You know things have got simply weird when you find yourself thinking a Leinster loss in a European Semi Final would be a good thing. All season they have suggested that a Quarter Final would be a gift, then they come within a few minutes and even less inches of overcoming Toulon to reach the final.
No, I wasn’t one of the nay sayers willing them to lose, but had Leinster made the final in such odds defying fashion it cannot be avoided that a hell of a lot of flack coming at them this season would have fallen away when realistically it needs to remain. Not with torches and pitchforks, not an “O’Connor Out” campaign, but Leinster need to return to the drawing board before the next season kicks off and reaching the final would have maybe nullified the desire to do so.
As for the game itself it somehow managed to be enthralling and lacklustre all at once. Toulon were certainly below par, until Steffan Armitage entered the fray that is, and Leinster showed more fight than we’ve seen in a long time. Ian Madigan is suffering greatly for the admittedly dreadful pass that led to Bryan Habana’s intercept and inevitably, the match, but as per usual Leinster shouldn’t be chalking a loss up to one incident. Once more they never once looked like scoring a try and dare I say it, Leinster’s biggest problem is that they’re starting to stagnate.
On Sunday the Leinster pack looked like Munster circa 2006, an absolutely massive performance with the set pieces immensely strong. They bullied the Toulon bruisers. Where Leinster have always been most dangerous though is out back but these days it’s nearly embarrassing when the ball reaches their back line. Headless chickens would be a compliment. This coming from Luke Fitzgerald, Ian Madigan, Fergus McFadden and Rob Kearney. Dave Kearney is being missed for sure but why in God’s name is the Leinster back line so starstruck this season? Forget all the other questions, the only consistency last weekend from everything Leinster have shown up to that point, is that their backs just can’t figure out how to do anything of any threat level.
The Pro 12 looks a distant shot now, that Semi Final was as close as can be to what the faithful want. Somewhere in the middle Leinster need to find a consistency that gets them back to their old winning ways.
Toulon 20 – 25 Leinster
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