Leinster 22 Glasgow 17
It was revealing that Joe Schmidt chose to kick off his reply with praise of Ian Madigan’s goal-kicking when he was asked about the out-half’s performance in Saturday’s top-of-the-table RaboDirect Pro12 match.
The 23-year old had, after all, elicited countless oohs and aahs with a number of trademark line breaks and performed a delicious dummy to engineer the space from which he went over for the late, match-winning try.
Those who claim to know Madigan will say that he lacks for little in the way of confidence, which may explain why his coach decided to focus on an aspect of his game which had been deemed suspect for so long.
“His goal-kicking was first-rate,” said the Kiwi, who admitted that his side had been fortunate to claim the four points. “He gave us the buffer we needed towards the end with the penalty as well and then his try [and] he made a couple of good line breaks. One, unfortunately, he probably forced an offload that wasn’t on and it went to Tommy Seymour. Defensively also he was working really hard and he got in to make a couple of really big tackles. He slipped off one or two but made some really important ones as well.”
Schmidt has never been one to wax lyrical about any of the individuals under his care but he must be purring inside. Timing is a quality all 10s must possesses and Madigan has shown that with his emergence as a quality operator coinciding with Jonathan Sexton’s imminent departure for Paris. Indeed, with Isa Nacewa moving home to New Zealand and a handful of others likely to be clearing out their lockers this May, Madigan’s rise through the ranks is all the more welcome for a side that will need all the leaders it can muster post-O’Driscoll, Cullen et al in the near to mid-future. These next few weeks are now key.
Up to now, Madigan’s stints in the box seat have tended to arrive late on in games where the back of the opposition has already been broken. Now it is time for the understudy to become tormentor-in-chief.
“We have definitely five games left this year. That will give us a decent read. Ian will probably play the bulk of those games as I am not sure when Jonny will be back available again. That will give us a clearer picture because those games are pretty big games for us. Jimmy Gopperth is going to be with us from the start of the season as well and he will be the ideal foil for Ian Madigan,” Schmidt added. “They probably play a bit more similarly than Jonny and Ian do but Jimmy’s experience is something Ian will benefit from.”
The sight of Sexton sitting in the stand was a reminder of what Leinster are set to lose but Madigan is certainly softening the blow. He claimed all 22 of Leinster’s points here via his 74th-minute try, conversion and five penalties to nick a game the visitors should have won.
Glasgow were superb at times, proving exactly why they had gone seven unbeaten in the league, and they claimed two beautifully crafted tries to construct a 17-9 half time lead.
Madigan’s boot kept the home side in touch but it was his trickery in open play which caught the eye. At one point, he dinked a chip from behind his own posts, an act of daring and imagination which was only marginally diluted by the knowledge that he enjoyed the benefit of an advantage at the time.
Not the kind of thinking that allows coaches to sleep all that soundly at night but Schmidt’s message is simply to carry on regardless.
“That is smart play. I do know that players are criticised sometimes for taking too many chances… but I would encourage him to keep backing himself and if the space is there to keep playing to the space.”
Exciting times ahead, so.
LEINSTER: I Nacewa; D Kearney, E O’Malley, G D’Arcy, A Conway; I Madigan, I Boss; H van der Merwe, S Cronin, M Bent; L Cullen, Q Roux; K McLaughlin, S Jennings, J Murphy.
Replacements: J Hagan for Bent (47); D Toner for Roux (50); J McGrath for van der Merwe (61); D Ryan for McLaughlin (61): A Dundon for Murphy (77).
GLASGOW: P Murchie; T Seymour, A Dunbar, P Horne, DTH van der Merwe; D Weir, N Matawalu; M Low, D Hall, E Kalman; T Ryder, A Kellock; R Harley, J Barclay, J Strauss.
Replacements: J Welsh for Kalman (52); R Wilson for Harley (52); S Lamont for Seymour (56); P McArthur for Hall (62); G Reid for Low (62); H Pyrgos for Matawalu (62); J Eddie for Strauss (75).
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU).
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