The hardest thing to see is what is in front of your eyes
Last Friday night Ulster were floored early in Glasgow and had the humiliation of seeing out the remaining rounds losing virtually every one of them.
It wasn’t the send-off any of the players or fans wanted for two of their finest -Rory Best and Darren Cave. And there will be concerns that the psychological impact of that defeat may mentally scar the remaining playing group for next season.
Best still has a World Cup to go – but for both he and Cave this must have been a tough way to end their Ulster careers – Cave drawing level with Andrew Trimble as Ulster’s most capped player of all time with a remarkable 229 appearances for the Belfast club.
But the dark clouds of Friday evening broke with a few rays of sunshine by Saturday afternoon as news started to filter through of Aaron Sexton’s exploits on the running track at the Antrim Forum back in Northern Ireland. Ulster Academy winger Sexton broke the Irish Junior 100m record in a time of 10.49s and followed that with a 21.20 victory in the 200m event, to cement his position as the fastest man in Irish rugby.
Already at 6ft 4in and over 90kg – studies permitting – Ulster must push for Sexton to join the Ireland 7s squad for the 2019/2020 season, when Ireland join the top tier World Sevens Series.
Robert Baloucoune has been a revelation for Ulster this season having forged his game on the 7s circuit and required little obvious adjustment in returning to 15s. He’s shown more than glimpses of his class and huge potential as well as absolute composure and zero nerves in big matches, at big venues. A year away on the 7s circuit for Sexton is likely to produce something the same in terms of growing experience and composure.
Even in that 50 to 20 hammering Ulster took against Glasgow we saw the potential of returning 7s stars with the performance of Kyle Steyn. Scotland might not be the most impressive 7s outfit on the circuit, but Glasgow’s recruitment from 7s has been and I expect more players to follow.
I nearly always back Leinster when it comes to big end of season games like their Saturday Pro-14 Final against Glasgow – but not this time.
The way Glasgow dispatched Ulster and the ease with which they are scoring more generally, must make them both supremely confident and clear favourites.
In contrast the level of anxiety there must be within the Leinster camp was reflected by Leo Cullen’s clumsy attempt at mind games in the build-up. And the Rob Kearney to France distraction, fuelled by a social media post by confirmed departee Sean O’Brien, hasn’t helped things either.
In truth Leinster’s best hope is that Glasgow peaked too soon against Ulster or have had set their sights on making a final rather than winning one – maybe allowing Leinster’s vast experience to carry them over the line one last time.
The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark
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