Edinburgh are a real banana skin
If courage was the dominant feature of Ulster’s performance, what words could describe the other quarter-finals?
Leinster’s first-half demolition of a poor Cardiff side screamed the word ‘precision’.
They cut Cardiff to shreds with training pitch patterns and moves – the former can be applied to most situations and the latter prepared for specific defensive systems and opposing players.
Joe Schmidt’s innovation takes advantage of any weaknesses, and Leinster used their back-row and half-backs to great effect, ruthlessly exposing Dan Parks. It was based on a sterling forward display with a dominant scrum and powerful ball-carrying and BOD is back. Classic Leinster.
The word ‘power’ sums up Clermont’s destruction of Saracens. While Mark McCall’s men fought gamely for 80 minutes, it looked like boys against men.
It proved once again that if your forward pack is getting shoved around and you are losing the collisions, any team will struggle. It highlighted the need for Sarries to cultivate a Plan B. Physicality is not enough.
Clermont didn’t have to play much rugby, because they knew that the bashing approach would be successful, but even they had to produce something a bit special to settle the deal.
They are potentially the complete side. Their bigger issue in this competition has always been the mental side.
However, the way the players defended their tryline and kept Saracens out was ominous and a semi-final in France will test Leinster to the maximum.
Finally to Edinburgh and the word ‘coach’ strikes me as most relevant. Michael Bradley’s leadership was honed in Connacht rugby and he has taken his skills of managing scarce resources and applied them to great effect.
Home advantage added a lot but Bradley has instilled a self-belief which was robust enough to take advantage of a disappointing and complacent Toulouse team.
Edinburgh are the banana skin team – Ulster beware.