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24th Apr 2017

He lost the game, but Garry Ringrose won some very influential new admirers

Hell of a performance

Mikey Stafford

It was a chastening but ultimately heartening weekend for Irish rugby.

Munster and Leinster lost their Champions Cup quarter-finals, but both died with their boots on. Munster were eventually outmuscled by defending champions Saracens, while Leinster gave Clermont a hell of a fright after first giving them a hell of a head start.

Semi-final defeats are the cruellest but both provinces can take heart from European campaigns that arguably went further than either could have realistically expected at the start of the season.

Both are still very much in the hunt for PRO12 honours and Rassie Erasmus and Leo Cullen will have, respectively, seen much to encourage in the performances of their Munster and Leinster sides.

One Irish player who really stood up to be counted was Garry Ringrose. Still just 22-years-old, the Leinster centre was immense as he helped inspire the province’s second half comeback in Lyon.

Not for the first time, his powerful acceleration, quick feet and speed of thought reminded those watching of a young Brian O’Driscoll – another former UCD and Blackrock centre who went on to have a decent Test career.

He is not there yet and nobody is claiming he is, but the promise is real. He brushed off the disappointment of not making the Lions squad to turn in a marvellous performance and score one of the tries of the season.

It was the sort of 40 minutes to turn heads, including those of esteemed French rugby publication, Rugbyrama, who named Ringrose as their player of the weekend.

For a beaten player to be named player of the weekend by a French website, ahead of any of Clermont’s winners, or any of Saracens’ dominant defending champions, is no mean feat.

In praising Ringrose, Rugbyrama (via Google translate) noted his 138 metres with ball in hand, the nine defenders he beat and his four offloads: “And what about his solo essay? Magnificent. Unfortunately for him, this was not enough to bring down the ASM.”

Leinster have an absolute gem on their hands.

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