Tag Archives: David McSharry

Heineken Cup Round-Up

Gloucester 23-19 Connacht

Saturday 17th December @ Kingsholm

Connacht's defence let them down at the death. Photo via Eoin Gardiner.

Connacht came so, so close to ending their miserable run of defeats but were denied as Gloucester replacement Johnny May scored a try with only four minutes remaining. This was a much improved showing from the Heineken Cup minnows and they will be devastated to have left this one behind them. In doing so, they have now recorded a club record 10th defeat in a row. If they can match this performance at Kingsholm in the coming weeks, that run will finally come to an end.

Connacht scored one lovely try after Frank Murphy intercepted Gloucester flyer Charlie Sharples’ pass. The scrumhalf offloaded to Gavin Duffy who then popped the ball back inside to Murphy. George Naoupu took Murphy’s second offload and looked to be clear, but was hauled down metres short of the tryline. He had the awareness to pop the ball off the deck to the supporting Tiernan O’Halloran who dotted down. Niall O’Connor converted that try and added four penalties over the course of the 80 minutes.

For Gloucester, outhalf Tim Taylor scored a try, conversion and penalty in the first half before being replaced by Freddie Burns at the break. Burns knocked over two penalties as well as the conversion after May’s late try. The match looked to have gone Connacht’s way when O’Connor was successful with a penalty 8 minutes from time to leave his side 19-16 up. But a weak missed tackle by substitute hooker Adrian Flavin allowed May to break through the Connacht line and use his pace to go all the way.

There are certainly positives Connacht can take from this defeat. O’Connor was vastly better than the previous weekend. His kicking from hand was exquisite at times. Along with O’Halloran, Eoin Griffin and David McSharry there is obvious potential in the Connacht backline. Clearly, forwards coach Dan McFarland spent a lot of the week running up to this game working on set pieces as Connacht were greatly improved at the scrum and lineout. There were far fewer individual errors too, but as we saw with May’s late try, even one mistake can have fatal consequences.

Here’s a look at Pool 6 after the weekend’s action:

Aironi 20-46 Ulster

17th December @ Stadio Brianteo

Ian Humphreys kicked 12 points in Italy. Photo via M+MD.

Ulster scored 6 tries as they overcame a second-half resurgence from Aironi to leave Italy with a five crucial points. Brian McLaughlin’s charges dominated the opening half to lead 27-3 at the break through tries from Andrew Trimble, Tom Court and a penalty try after a fantastic rolling maul was dragged down by the Aironi pack. Ian Humphreys converted all three tries and tacked on two penalties as well.

Ulster came out from the half-time interval in a less than convincing manner and allowed the Italians back into the game through their own sloppy play. Aironi scored two tries through wing Sinoti Sinoti and substitute Roberto Quartaroli. Luciano Orquera converted one of the tries to bring the game back to 27-15. Ulster were finally stirred into action and Craig Gilroy was on hand to finish a good team move which secured the bonus point.

Aironi then went over for another try when replacement back-row George Biagi took Quartaroli’s offload close to the line to go over untouched. But Ulster confirmed the win with late scores from South African Robbie Diack and sub Adam Macklin. Ruan Pienaar added two conversions in the second half to leave Ulster with a 46-20 win.

These five points keep Ulster at the top of Pool 4. The pool is wide open following Leicester’s win over Clermont, with all three sides still competing to top the group or secure a best placed runners-up spot. Ulster host Leicester in January in a must-win game. If they can do that and then secure a losing bonus point away to Clermont, it could be enough to see them through as a best placed runner-up. However, even though there are only two rounds of pool games left, nothing is decided. That’s the beauty of the Heineken Cup.

Here’s how Pool 4 stands after last weekend:

Here’s the Ulster tries against Aironi. This is a playlist, so just let each one play through and you’ll be able to select the next try:

And here’s the highlights from the other game in Pool 4 on Saturday between Leicester and Clermont:

Leinster 52-27 Bath

Saturday 17th December @ Aviva Stadium

Devin Toner had a great game for Leinster. Photo via M+MD.

Leinster scored 7 tries as they hammered a far inferior Bath side in front of a big crowd at the Avia. You can read the full match report here. At times, Leinster were just sensational and if they can consistently match the heights they hit at times on Saturday then no team will beat them. With such a strong squad too, it is hard to see injuries affecting Leinster too much. Still, there’s a long way to go before the business end of this competition.

Leinster are looking comfortable now at the top of Pool 3 and should secure a home quarter final with wins over Glasgow and Montpellier in the final two rounds of pool fixtures. Joe Schmidt will certainly head into Christmas in positive form after this win, although he was frustrated by how his team switched off for the closing quarter of the game. It is a measure of this Leinster squad that they will find negatives after a win like this.

Here’s how Pool 3 looks following the action over the weekend:

And here’s the highlights from Leinster’s win over Bath:

Munster 19-13 Scarlets

Sunday 18th December @ Thomond Park

O'Gara was crucial for Munster yet again. Photo via M+MD.

Munster had another hard-fought win on Sunday. They’ve now won 4 from 4 in Pool 1. It was a case of more of the same from Munster as O’Gara kicked 14 of the points and James Coughlan touched down at the back of a rolling maul. The Scarlets were threatening in patches but once again lacked the accuracy to finish off the breaks they made. They scored a try of their own through substitute prop Ken Owens. Rhys Priestland kicked a conversion and a penalty while Stephen Jones added a penalty of his own.

Tony McGahan was happy with another win but admitted to being disappointed with the performance from Munster. Regardless, Munster are now very well positioned to go on and secure a home quarter-final. They’re 4 points clear of the Scarlets at the top of Pool 1 and next up are a Castres side who have lost all interest in this competition. McGahan will hope to secure Munster’s first bonus point win in that game.

Here’s Pool 1 after four rounds of action:

Anyone who missed Munster vs. Scarlets can watch the entire match over on the TG4 Player. Just click on ‘Sport’ under the ‘Archive’ menu then select ‘Rugbai Corn Heineken’.

Photos courtesy:  Eoin Gardiner, M+MD.

Four on Form

RaboDirect PRO12 Round 10 Matches

With all four of the Irish provinces in action last weekend, we once again look at four Irish players who stood out in their provinces’ matches. Leinster had a big win over Cardiff, Ulster beat the Scarlets, Connacht narrowly lost at home to Treviso and Munster were beaten by the Ospreys. So who are this week’s Four on Form?

Stephen Ferris

Ferris featured in Four on Form three weeks ago after Ulster’s Heineken Cup win over Clermont and the world-class blindside is back again this week after his performance against the Scarlets last Friday night. Ferris was his usual self, making massive ground for his side and putting in his usual amounts of big hits. His two tries were the difference for Ulster as they won 24-17.

Ferris’ first try was a simple enough finish after Paul Marshall had done all the hard work. Still, the try did showcase Ferris’ pace as he beat the covering defender on the outside. It’s nigh on impossible to stop Ferris from five metres out with the amount of space he had. The Scarlets defence, with one man in the bin, had no chance.

Ferris’ pace was again on display for his superb second try. From a lineout on the left-hand side, Ian Humphreys skipped to Darren Cave who hit Ferris in the wide right-hand channel. Ferris took the ball just as he crossed the Scarlets ten metre line. Rhodri Williams looked to have Ferris covered but the young replacement made the mistake of going in high on Ferris. The Irish international slammed Williams into the ground with a huge fend, then stepped the shameful covering tackle of Viliame Iongi.

Yet another top-quality display from Ferris who is becoming more and more indispensable to this Ulster side. They will expect another big game from him this Friday in the Heineken Cup when they entertain Aironi at Ravenhill.

Check out both of Ferris’ tries over in our RaboDirect Round-Up from last weekend.

David Kearney

Kearney makes a break against Glasgow earlier in the season. Photo via M+MD

Kearney has impressed for Leinster every time he has been given an opportunity by Joe Schmidt this season. In last weekend’s 52-9 win over Cardiff Kearney went over for two tries to top off an accomplished and hugely promising performance. And while Kearney clearly has the potential to improve, it is also clear that he is already playing at a high enough level to be in competition for Leinster’s Heineken Cup squad.

In Leinster’s win over the Blues on Friday night, Kearney was easily the best winger on the pitch. He completely outshone the Welsh international wing Tom James as well as his teammate Fionn Carr. Kearney has played a good deal of his rugby at full-back and like his older brother, he is very comfortable under any ball kicked his way. Kearney is not afraid to come off his wing in search of the ball either. With these attributes allied to his pace and finishing ability, Kearney is a dangerous player.

His two tries on Friday night displayed some of Kearney’s qualities. The first came as he touched down from a Jonathan Sexton dink over the Cardiff defence, showing good awareness to get up flat for the kick. The second showcased his work-rate, pace and nose for the tryline. The Irish Wolfhounds international did brilliantly to pick from the tackled Isa Nacewa and break two tackles to dive over, especially considering the lung-busting run he had made in support of Sean Cronin’s initial break.

Kearney will now hope he can break into Leinster’s match-day squad for the Heineken Cup and pick up where he left off. Intermittent appearances in the PRO12 may not be enough for a player of Kearney’s undoubted talent. Leinster have a lot of competition in their squad for the two wing positions and Kearney will have to continue to seize every chance he gets.

You can see Kearney’s tries in the RaboDirect Round-Up too.

Paul Marshall

When Ruan Pienaar injured his hamstring against the Scarlets back on the 29th of October, Ulster fans could be forgiven for thinking that their side would be seriously weakened until the South African scrumhalf returned from injury. However, while Brian McLaughlin’s side have missed the World Cup winner’s experience, the form of his replacement Paul Marshall has heavily softened that blow.

Marshall put in another energetic display for Ulster as they beat the Scarlets on Friday. The 26-year-old was a live-wire all night for Ulster and his service was as crisp as usual. Marshall also showcased his sniping ability as he made several clean breaks around the fringes of rucks. Despite weighing in at only 79kg, Marshall never shirks his defensive responsibilities either.

His break for the first Stephen Ferris try was an obvious highlight of the entire match. Marshall is always on the look-out for holes at the edges of rucks and after spotting one down the Scarlets’ blindside he didn’t need to be asked twice. His chip over the last defender was sublime and he was unlucky to be caught from behind. The Ulster Academy graduate then showed great presence of mind to throw the ball back towards his team-mates.

With Pienaar now back from that injury, Marshall was replaced by the South African with just under a quarter of the match remaining. With Aironi visiting Ravenhill on Friday night, it would be cruel for Marshall to be dropped. However, it would be madness for McLaughlin to leave the star that is Pienaar on the bench for such an important match. Pienaar has experience at outhalf and it might be worth McLaughlin’s while considering replacing the inconsistent Ian Humphreys rather than dropping the in-form Marshall.

David McSharry

While Connacht have been on a run of defeats that now stands at eight-in-a-row, their 21-year-old centre McSharry has put in string of strong performances which bely his lack of experience. The Dublin-born McSharry joined Connacht from the Leinster Academy at the start of this season and the move has paid off handsomely as the Irish underage international has become one of Connacht’s most important players.

The 94kg centre was part of the Ireland U20 World Cup squad which travelled to Argentina in 2010, alongside his current team-mate Eoin Griffin. Last season, McSharry was playing for UCD in the Ulster Bank League where he did enough to convince Eric Elwood that he could step up a level. Elwood’s punt on McSharry has been fully rewarded with a series of confident, physical performances leading up to McSharry being named Man of the Match last Friday as Connacht lost at home to Treviso.

McSharry went over for his first try for Connacht in that game, showing his strength to burst through several defenders. The centre is one of Connacht’s only potent threats in a backline that has failed to ignite so far this season. In defense McSharry is already a leader for Connacht, always physical in the tackle and hard-working too. Even against the likes of Toulouse in the Heineken Cup, McSharry’s defensive efforts have stood out.

It’s a bad time for Connacht rugby fans right now. With the aforementioned run of defeats leading into a difficult-looking double header with Gloucester in the Heineken Cup, there are not too many positives for them to grasp at. McSharry is certainly one of them and news this week that he and Eoin Griffin have extended their contracts until 2014 will be a big boost for the western province.

Photos courtesy: Jukka Zitting, M+MD