Thursday 18 January 2018

BOD: 'I wouldn't accuse Ian Madigan of bad play'

Mads matched Halfpenny in goal-kicking shoot-out

Ian Madigan
Ian Madigan
Ian Madigan

Brian O'Driscoll has waded into the argument to defend Ian Madigan.

The focus for Leinster's failure to Toulon has centred somewhat around Madigan's skip pass to Ben Te'o that was intuitively intercepted by that ace poachnig machine Bryan Habana for the match turner in the 91st minute.

"I wouldn't accuse Ian Madigan of bad play," said O'Driscoll.

"I thought it was probably a decent option because they had the numbers."

The binning of Ali Williams did leave space in the Toulon defence and as the backs got sucked in closer to the fringes, the centre decided to shift the focus wide.

And this brought Habana into the game.

"I don't know whoever it was pushed hard-up inside Habana to cut off the through-the-hands play.

All Ian Madigan saw was the miss pass," stated the former Ireland captain.

"In fairness to Habana, he left two other attackers outside and he came blind - I think it was Ben Te'o looking to receive the pass - and just read it perfectly.

"If Te'o had caught it, he (Habana) was going to hit him man and ball.

"But, he actually read that the ball was dropping a bit early and came from his blindside and picked it off.

"It is something he has done all his career, a brilliant piece of skill from him."

off target

It did not come down to one mistake, one chance. There were others, like Madigan's 65th penalty rebounding off the upright and Jimmy Gopperth's well-executed 78th minute drop goal which was just off target with the clubs tied on 12-apiece.

"There were two great opportunities to win it and that should have been it - game over," added O'Driscoll.

"But, you don't take your opportunities at the semi-final level against the likes of Toulon they come back to haunt you."

It must not be forgotten how Madigan went blow-for-blow with Leigh Halfpenny in a kicking contest which both men concluded with five from six, the Irish international dealing with far more difficult chances.

The otherwise spot-on Halfpenny was also wide with one of his kicks in a titanic physical struggle that could have gone either way..

"I really feel for them because, you know, they haven't been great his season.

"But they gave themselves every opportunity of playing in two weeks time in Twickenham in a Champions Cup final," reflected O'Driscoll.

"That takes huge character and huge resolve for a side that haven't been at their best, to manage to produce a performance like this."

"Toulon weren't at their best. But Leinster didn't allow them play and they played the conditions magnificently.

"It must be a really difficult defeat to accept," he said, from great experience.

"Toulon are the champions that they are because even when they weren't at their best, they were still able to see it though."

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