Praise for Connacht's big win and Ulster's emerging talents on House of Rugby
"Ethan McIlroy was phenomenal, and deservedly won Player of the Match."
Such was the spectre of Leinster, and their long winning streak, that the initial take from many rugby fans was that Ulster might live to regret just getting four points against Munster. Beating an ever-improving Munster side at home was no longer enough any more. Not when you are stuck in Conference A with the blue juggernaut.
As it turned out, on Saturday, Connacht were deserving winners over a Leinster side that slipped to their first Guinness PRO14 defeat since April 2019. It meant Ulster moved 12 points clear of Leinster, who they face at The RDS on Friday. The game is very much afoot.
On House of Rugby Ireland, Ulster outhalf Ian Madigan spoke with fellow co-host Eimear Considine (listen from 5:30 below) about how a few of the province's youngsters are helping with their drive for a first trophy in 15 years.
"The likes of James Hume running those sort of arcs, and the same with Jacob Stockdale" says Madigan. "And it was great to see Ethan McIlroy up on the left wing." Considine adds:
"Ethan McIlroy was phenomenal, and deservedly won Player of the Match. This season has been about the young guys coming up, be it in Ulster, Leinster, Munster or Connacht. I thought himself and James Hume did particularly well. James was under immense pressure to get that ball away (for the Matt Faddes try), and he teed up Stockdale really well, on the outside, with a really nice overs line that completely cut out the Munster defence."
Aside from Ulster's young guns, there were senior debuts for the Leinster trio of Max O'Reilly, Greg McGrath and Andrew Smith, while promising outhalf Jack Crowley made his first appearance for Munster at the Kingspan Stadium.
Connacht have been relying on their academy players for many games this season but five more established stars - Tom Daly, Jack Carty, Quinn Roux, Gavin Thornbury and Conor Oliver - all came in for praise on the show.
"Gavin Thornbury and Conor Oliver were fantastic," says Considine. "I thought Gavin and Quinn Roux, both locks, did well and Conor Oliver was excellent as well." On Oliver, who is from Dublin but played for Munster before heading to Connacht, Madigan says:
"We’d to do a lot of preparation last week, coming up against Conor. He’s a back-row guy that gets over the ball very well. He’s a very good tackler. He’s got good skills. He’s a very good passing game. And we knew that we’d have to be at our very best to nullify him at the breakdown. He comes up with two, three, four turnovers in nearly every game. He’s very similar to the way CJ Stander would be doing for Munster.
"I thought he had a fantastic game. There was a few key passages of play, in or around the halfway line, where either he would make a big tackle himself or someone beside him would and he’d get straight over he ball. Just when Leinster were looking to build momentum, there’s nothing worse than a turnover penalty around the halfway line, and suddenly you’re back defending in your own 22."
Also covered by Eimear and Ian on the latest episode:
- 2021 resolutions, and sticking to them
- Ryan Baird's excellent outing at blindside
- A preview of the upcoming Guinness PRO14 inter-pros
- 2021 Lions Tour in doubt
YOU CAN WATCH THAT FULL EPISODE HERE:
SUBSCRIBE TO HOUSE OF RUGBY IRELAND HERE
Season 3 has returned with Ian Madigan & Eimear Considine as hosts, and has already featured interviews with Brian O'Driscoll, Nigel Owens, Sean Cronin, Shane Williams, Mike Brown, CJ Stander, Ugo Monye, Sene Naoupu, Schalk Burger, Dan Leo, James Lowe, Marcell Coetzee, Ciaran Griffin and Ian Keatley.