Magical Madigan moves in on 12 slot

Leinster 42 Scarlets 12

Magical Madigan moves in on 12 slot

With Jimmy Gopperth looking immovable from the No 10 shirt, Ian Madigan was identified as the big loser in the imminent return of the Racing Metro fly half.

But after Saturday’s magical performance at inside centre, perhaps the grooming for that role on a long-term basis has already begun.

At the tender age of 25, Madigan is far from an unteachable old dog, and certainly the Leinster backline appeared to be a more fluid machine operating under his ‘second five-eighth’ stationing.

In his 14 Leinster starts last season he wore the No 10 shirt on 13 occasion and even operated at full-back in his first appearance under O’Connor.

For the second week in a row Madigan has featured heavily for Leinster at 12. There has been a shift in thinking, it seems. The retirement of Brian O’Driscoll and injuries to Noel Reid and Gordon D’Arcy may have prompted the move, but O’Connor is thrilled to see Madigan flourish. His two tries, 22 points and hunger for creativity shows he’s rediscovered his bag of tricks.

“Yeah, he’s done very well,” said O’Connor afterwards. “There was never a doubt in my mind how good a footballer Ian is at 12. He is a fantastic player and he gives you a second set of hands and gives you the ability to expose space, whether that’s to kick to it or to run to it. He had a great, great game.”

Can he hold on to that role now? “He’d be a strong chance, yeah. The combinations are important for it. Still having Test guys coming back into the mix (means) the combinations training and playing are important. You need to capitalise on those and make sure that the guys that are doing the training and playing week on week get better in those slots.”

But once talk of Sexton started O’Connor shut it down immediately. “It’s a non-event. Johnny is away for 12 months, let’s worry about Gopperth and Madigan and what we are trying to achieve here in the short term,” he said.

This six-try demolition job also saw Rob Kearney shine in his first outing of the season. His two tries were added to by second-half efforts from Dominic Ryan and Tadhg Furlong, but a hamstring ‘issue’ for Zane Kirchner means he must be a serious doubt to make Friday’s trip to the Sportsground.

Skipper Jamie Heaslip returned for a man of the match display – awarded moments before his last-minute sin binning – but overall the coach was chuffed to see their week’s work transformed into a bonus point win.

“It was very pleasing. We had a few wrongs to right from last week and I think, by and large, we did that.

“I think we played in the right areas and we backed our set piece. That was the plan going into the game and I think we delivered on that, which gave us a really good platform to attack from.

“Then you are asking the guys to execute on the things that we do in training. And from that end we scored some great tries in the first half off the back of the plan that we set out before the game,” said O’Connor.

Scarlets managed token efforts from Scott Williams in the 14th minute and Jon Snyman in the last, but they were simply steamrollered by their rampant hosts.

Scorers for Leinster: Kearney 2, Madigan 2, Ryan, Furlong tries; Madigan 6 cons.

Scorers for Scarlets: S Williams, Snyman tries; Shingler con.

LEINSTER: R Kearney; Z Kirchner, B Macken, I Madigan, D Fanning; J Gopperth, I Boss; J McGrath, S Cronin, M Ross; D Toner, M McCarthy; D Ryan, S Jennings, J Heaslip.

Replacements: M McGrath for Kirchner (31), K McLaughlin for Jennings (40), C Healy for J McGrath (54), E Reddan for Boss (54), B Marshall for Toner (54), S Crosbie for Kearney (60), T Furlong for Ross (63), B Byrne for Cronin (67).

SCARLETS: G Owen; H Robinson, A Warren, S Williams, J Williams; R Priestland, R Williams; P John, K Owens, R Jones; J Ball, J Snyman; A Shingler, J Barclay, R Pitman.

Replacements: R Evans for Pitman (52-62), A Davies for R Williams (55), R McCusker for Shingler (67), G Davies for Owen (68), E Phillips for Owens (70), P Edwards for Jones (70), R Kelly for Ball (70), S Shingler for Priestland (70).

Referee: M Mitrea (FIR).

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