Saturday 3 December 2016

Cullen and Lam delighted with contrasting victories

Published 16/10/2016 | 02:30

Sean Cronin of Leinster goes over to score his side's first try, alongside team-mates Luke McGrath (left) and Ian Nagle Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Sean Cronin of Leinster goes over to score his side's first try, alongside team-mates Luke McGrath (left) and Ian Nagle Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Both Leinster and Connacht got their Champions Cup challenges off to winning starts yesterday, ­ Leinster with a bonus point win over Castres in the RDS and Connacht with a thrilling second-half comeback to overcome Toulouse.

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Pat Lam's side were 10 points down at the break but a try from Bundee Aki after the hour mark turned the tide for them. The result leaves Connacht in second place in Pool 2 behind Wasps, who blitzed Zebre. Connacht head to Italy next weekend to see if they can do something similar.

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

"It shows how far we've come since three years ago when we played them (Toulouse) last," Lam said. "We expect to win as a team, based on the work that we do and the plan that we have. It isn't just a proud day for us as a team but for our supporters as well. We're all about inspiring our community. That's the purpose of Connacht Rugby."

Leinster were comfortable, bonus point winners in the RDS and hope to have Johnny Sexton fit for the trip to Montpellier on Sunday - he did some jogging yesterday morning. Tadhg Furlong was an injury concern yesterday, and he too left with a hamstring injury which coach Leo Cullen described as "tight".

The coach used the same word to describe a calf injury which forced Rhys Ruddock off.

Sexton's replacement, Joey Carbery, had another fine game. Having had four minutes off the bench last season, yesterday was the seventh run of this campaign for the Academy player who will be 22 next month.

"Joey acquitted himself well, Cullen said. "He's getting better all the time. He's a pleasure to coach because you can see the energy that he brings. He's a brave player as well, so yeah I thought he went well again."

Leinster's forwards were clearly on top throughout and mauled Castres off the field, with three of the five tries coming directly from this phase. "Montpellier are big and physical with a heavy South African influence and a World Cup-winning coach as well in Jake White," Cullen said. "It'll be a good test for us. A really good test."

According to Castres scrum-half Rory Kockott it's unlikely to be as straightforward for Leinster on Sunday. "It's (Montpellier) a different animal to us, that's for sure," he said. "We know what kind of machine they run and it's a bit different to us, certainly with the aspect of their physicality."

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