Tag Archives: Devin Toner

Thorn Arrives in Leinster

Thorn celebrating the All Blacks' World Cup win. (c) Geof Wilson.

World Cup winner Brad Thorn has finally arrived in Leinster, confirming the speculation. The 37-year-old joins the province on a three-month deal and bolsters their options in the second-row as they look to retain the Heineken Cup. The New Zealander has been playing club rugby with Japanese side Fukuoka Sanix Blues since the World Cup. The Japanese season has just finished, allowing Thorne to join Leinster on this short-term deal.

The 49-times capped All Black offers everything you could want from a short-term signing. His is a proven, world-class player who has won everywhere he’s been. He played a major part in his country winning the World Cup at the end of last year. He brings experience, a winning attitude and is match-fit. With Leo Cullen recovering from achilles surgery, Thorn’s leadership may also prove important.

Since Steven Sykes’ return to South Africa, with Cullen on the sidelines, Leinster have been a little stretched in the second-row. Devin Toner has been playing almost every game, with Damian Browne and Mark Flanagan the other options. The signing of Thorn will take some of the pressure off Toner. Overall, it looks like a brilliant signing for Leinster. Even in the unlikely event of Thorn not making an impact, Leinster have little to lose.

Here’s the big man on arrival in Dublin:

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Photo courtesy:  Geof Wilson.

PRO12 Preview: Leinster vs. Aironi

Luke Fitz is back for Leinster. (c) Art Widak.

Friday 2nd March, 18.00 (Italian TV)

Luke Fitzgerald makes a welcome return to the Leinster team tomorrow night having fully recovered from the neck injury that has kept him out for almost two months. Alongside him in the back-three is 20-year-old Andrew Conway,  just back from a spell on the sidelines himself. Fionn Carr, Ian Madigan and Brendan Macken all feature in an exciting backline. Shane Jennings captains the side from the back-row. It’s a heavyweight Leinster pack with the likes of Richardt Strauss, Rhys Ruddock and Nathan White all starting. With Isa Nacewa riding pine, it will be interesting to see Madigan take over on place-kicking duty.

Aironi have made four changes to the side which went down 10-9 to the Dragons last weekend following a last minute penalty try. Italy international Giulio Toniolatti comes in at fullback while Riccardo Pavan is selected on the right wing. Up front, injury rules out ex-Munster No.8 Nick Williams. As a result, 23-year-old Italian international Simone Favaro starts at 7, with Nicola Cattina and the experienced Josh Sole shuffling positions in the back-row. George Biagi replaces Joshua Furno in the second-row.

This is a bottom vs. top clash, with Leinster 11 points clear at the summit of the PRO12 table. Aironi are languishing at the foot of the table, 8 points behind 11th-placed Edinburgh. The Italian team have only won 3 games in the league this season, as well as losing all 6 of their Heineken Cup pool games. After last weekend’s 10-10 draw in Glasgow, this is a well-timed opportunity for Leinster to get back to winning ways. They should have far too much pace and ability for Aironi. Verdict: Bonus-point win for Leinster.

Aironi: 15 Giulio Toniolatti, 14 Riccardo Pavan, Roberto Quartaroli 13, 12 Gabriel Pizarro, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Naas Olivier, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Josh Sole, 7 Simone Favaro, 6 Nicola Cattina; 5 Carlo Del Fava, 4 George Biagi, 3 Lorenzo Romano, 2 Roberto Santamaria (cap), 1 Matias Aguero.                                         Subs: 16 Fabio Ongaro, 17 Alberto De Marchi , 18 Salvatore Perugini, 19 Redolfini Luca, Filippo Ferrarini 20, 21 Tyson Keats, 22 Luciano Orquera, 23 Gilberto Pavan.

Leinster: 15 Luke Fitzgerald, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Eoin O’Malley, 12 Brendan Macken, 11 Fionn Carr, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Rhys Ruddock, 7 Shane Jennings (capt.), 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Damian Browne, 3 Nathan White, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Heinke van der Merwe.                                Subs: 16 Aaron Dundon, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Leo Auva’a, 20 Dominic Ryan, 21 John Cooney, 22 Noel Reid, 23 Isa Nacewa.

Referee: Andrew Macpherson (Scotland).

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Photo copyright:  Art Widak.

Four on Form

(c) Jukka Zitting.

After an apt four week breakFour on Form is back. While the Six Nations has obviously been at the forefront of most rugby fans’ minds recently, the PRO12 continued last weekend. If you missed any of the action, you can find out how the provinces got on in our RaboDirect Round-Up. As always, Four on Form highlights four Irish players who were in top form over the weekend. This week’s edition is slightly longer than usual to make up for lost time! Do you agree with these selections? Which players do you think were more worthy of being highlighted? Feel free to comment at the bottom of the piece.

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Fergus McFadden

McFadden scored all of Leinster's points in their win over the Scarlets. (c) Ken Bohane.

McFadden is an obvious inclusion this week as he was quite literally the difference between Leinster winning and losing. His try, conversion and three penalties were the difference, with his penalty from 45 metres winning the game with the last play. Playing at inside centre, the 25-year-old looked very comfortable. McFadden has looked better on the occasions he has worn the 12 jersey this season.

While his pace can be effective in the 13 channel, McFadden is not the most naturally elusive or creative of players, so the directness often needed at 12 suits him. Joe Schmidt has clearly been working hard on McFadden’s distribution this season, and we saw another lovely skip pass from the centre which allowed Isa Nacewa to make a break in the first half.

McFadden’s footwork in traffic is also improving, as shown by the lovely sidestep he took to straighten his line for the try. The step forced Scott Williams into slipping, and McFadden’s pace allowed him to burst through the hole. He showed good strength to stretch over. On another occasion, a poor Isaac Boss pass put McFadden under pressure, but he showed quick feet to get out of traffic and offload. The signs are that McFadden is working hard to improve all aspects of his game, with the accuracy of his place-kicking another example.

This wasn’t a perfect display by McFadden. Just before half-time the centre shockingly knocked-on with Leinster attacking the Scarlets’ line. He got bounced off by the massive Ben Morgan too, in a manner reminiscent of the George North break against Ireland. At around 92kg, McFadden is not the biggest centre, but that’s not the reason for the two missed tackles, rather the height he tried to hit both ball carriers.

Despite those blips, this was a hugely effective performance from McFadden. He did all the basics well and showed that his game is suited to the inside centre position. With Gordon D’Arcy in decline, it’s time for Leinster and Ireland to put faith in McFadden.

McFadden’s key stats vs. Scarlets:

Kicking: 4/6     Points: 16      Kick/pass/run: 2/9/9     Defenders beaten: 3              Offloads: 1     Turnovers: 1     Tackles made/missed: 10/1

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Peter O’Mahony

Peter O'Mahony has another big game

POM had another big game against Treviso. (c) Ivan O'Riordan.

After warming the bench for the duration of Ireland’s clash with Wales, O’Mahony was back in action for Munster in their bonus point win over Treviso on Saturday. The back-rower played at openside and put in yet another strong effort for his province. While O’Mahony is undoubtedly more at home at 6 or 8, he showed signs that he can adapt his game to the demands of openside play.

Against Treviso, we saw much less of the 22-year-old in open play than we have become used to. His ball-carrying has been a real strength this season, but against Treviso, O’Mahony only managed 6 carries. Playing at openside, he had much more work to do at the breakdown and he hit rucks with his standard agression all afternoon. Defensively, O’Mahony made 3 turnovers, showing he has the ability to compete on the floor.

At the lineout, O’Mahony was superb at the tail. Munster repeatedly used him to secure clean ball, and his 6 takes were the most of any player on the pitch. His soft hands make him a good target. We also saw a brief glimpse of what O’Mahony can offer as an openside in attack as he linked well from Johne Murphy’s counter attack in the first half. O’Mahony trailed Murphy’s run, took the pass and offloaded to keep the ball moving.

O’Mahony’s more subtle skills are something that are often masked by his aggressive ball-carrying and combative nature. He possesses strong footballing skills, as shown by two lovely kicks against Treviso, the second showing good awareness of space behind the Italians’ defence. With the game won, O’Mahony eventually got to show off his strength in contact as he burst through three defenders in the final minute.

This was a promising demonstration of O’Mahony’s ability to play at openside for Munster. While it is not his natural game, and his ball-carrying suffered because of having to adapt, the Cork man showed up well. He is a superb talent and looks likely to thrive wherever he is played.

O’Mahony’s key stats vs. Treviso:

Minutes played: 80     Kick/pass/run: 2/4/6     Lineout takes: 6     Clean line-breaks: 1     Defenders beaten: 3     Turnovers: 3     Tackles made/missed: 6/0

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Devin Toner

Toner

Toner claims lineout ball against the Scarlets. (c) Ken Bohane.

Toner has assumed increasing importance for Leinster in recent times. With Leo Cullen out after achilles surgery and Steven Sykes’ stint with the province a disaster, Leinster have been short on second-row options. It’s no surprise that Toner has the most appearances of any Leinster player this season with 20. Brad Thorn’s imminent arrival will relieve some of the workload. However, all this playing time has resulted in rapid improvement, and Toner continued his fine form against the Scarlets.

At 6’10” Toner has always had difficulty with his ball-carrying. At that height, it is often easy for defenders to chop him down with low tackles. The 25-year-old does not seem put off though, and against the Scarlets he was Leinster’s top ball-carrier with 14, several of them very effective. From the kick-off, Toner showed good strength to bounce Josh Turnbull into the ground. In the second-half the Meath man displayed decent footwork to step inside a defender rushing up. Clear signs of improvement.

Toner is an obvious target at the lineout and Leinster relied heavily upon him in that regard, particularly as they chased the game in the second half. He proved up to the task with reliable handling, even in the rain. Defensively, Toner worked hard without particularly standing out. He had one or two opportunities to unload big hits on Scarlets’ outhalf Stephen Jones, but instead attempted choke tackles. A slightly more aggressive attitude to tackling would improve Toner’s effectiveness in defence.

With his height advantage, Toner is often able to get his hands free in the tackle. He has shown a desire to offload this season, and this is encouraging. He has to recognise the time and place though, as two attempts against the Scarlets resulted in knock-ons because of the slippy ball. Still, it’s encouraging to see that Toner has the intelligence and awareness to keep the ball alive. Better decision-making could make it a strength of Toner’s game.

Like McFadden, Toner’s performance wasn’t flawless in the wet conditions. Still, his work-rate, ball-carrying and lineout excellence were crucial to Leinster’s win. Toner last played for Ireland in 2010, earning 3 caps. If he continues at this rate of improvement he will be adding to that tally sooner rather than later.

Toner’s key stats vs. Scarlets:

Minutes played: 80     Kick/pass/run: 0/1/14     Defenders beaten: 3                      Offloads: 2     Tackles made/missed: 6/0     Lineouts taken: 6

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John Muldoon

Muldoon was Man of the Match as Connacht secured a draw against the Warriors on Saturday at the Sportsground. Muldoon is Connacht through and through and he never gives anything less than 100% in his performances for the province. Against Glasgow, his work rate was typically high and his determination inspirational.

The try-saving tackle he put in on Peter Murchie in the 72nd minute exemplified his desire. As Murchie dived into the corner to score, Muldoon intelligently dropped low enough to shove the fullback into touch. With the Warriors 13-10 in front, a try at that point would have guaranteed a win for the Scottish side. Muldoon’s intervention proved crucial as Connacht went downfield to secure an equalising penalty.

Muldoon’s work-rate was apparent in his ball-carrying too. He was one of the most effective Connacht players with ball in hand, carrying 9 times in total. As has become standard at Connacht, Muldoon led in terms of tackle count. His 12 tackle were all successful. A John Muldoon missed tackle is a rare sight in Galway. At 29, Muldoon still has plenty of rugby left in the tank. Ireland’s depth of back-row options means that he is unlikely to add to his three caps. However, Connacht will continue to be thankful for his loyalty and passion for the province.

Muldoon’s key stats vs. Warriors:

Minutes played: 80     Kick/pass/run: 0/2/9     Metres gained on ball: 24            Turnovers: 1     Tackles made/missed: 12/0

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Photos courtesy:  Jukka Zitting, Ken Bohane, Ivan O’Riordan.

Leinster Lay Down Heineken Cup Marker

Match Report – Heineken Cup Round 4

Leinster 52-27 Bath

17th December @ Aviva Stadium

Leinster were far too strong for Bath at the Aviva. Photo via M+MD.

Leinster blew Bath away with a scintillating 60 minute performance in front of a 46,365 crowd at the Aviva. This performance clearly marks Leinster out as one of the favourites for the tournament. While the last 20 minutes of the game saw Leinster thoughts turn to their Christmas party, the display up until that point was as complete as it possibly could have been. Dominant set-piece, crisp handling, exhilarating pace and aggressive defence were all part of the package. With so many of the Leinster players in top form, Bath never had a hope.

The match was over as a contest within 30 minutes, as Leinster blitzed Bath early on. Rob Kearney gave the home side the lead after just 3 minutes. Jonathan Sexton’s penalty effort came off the post and Devin Toner was quickest to react, using his height to claim the bouncing ball. Leinster recycled and Eoin Reddan’s clever flick pass caught Bath unaware and allowed Kearney to dive over. Sexton added the conversion for a promising start.

Ex-England centre Olly Barkley got Bath back into the game with two penalties, but in between Sexton came up with a fantastic drop goal to keep the scoreboard ticking over for Leinster. Bath fullback Sam Vesty’s clearance kick was straight down Sexton’s throat and he had more than enough time on the ball to smack home the drop goal from 45 metres out.

Leo Cullen was sent to the sin-bin for a punch but that didn’t effect Leinster in the slightest. Their next try came from an unexpected source. 6′ 10″ second-row Toner dummied and then made a lovely one-handed offload to Kearney, who drew the last defender and put Luke Fitzgerald over for the try. It was a subtle, surprising piece of play from Toner, part of a strong display by the 25-year-old. Sexton was on target with the conversion to give Leinster a 17-6 lead.

Next to cross the tryline was Sexton himself after another passage of sumptuous Leinster play. Sexton used the Leinster trademark loop off Jennings to give McFadden the space to send Fitzgerald speeding down the left-hand touchline. He drew in the covering defender and Sexton was on his inside to take the scoring pass and stride over. Sexton converted his own try as Cullen returned to the pitch. Leinster has scored 14 unanswered points while their captain took a breather.

Sexton scored Leinster's 3rd try as well as kicking 16 points. Photo via M+MD.

Following half-time, Leinster picked up immediately from where they had left off. Directly from the kick-off, they shifted the ball from right to left, through the hands. A beautiful skip pass from McFadden allowed Kearney to use his footwork, fix the outside defender and hit Fitzgerald, just outside Leinster’s own 22. Fitzgerald did the rest as he beat two defenders and showed a tremendous burst of pace to go the length of the field. Once again, Sexton knocked over the conversion.

Scrumhalf Reddan got a deserved try ten minutes later as he sniped over from close range following strong carries from Sean O’Brien and Cian Healy. Sexton added the extras. Any hope of a Bath revival was extinguished as first Vesty and then Chris Billar were yellow-carded. Replacement back-row Rhys Ruddock got Leinster’s 6th try when he went through a weak tackle after Kearney had made the initial break. Sexton was on target with his conversion.

With a whole raft of changes to the Leinster team, their focus started to slip in the last quarter as Bath tried to restore some pride. All Blacks World Cup winner Stephen Donald went through Eoin O’Malley’s tackle to get Bath’s first score of the second half. Barkley nailed the conversion from out to the right. Bath second-row Dave Attwood crossed next for Bath, with Barkley again successful with the conversion.

Leinster briefly awoke as O’Malley cleverly took a quick lineout in the Bath 22, and Jamie Heaslip surged up the middle. Isaac Boss then hit fellow replacement Ian Madigan, who stepped inside a tackle to dot down. Isa Nacewa took over the kicking duties and duly slotted the easy conversion. The game ended with another try for Bath as they won the restart and eventually substitute Ben Williams went through some uninterested tackles to touch down. Barkley knocked over the conversion with the last act of the game.

The true measure of this Leinster side lies in the fact that they will be frustrated with their performance in the last quarter of this clash. If they can consistently match the levels they hit in the first 60 minutes at the Aviva then most teams will find it extremely difficult to stay with them. Leinster now have a comfortable 6 point lead at the top of Pool 3. If they maintain this form, you would have to fancy them to wrap things up when they travel to Glasgow on the second weekend of January.

Leinster: R Kearney; I Nacewa, E O’Malley, F McFadden (G D’Arcy, 53), L Fitzgerald; J Sexton (I Madigan, 59), E Reddan; H Van Der Merwe (C Healy, H-T), R Strauss (S Cronin, 53), M Ross (N White, 65), L Cullen (capt, K McLaughlin, 59), D Toner, S O’Brien (R Ruddock, 53), J Heaslip, S Jennings (I Boss, 78).

Bath: S Vesty; J Cuthbert (B Williams, 56), M Banahan, O Barkley, N Abendanon; S Donald (T Heathcote, 68), M Claassens (C Cook, 56); D Flatman, C Biller (R Batty, 67), D Wilson, D Attwood, R Caldwell, F Louw (capt), S Taylor (A Beattie, 53) G Mercer.

Referee: Romain Poite (France)

 

Photos courtesy:  M+MD