Following a 23-14 victory for Leinster over Leicester Tigers in their Champions Cup fixture, here’s our five takeaways from the match at Welford Road on Saturday.
The top line
This was a thriller, a match played with breakneck commitment, at full volume and in front of a full house. Leinster won 23-14 in the end, continuing a regal run of form as they continue on their quest to win their double of the URC and Champions Cup.
In the first 40 minutes, they did enough to see themselves home, with Jamison Gibson-Park, Hugo Keenan and Josh van der Flier absolutely outstanding in effort, and crucially, intuitive in understanding in attack.
At no point did Tigers ever look more than doughty triers, despite a much improved second half showing. They lacked the clout and composure in the exposed areas of the gainline to make anything more than a fixable dent in Leinster’s defence, whilst every time the Irish side had their opportunity, the flurry of blows from their heavyweight internationals caused enough structural damage that eventually Leicester crumbled.
Nothing in rugby is more important than real gas.
Whether in foot, mind or hand, speed is the differentiator that separates the good from the great and here at Welford Road, Leinster were playing rugby at a totally different tempo of thought and deed than Tigers.
Despite an absolutely frenetic opening 10 minutes, Gibson-Park, Keenan and James Lowe epitomised everything of pace, whilst Van der Flier and Caelan Doris had half a yard of reaction and impact over their opposite numbers, whether it be in contact, in carry or in catch.
Every loose ball, Leinster appeared to be there a fraction faster. Every restart, they gained an advantage though swiftness of reaction, and in terms of the kick and chase, there was only ever one winner.
In a game expected to be won and lost through power, pace was the winner.
Tigers’ DOR Steve Borthwick has pinned a lot on getting the basics of rugby right when nurturing this young team back to rude health. However, today was one of those afternoons where the basics deserted them. Whether it be in mistimed restart chases, kick defence, lineout or blindside defence, Leicester lacked accuracy and meaningful control of areas that they believed were their bankers before kick-off.
Gibson-Park and Lowe’s effectiveness in effective control of the restart was a crucial factor in this match – time and time again their almost telepathic understanding allowed them to create space around the touchline to give Gibson-Park himself and Keenan the ability to run some big metres back.
Tigers lacked the variety of thought and sleight of hand to break down what amounts to an international defence. In the first half, their running tactics appeared to consist solely of ‘run at Johnny Sexton’ whilst the second half saw a change up, as they switched almost exclusively to ‘give it to Nemani Nadolo’, and despite a monumental effort in the last 30, errors and a lack of accuracy cost them time and time again.
It was a hard learning curve that showed the difference between a top Premiership team and a side that boasted 15 top quality current internationals.
A game in a game
With Julian Montoya less than his usual reliable self at lineout time, the Tigers only area of marginal superiority was at the scrum, where Ellis Genge and Dan Cole had the number of the Irish props, with the battle between Genge and Tadhg Furlong one for the purists – a brilliant tussle of technique and power that just about went Genge’s way.
Genge got around or under Furlong, sometimes legally, sometimes illegally, as his sheer willpower and desire almost created a match changing point of difference for his team. On the other side, Cole showed again that he’s the best tighthead in England, as he gave the powerful Andrew Porter the hardest day possible since the Irishman’s return from his ankle injury. In the end, Mathieu Raynal was almost tossing a coin in terms of illegality, but on the day, Tigers and Genge will be proud of the way their front-row turned up.
Leinster today looked like a team at the peak of their powers. You could almost argue that save one or two players, they’re ranked 4th in the world at Test level, such is the number of Irish stars in their ranks. They’re a side at the upslope to their full maturity, comfortable in their skin as winners, and looking to take more silverware as they continue to rise to their peak.
Teams with that history and experience win games such as this, it’s as simple as that.
For Leicester, as they emerge as a new breed of Tiger, they’ll learn from experiences such as today, tasting the bitter taste of loss in a game that they should have performed better in. Winning is a habit, winning close sudden death matches is an art form and today was a harsh lesson for a proud club slowly coming back to their best.
READ MORE: Leinster show Champions Cup title credentials with impressive victory over Leicester
The article Champions Cup: Five takeaways from Leicester v Leinster as the Irishmen display their experience and class appeared first on Planetrugby.com.