Home Rugby The Power Plays: Superb Harry Byrne Performance Points To A Bright Future

The Power Plays: Superb Harry Byrne Performance Points To A Bright Future

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Leinster maintained their 100% record in the Guinness PRO14 with a 50-15 demolition of the Dragons at the RDS on Friday night. 

With the internationals still away, head coach Leo Cullen offered an opportunity to more of Leinster’s budding young stars as Jack Aungier was introduced from the bench for his senior debut while Ryan Baird and Harry Byrne made their first starts for the eastern province at this level.

Both Baird and Byrne were impressive throughout but it was the latter’s performance which really shone through and this was reflected in the man-of-the-match award he received at the end of the game.

Harry Byrne

As it currently stands, Byrne is fourth-choice when it comes to the out-half position as he lies behind Johnny Sexton, his older brother Ross and Ciarán Frawley in the playmaker stakes.

However, his performance on Friday night, in torrential conditions, sent a clear message to the Leinster coaching staff that he is well capable at this level despite only making his fourth senior appearance and first start.

Byrne displayed all the attributes which he needs to succeed at this level as he kicked superbly out of hand, managed the game well and provided an attacking spark by displaying good awareness to the various situations which were unfolding around him.

Harry Byrne

His first involvement was a clearing kick which he sent straight down the throat of Dragons out-half Sam Davies – a disappointing first action but he didn’t let that get to him as the 20-year-old grew into the game considerably from that point.

With less than five minutes on the clock, we see some of Byrne’s skills with ball-in-hand as he takes it flat to the line from a Jamison Gibson-Park pass before laying off the ball to an onrushing Caelan Doris.

On the very next phase, he takes the ball at pace once again but this time he sends a skip pass to Jimmy O’Brien who has joined the attack from the fullback position.

Harry Byrne
Source: TG4

If you cannot view the above clip, click here.

This range of passing is complemented well by his game-management and we see an example of this in the 15th minute when the 20-year-old identifies space in the backfield after a quick turnover in possession to send the ball deep into the Dragons half.

Devin Toner is actually the one to win possession back for Leinster before Byrne kicks and although the ball doesn’t bounce into touch as he would have liked, Davies is under tremendous pressure due to a good chase by Dave Kearney and O’Brien.

Harry Byrne
Source: TG4

If you cannot view the above clip, click here.

Just a few moments later, Byrne is on the receiving end of a late hit but he dusts himself down to get back up and get involved in the next phase.

Here, the St Michael’s alumnus (red) delivers a delightful ‘tunnel pass’ to a waiting James Lowe. Toner and Scott Penny are pretending to receive the pass here but the ball is always going to the Kiwi winger who breaks the line and gets Leinster on the front foot.

Harry Byrne
Source: TG4

A couple of minutes later, O’Brien has his attempted grubber kick blocked which means Byrne has to scramble back and collect under pressure.

The out-half does very well to look up and make sure the Dragons’ fringe defender commits to the tackle, therefore generating some space, before zipping a pass out to Lowe who kicks ahead.

Harry Byrne
Source: TG4

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At the midway point of the first half, Leinster respond immediately to Davies’ penalty. Before Byrne receives the ball from Gibson-Park, he identifies that he has front-rowers Richard Hibbard and Leon Brown (white circles) in front of him.

Harry Byrne
Source: TG4

Byrne is always going to back himself to attack this space but he gives himself more of an opportunity by faking to pass to his left before stepping off his left foot to power through the gap.

He is brought to ground just about by Brown but the out-half has generated momentum for his side who score through Kearney after a few more phases.

Harry Byrne
Source: TG4

If you cannot view the above clip, click here.

Byrne didn’t shy away from his defensive responsibilities either.

With just over 10 minutes remaining in the first half, Rhodri Williams sends Connor Edwards straight down Byrne’s channel but the out-half executed a low chop tackle to perfection to bring the powerful centre to the ground.

Harry Byrne
Source: TG4

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As we’ve seen already, Byrne takes the ball flat to the line consistently, despite the open invitation to get smashed.

Here, we see another example of that as Leinster look to respond from Jordan Williams’ try.

Off a scrum, Gibson-Park feeds Byrne (red) who attacks the line at pace before firing a pass out the back to the scrum-half who ran a looping support line. Byrne takes a hit from Davies (white) for his troubles but the clever move gets Leinster deep into the Dragons 22.

Harry Byrne
Source: TG4
Harry Byrne
Source: TG4

If you cannot view the above clip, click here.

Byrne clears out a ruck on the next phase and when Lowe is brought down just short of the line, he receives the ball and shows that awareness once again to spot Hibbard and Brok Harris in front of him.

He backs himself to get through a gap to the right of Hibbard and he does this with ease by accelerating through.

He is helped a little bit as referee Andrea Piardi makes contact with the Dragons hooker but the 20-year-old out-half won’t be complaining one bit.

Harry Byrne
Source: TG4

If you cannot view the above clip, click here.

Early in the second half, Byrne helps create the move of the match. He hears a call from the other side of the pitch from Kearney who is screaming for the ball.

From the footage, it’s clear that Byrne is scoping out the situation as he surveys the scene to his right.

Harry Byrne
Source: TG4

Kearney is out of shot but when Byrne receives the ball from Gibson-Park, he executes a sublime crossfield kick which the winger collects.

Harry Byrne
Source: TG4

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Some lovely interplay between Kearney, Conor O’Brien and Penny sees the experienced winger slalom his way over for his second try of the night.

Byrne’s ability to spot opportunities was one of the most impressive facets of his performance and we see another example of that in the 52nd minute when he notices the covering Dragons defender (red) out of position.

Harry Byrne
Source: TG4

He executes an ‘up and under’ which Lowe competes for and manages to slap back down on the Leinster side to continue their attack.

Harry Byrne
Source: TG4

If you cannot view the above clip, click here.

Finally, with the result beyond a formality at this stage, Byrne was still pushing and looking for opportunities with the game in its closing stages.

With less than 10 minutes to go, the out-half intercepted a pass from Davies but unfortunately for the youngster, play was brought back for a previous knock-on.

Harry Byrne
Source: TG4

If you cannot view the above clip, click here.

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All in all, Byrne’s performance showcased that he can operate at this level. There are parts to his game which he needs to improve but with age very much on his side, the Dubliner looks set to have a very bright future and will no doubt cause Leo Cullen some selection headaches throughout the rest of the season.

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About Sean McMahon

Sean is Head of Pundit Arena Rugby. Contact him on Twitter here: