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Saturday May 4, 2024

Leinster player ratings - crisis averted but questions remain

Leinster Rugby secured their third successive trip to the Investec Champions Cup final with a nervy 20 – 17 win over a resurgent Northampton Saints.

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Racing into a 20 – 3 lead, the Dublin-based side was in full control for the opening 50 minutes before the wheels fell off.

Despite concerning 14 unanswered points the home side did knuckle down and closed out the match and will now regroup and refocus on either Toulouse or Harlequins in the upcoming final.

15. Ciaran Frawley – 7

He had some great moments as a second distributor when the Leinster pack was on top and put in some crucial kicks when his team was under pressure. Defensively, he is solid but lacks the top-end speed of a Hugo Keenan, which led to him being slightly exposed by the electric Saints outside backs.

14. Jordan Larmour – 6

Always busy but not quite as effective as his outing against La Rochelle with ball in hand. In terms of the Nienaber defensive system, he was not the only one to be found wanting, but the Saints got around the corner on his side on several occasions.

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13. Robbie Henshaw – 6

Continues to do a solid job but the reality is that Garry Ringrose is a significantly better option in the 13 shirt for both province and country. His rush in defence was hit-and-miss in terms of completing tackles. When it worked, it was highly effective, but when it missed, it put his outside backs under pressure. In attack, like the rest of the backline, he had some strong moments when the pack were in the ascendancy but struggled throughout the second half as the Saints came back into the proceedings.

12. Jamie Osborne – 8

The 22-year-old is the complete package and put himself about physically today. Utilising his huge kicking game to great effect, Leinster relieved mountains of pressure at crucial points. Should Garry Ringrose return for the final, then Osborne should remain alongside him, which says a lot given Henshaw’s pedigree.

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11. James Lowe – 9

Three tries says it all, Lowe is the key finisher for Leinster this season and just knows where to be at the right moments. Defensively, he is very strong in the tackle but, like Larmour was caught out of position a couple of times by the intricate Saints attack.

10. Ross Byrne – 6

Very much a game manager once again, Byrne facilitates for those around him but poses little threat as an attacker. Interestingly, this was shown following a break where the Saint’s defence stood off him, but he didn’t quite have the pace to finish it off. From the boot, he was unusually sporadic, which ultimately kept the Saints in the game as he left 7 points behind.

9. Jamison Gibson-Park – 9

Another immaculate performance, and the fact that he went the full 80 minutes, highlights his importance to the side. Setting up his long-time pal Lowe for a try with a clever slap of the ball shows his ability to think outside the box whilst his box-kicking and sniping runs were on point.

8. Caelan Doris (c) – 7

The skipper led from the front and performed a vital link role as a passing option, with the Saint’s defence being hyper-aware of his carrying ability. One area that will concern him, along with the rest of the pack, was their relative switching off with 25 minutes to play.

7. Josh van der Flier – 7

He was a livewire whilst he was on for 50 minutes as he routinely disrupted the Saint’s breakdown with crucial interventions. In the carry, he had some great moments but also a couple of uncharacteristic mistakes (a key drop as Leinster were in the ascendancy before halftime).

6. Ryan Baird – 8

The pick of the bunch, Baird finally feels like he is starting to scratch the surface of his immense potential and seemingly has at least one huge open field break per match. His ability at the line-out was exceptional, and his athleticism when it comes to competing for highballs is off the charts.

5. Joe McCarthy – 7

A physical beast who pops up with a big carry in close quarters at the most opportune of times, but his biggest strength is an uncanny ability to blow up a ruck.

4. Ross Molony – 6

The line-out always functions better with Leinster’s ‘Mr Consistent’, what he lacks in physical carries, Molony makes up for in doing the basics exceptionally well. Defensively he put in some key tackles and was a key part of Leinster’s routine slowing of the Saints rucking game.

3. Tadhg Furlong – 7

Getting back to his best as a ball-playing option with some big rumbles into the heart of the Saint’s defence. One significant area of concern that remains for the whole Leinster front row is their consistency at scrum time which was evident from the first effort where the Saints won a penalty.

2. Dan Sheehan – 6

He was uncharacteristically quiet, with some handling errors sprinkled in, and most concerning was his trademark runs were absent. On a plus note, his line-out throwing was on point following a sustained run of concern in this department.

1. Andrew Porter – 6

Industrious but not as effective as usual in the carry and the scrum was once again a real area of concern with several penalties being conceded on his side in the first half. To his credit, he did resolve the issues and got on top as his time on the pitch wore on.

Replacements: 16. Ronan Kelleher (5), 17. Cian Healy (5), 18. Michael Ala’alatoa (6), 19. Jason Jenkins (6), 20. Jack Conan (6), 21. Luke McGrath (N/A), 22. Harry Byrne (N/A), 23. Jimmy O’Brien (N/A)

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