Wednesday 28 June 2017

Schmidt praises young battlers

Cardiff Blues 11
Leinster 3

Leinster's Eamonn Sheridan tackles Martyn Williams of Cardiff during their Magners League match in Cardiff on Saturday. Photo: Steve Pope / Sportsfile
Leinster's Eamonn Sheridan tackles Martyn Williams of Cardiff during their Magners League match in Cardiff on Saturday. Photo: Steve Pope / Sportsfile

Had Leinster been able to take opportunities as well as they could snuff them out, it would be a fair bet they would be lying second in the Magners League today.

Last year's Grand Finalists stumbled to fourth place in the table after failing to back-up a stirring defensive display with an attacking edge at the Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday.

In a game of precious few scoring chances, it was the Blues of Cardiff, not Dublin, who grasped the opportunity with the game's opening try, courtesy of Dan Fish.

That score owed as much to the hands of Martyn Williams as the finishing ability of the young full-back, but was to prove the difference between the teams on the night as Leinster squandered their best scoring chances.

"We are disappointed, particularly in not getting the bonus point at the end. We felt we deserved that at least and we felt as though we created good chances to win the game," said Leinster coach Joe Schmidt.

"We felt we were a little bit unlucky not to get some reward for our play, but there were a couple of stray passes.

"But full credit to Cardiff, because they took the one chance that they had.

"They had some other opportunities, but I was pretty proud of the way the lads scrambled in defence.

"Cardiff are a tough team and gave us a tough time at the line-out. I felt our scrum got better and better throughout the game, but we didn't have the platform to give to a reshuffled backline which was pretty young in the first place."

Leo Cullen, on the day he became only the fifth Leinster player to win 150 caps for the province, set up an attacking line-out, only for his forwards to lack precision and allow Williams to steal possession on the floor. Isa Nacewa missed twice before clawing back the deficit to 8-3 on the stroke of half-time.

Leinster pressed from the start of the second half, though, when Dominic Ryan surged through the home defence.

However, Eoin O'Malley got his body position wrong and was unable to ground the ball as he crashed over the line. Still, Leinster pressed only for Nacewa to knock-on moments later.

The visitors could well have been further adrift had their defence not been so committed, though, they remained in the game for as long they were within a score.

Winger Andrew Conway looked their most likely scorer, constantly threatening and probing with ball in hand.

However, having stepped on the gas to slice through four defenders, the youngster fluffed what would have been a scoring pass to Ryan.

Leinster's line-out was struggling and the earlier defensive effort took its toll in the closing stages as Cardiff Blues finished the stronger, allowing Ceri Sweeney two successful attempts at goal to settle the tie and deny their visitors the consolation of a losing bonus point.

Schmidt added: "It was a huge opportunity for the younger players, but it's also a reality jolt for them.

"The speed and the physicality of top level rugby is something that you need to make sure you are primed for.

"Our game management wasn't great and we were starved of the ball in the first half.


"We kicked the ball too much. Those players will learn a lot before the next time they play.

"Ian McKinley on his first game went through a couple of times. The first time he slipped and we didn't finish the second one.

"But that's the ruthless reality of top-level rugby.

"That is something the young players will learn from.

"The young lads kept trying. I was disappointed we weren't able to match the Cardiff side up front. We weren't accurate enough at the line-out and rucks.

"We know they would muddle us at the rucks because they had someone like Martyn Williams, but we're disappointed we did not keep that area clean enough."

Cardiff Blues -- D Fish; R Mustoe, G Evans, D Hewitt, T James (J Loxton 63); C Sweeney, T Slater (R Downes 73); J Yapp, G Williams, T Filise (S Andrews 55); D Jones, P Tito (capt); A Pretorius, X Rush (M Molitika 60), M Williams.

Leinster -- I Nacewa; A Conway, E O'Malley, E Sheridan (E Reddan 47), N Morris (M Keating 66); I McKinley (I Madigan 57), I Boss; H van der Merwe, R Strauss, C Newland (S Wright 57); L Cullen (capt), D Toner (N Hines 57); K McLaughlin, R Ruddock (S Keogh 63, R Ruddock 70-75), D Ryan.

Ref -- C Damasco (Italy).

Irish Independent

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