‘It was as physical as it gets… It was definitely Test match standard’

Home / ‘It was as physical as it gets… It was definitely Test match standard’

Murray Kinsella reports from St James’ Park

IT COMES AS little surprise but when the going got tough, James Ryan got going.

Saracens laid down the most physical marker we have seen in European club rugby in years and the Leinster lock was more than able to match it.

19 carries and 19 tackles showed just how busy Ryan was but, as ever, there was quality of the highest order to go along with the work-rate.

Ryan, right, was outstanding for Leinster. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Perhaps most encouragingly of all, we saw a nasty edge from the 22-year-old second row, who gave as good as he got against a mean and menacing Saracens pack. Watching Ryan hammer his shoulder into tackles and rucks underlined that he offers aggression along with the technical accuracy of his play.

The former St Michael’s forward is a future Ireland captain and, despite his youth, it’s hard to think of an occasion on which he has underperformed for province or country. 

The disappointment of Leinster’s defeat could easily mask it, but this was yet another superb showing from Ryan.

“I thought it was as physical as it gets, from what I’ve experienced anyway,” said Ryan after Leinster’s 20-10 defeat. 

“It was definitely Test match standard. Some of the collisions were big, as we knew they would be, but I don’t think they physically dominated us by any kind of means.

“I think we had patches where we were strong in that area and so did they. So it was two big strong packs that went toe to toe and they got the upper hand. Credit to them, they took their chances and they deserved it.”

Comparisons with Ireland’s defeat to England in this year’s Six Nations were understandably drawn but, though he said Billy Vunipola “makes a difference,” Ryan didn’t feel yesterday was of the same tone.

“They’re a very strong pack and they deserved the win today, but we had periods in that game where we had the upper hand,” he said.

Ryan lost his jersey in the second half. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

“We had a great scrum at one stage in the first half when we got a rumble on and scored a few phases later, so I don’t think there’s much difference there.

“They’ve some big bodies and it takes its toll. There are some sore bodies in the changing room at the moment.”

But Leinster will have their regrets after flying home from Newcastle last night, particularly around the minutes before and following the half-time break.

They gave up a try to Saracens with the clock in the red at the end of the first half and then missed chances in the English side’s 22 after the interval.

“It makes a difference coming into half-time but hindsight’s great,” said Ryan of Leinster’s decision to keep the ball in play before half time.

“When they got that score before half time, we backed ourselves to go again. Unfortunately, we turned the ball over and they got a score so ideally, we would have gone in with a bigger lead but that’s the way it goes.

“Post half-time, we made a few mistakes and coughed up possession in important moments.”

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