Sunday 21 April 2019

Better than ever

Leinster and Lowe lay down a marker ahead of Toulouse clash

James Lowe was in scintillating form for Leinster against Wasps at the RDS on Friday
James Lowe was in scintillating form for Leinster against Wasps at the RDS on Friday

The measure of how well Leinster played against Wasps is the number of different candidates mentioned when it came to the man of the match.

The official nod went to James Lowe, that savvy, selfless exponent of pace, power and evasion.

It was the right decision, if just for the fact that the New Zealander pinched two tries, made another one he could have taken himself and had a big hand in yet another.

He likes to do everything at speed, already reaching cult hero status less than a year into his Leinster career.

And the boy is not just box office on the field of play.

He really finds his voice when it comes to dealing with the hounds of the media, forever sniffing out a nugget cooked well enough to chow on.

On attack, Lowe literally played like a one-man team, leading the way with a phenomenal 184 metres, easily outstripping the entire Wasps team which came in at 123 metres.

There were four clean breaks to Wasps' two, eight defenders beaten, drawing even with Wasps' eight and two tries to Wasps none.

Leinster have never quite seen the likes of him.

Lowe was not about to take all the plaudits, making room for backs coach Felipe Contepomi and senior coach Stuart Lancaster in his good news story.

"You've got to anticipate well, especially with Felipe here," said Lowe.

"He brings a southern hemisphere style of rugby. We got out to score tries and everybody is ready, you know, line breaks, half-breaks, offloads, pushing on the play.

"It is something that Stu has been really promoting as well," he added.

"I think bringing him (Contepomi) in has really ramped us up, as a backline, where we're ready for anything."

It isn't just in attack that Leinster coach Leo Cullen has relied on Lowe's "good rugby intellect" to show the way.

Lowe has impressed with his ruthless attitude to ruck work.

"Hit on suspicion, you know, if anyone's in that metre you just get rid of them," shared Lowe.

"Every time you go to a ruck, you should completely re-arrange it.


"If you go off your feet, you've got to take someone with you.

"Of course, you can't take it too far. But, if they land around the ruck, it's fair game. It's not my area of expertise. But, I know if I go near a ruck I'm taking someone with me."

It remains a fact that Garry Ringrose, Luke McGrath, James Ryan and Tadhg Furlong were also nominated for the man-of-the-match award by others in the know on Friday night.

Robbie Henshaw, Rhys Ruddock, a late call-up for Dan Leavy, and Josh van der Flier could easily have made the director's cut too.

The plan all along was for Leinster to hold onto the ball, wear down the original 'Kings of line-speed' to deliver on the forecast of rain - just tries instead of drops.

The possession was predominantly in their hands (71%-29%) and the territory in Wasps' half (75%-25%).

The English club was forced to make 213 tackles, eventually slipping off 32 by the final whistle.

There will be far sterner tests along the road, starting with Toulouse at Stade Ernest Wallon next Sunday (KO3.15, BT Sport).

The French club was the beneficiary of one basic mistake and one crazy moment by Bath's Freddie Burns to hold on for a 22-20 win at The Recreation Ground.

As it stands, Leinster hold a one-point lead over Toulouse in Pool One ahead of what will be a gargantuan quarrel in the South of France.

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