McGrath: We have to be ready for in-form Dragons
November 30, 2016 12:00 pm client
The defeat to Scarlets last Friday in the Guinness PRO12 was only the third time this season Leinster have trailed at half-time in a game. The other occasions were the defeat away to Montpellier in the Champions Cup and a comeback win away to Cardiff Blues.
In the two defeats bonus points were secured, but these games stand out in a season in which strong starts have been a regular feature: on the opening day against Treviso a Joey Carbery try after two minutes and a 15-5 half-time lead; a 19-12 lead at half-time away to Glasgow Warriors; a 26-8 lead away to Edinburgh and a bonus point secured by half-time.
The list goes on. Until last Friday night broke the mould again.
A strong finish meant Leinster left Parc y Scarlets with a try bonus point – secured when Andrew Porter went over for his first Leinster try after the clock had passed the 80-minute mark – no mean feat having played around 50 minutes with 14 men.
But that poor start still rankled with Luke McGrath when he spoke to the media in Leinster HQ ahead of this Saturday’s game at home to Dragons in the RDS Arena (Leinster’s first game at the Ballsbridge venue since that win over Connacht five weeks ago).
“We’re all quite disappointed, especially with the beginning of the game,” the scrum-half said earlier this week.
“It was something we’d targeted, trying to make a good start, but the one positive is that we did show a lot of character to fight back and get that bonus point.”
Despite being just 24-years-old, McGrath was one of the more experienced players in the squad on Friday in terms of Leinster caps. Only seven players from that 23 have made more appearances for the province, all of them older than him, and five of them over the age of 30.
That experience means McGrath is seen as one of the leaders of the group. That perception obviously shared by Leo Cullen and the other coaches as the St Michael’s man was selected to captain Leinster in the opening two games of the season against Treviso and Glasgow.
Add to that a first Ireland cap against Canada a couple of weeks ago – alongside Leinster teammates Dan Leavy, Garry Ringrose and James Tracy – and it’s been a milestone season already for McGrath.
“Leadership’s something I’ve tried to develop, I’ve captained the side before. Even being within the international camp in the last few weeks I feel I’ve gained more experience and it’s just about building on that.”
With the international window now closed, for Ireland at least, focus shifts back to matters provincial with the return of European rugby and back-to-back ties with Northampton Saints in December.
But first up it’s a tricky test at the RDS on Saturday against an in-form Dragons side that have caused Leinster plenty of problems in recent seasons.
“They’ve won three of their last four games, so they are in great form. We lost to them in Rodney Parade last year and the year before we actually lost to them twice. So we don’t have the best record against them in recent times. They’re in good form and we have to be ready for them.”
Leinster Rugby face Dragons this Saturday at the RDS Arena (KO 7.35pm, live on TG4). Tickets on sale from €20 for adults and €10 for under-18s.