laugh).
Then momentum shifted, word got to the pitch that keeping the oval thing might be a good idea. Run the Clermont team around the pitch and the holes would open. And it worked. The last score of the half was blue and there were more than a few Clermont players blowing so hard that the first 4 rows in the stadium passed out due to oxygen deprivation. Momentum was definitely shifting; Clermont needed half time worse than you need a Kebab after a night out.
9 points in the opening 15 minutes of the second half showed that the Leinster team had made a few mental changes and where bossing the game. Slowly and methodically strangling Clermont. Believing that the points where there and at 80 minutes they would have put the Frenchmen away. Leinster where bossing the team as they should have started. Clermont didn’t have any ideas and where never going to score a try. Their heads where down. And then it happened, Lopez stepped up and sank a beaut of a drop goal. Absolute top notch. A play that Parra didn’t have the balls to take on plenty of occasions. It was a brief moment of brilliance from Clermont in the second half. In fact there were only 2. Both from the boot of Lopez. At 65 minutes and 72 minutes, he halted momentum and won it for his team. Leinster still thought they could win it, the restart after the drop goal was absolutely imperative to win and it was set up nicely for the chasing pack to win, but it was lost and with that the match. And with that the chance to take on Saracens.
Coming away from this game is tough. Leinster started off like I do on a Monday morning, that being very slowly. It cost them dearly. Clermont didn’t have the gas, but they had 15 points. A Leinster disallowed try didn’t help, but it was a foul. If the jerseys where reversed and Clermont did it then the blue army would be up in arms.
So what now? Well I have been watching that Ringrose try on repeat all day. What a play. He kept the head down much like his predecessor also did. He did it knowing that players are scared to tackle when the body position is low. He showed riverdance like quick feet and acceleration that Usain Bolt would be jealous of, a slight overreaction sure, but let me have this moment. The future is massively bright for Ringrose and Leinster. A summer in green and not red will be fantastic for the lad.
The league beckons; raising the trophy in Lansdowne is the only way the season can end. Anything else is a failure. That brings a pressure in itself.
Blue v Red in Lansdowne?
50% of that is a certainty, 50% needs to find the spirit that has served them over the years.
As usual, @nkeegan on twitter and @kdubdd on instagram.