The Irish are soaring and the Welsh are sinking. This rounded off a perfect weekend for the three Irish provinces in the Heineken Cup – Ulster and Munster winning at home against Cardiff and Perpignan – and condemned the Welsh clubs to one of their blackest weekends in European history.
Having picked up only three points out of a possible 10 on the opening weekend, all five Welsh sides fell to defeat. Worse still, many of them were annihilated. The Heineken Cup is supposed to be a showcase for European rugby but so good were Leinster in the first half that this game turned into something akin to a Barbarians-style exhibition match as they ended the first 40 minutes 37-3 ahead.
It was game over before it had really started and the Celtic League champions are now the only unbeaten side in Pool 4. They look set to give Montferrand a few things to think about in rounds three and four, but the truth is that Swansea are a pale imitation of their former years, a club deep in the doldrums after seeing more than a dozen players move on in the summer.
Their thick-skinned, tough talking Australian coach John Connolly was as forthright as ever when he expressed his disgust at proceedings. "I was embarrassed for the Swansea fans. It was simply not acceptable and a lot of the players have to address themselves," he said. While the Irish national coach Eddie O'Sullivan must have been purring at the prospect of picking the majority of this Leinster side for his autumn Internationals, Connolly and co must be dreading their next assignment in either the Heineken Cup or the Celtic League.
Six tries conceded at home tells its own story, but they helped to make it 160 points against in the past three matches alone.
"We played 1970s rugby and that has no place in the modern game. The system here in Wales has to be revised or we will still be standing here bemoaning what's wrong in the next few seasons," said Connolly. "We are good at talking about what we want to do, but we aren't coming up with the right answers. Welsh rugby needs to find a way to prepare its players properly for the top tournaments." While the Welsh struggle to come to terms with the prospect of divisional, regional or provincial rugby, the Irish sides are thriving.
Leinster no longer have to rely on the individual brilliance of Brian O'Driscoll because they have a host of quick thinking, fleet footed, physically well defined footballers around him.
Swansea: Try Winn; Conversion A Thomas; Penalty A Thomas. Leinster: Tries D'Arcy 3, O'Driscoll 2, McCullen; Conversions O'Meara 2, D'Arcy; Penalties O'Meara 4; Drop Goal Warner.
Swansea: S Payne; R Rees, M Taylor (G Swales 78), S Winn (M Brayley 76), M Robinson; A Thomas, S Cordingley (D Pittard 41); D Morris (D Dorsey 41), C Balshen (D Colclough 76), B Evans, A Farley, J Griffiths (J Thomas 72), D Thomas, T Tamarua (R Jenkins 60), C Charvis (captain).
Leinster: G Dempsey; D Hickie (D Quinlan 78), B O'Driscoll, S Horgan (A Magro 68), G D'Arcy; C Warner, B O'Meara (B O'Riordan 71); R Corrigan (captain), S Byrne (P Smyth 78), P Wallace (E Byrne 66), L Cullen (A Kearney 80), M O'Kelly, A McCullen (D Dillon 80), K Gleeson, V Costello.
Referee: J Jutge (France).
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