Wednesday 18 October 2017

Cronin hungry to lead Leinster's charge for silverware

Ospreys 18 Leinster 20

Sean Cronin believes Leinster have the firepower to make it to the Murrayfield final. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Sean Cronin believes Leinster have the firepower to make it to the Murrayfield final. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

James Candy

Sean Cronin is desperate to play a leading role in Leinster's chase for silverware after starring in their crucial Guinness Pro12 victory at the Ospreys.

The 30-year-old marked his return from a hamstring injury with a stunning solo try as Leinster cemented their place at the top of the table.

Ian Nagle of Leinster is tackled by Rhys Webb and Ma’afu Fia, left, of Ospreys. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Ian Nagle of Leinster is tackled by Rhys Webb and Ma’afu Fia, left, of Ospreys. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

There is also the small matter of a European Champions Cup semi-final at Clermont Auvergne on the horizon, and Cronin is determined to lead the charge for honours.

"It was good hands and good execution for my try. I've been out for a few months injured, so it was good to test out the leg and see if it still works properly. It was great to get a score and contribute and just be back out on the pitch playing," he said.

"The last few months have been frustrating. I've missed a lot of rugby and it's the first time I've had an injury like that in my career. I've been working hard to get back and the lads have been playing pretty well, so it's a tough squad to get into.

"There are some massive games coming up, we've got a tough run-in in the league with Connacht, Glasgow and Ulster and a European semi-final in the middle of all that."

Fergus McFadden of Leinster is tackled by Keelan Giles of Ospreys. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Fergus McFadden of Leinster is tackled by Keelan Giles of Ospreys. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Cronin had not played since his injury against Zebre in January, but looked like he had never been away when he turned on the gas to round Dan Biggar and pull his side back into the match after Sam Davies' early score.

Dan Leavy crossed after the break to put Leinster in control, but Wales flanker Justin Tipuric barged over from close-range to edge the Ospreys back in front.

Ross Byrne came on for Joey Carbery and landed a last-minute drop goal to all but seal victory, but there was another twist as Byrne gave away a penalty for a high tackle on Dan Evans.

Lions hopeful Biggar looked certain to land the penalty and snatch a win, but his kick drifted wide.

Isa Nacewa of Leinster in action against Josh Matavesi of Ospreys. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Isa Nacewa of Leinster in action against Josh Matavesi of Ospreys. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Leinster now look certain to advance to a home semi-final after this win put them nine points ahead of third placed Ospreys. And Cronin knows just how important it is to get back to the RDS in the play-offs.

"Having a home semi-final is massive, so it's a big focus for us to get that now," he said.

"We'd love to keep this unbeaten run going, but we have to stay focused and move on."

Leo Cullen's men face Pro12 champions Connacht next week before the focus switches back to Europe. If they are to claim a fourth Champions Cup title, they will have to beat Clermont Auvergne on French soil, but Cronin (below) believes Leinster have the firepower to make it to the Murrayfield final.

"It's going to be a huge challenge going down to Clermont, we know their forwards coach Jono Gibbes pretty well and he will know us well too," he said.

Robbie Henshaw of Leinster is tackled by Kieron Fonotia, left, and Olly Cracknell of Ospreys. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Robbie Henshaw of Leinster is tackled by Kieron Fonotia, left, and Olly Cracknell of Ospreys. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

"I was lucky enough to be involved a few years ago down in Bordeaux when we played them and got a win and that was one of the best games I've been involved with.

"The atmosphere and the whole day was amazing, they're a huge club with a huge rugby culture around the team. They have some incredible players down there and it will be a huge test for us."

Ospreys: S Davies; K Giles, K Fonotia (J Spratt 76), J Matavesi, D Evans; D Biggar (T Habberfield 56-66), R Webb (c); N Smith, S Baldwin (S Otten 56), B Mujati (M Fia 56), L Ashley (B Davies 56), R Thornton (T Ardron 45), O Cracknell (S Underhill 40), J Tipuric, D Baker.

Leinster: I Nacewa; R O'Loughlin (D Kearney 65), Z Kirchner, R Henshaw, F McFadden; J Carbery (R Byrne 74), J Gibson-Park (N McCarthy 70) ; J McGrath (P Dooley 56), S Cronin (J Tracey 56), T Furlong (M Ross 67), D Toner, M Kearney (I Nagle 56), R Ruddock, van der Flier, Conan (Leavy 40).

Ref - J Lacey (IRFU)

Indo Sport

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport