Wednesday 20 September 2017

Home quarter-final not dead in water - Madigan

Ian Madigan accepts that the weekend result could cost them next year
Ian Madigan accepts that the weekend result could cost them next year
David Kelly

David Kelly

Leinster out-half Ian Madigan has admitted that the dramatic finale at Lansdowne Road -- when his side went all out for four points but ended up with none -- could cost them a quarter-final at the venue next year.

The best four pool winners earn home ties in the last eight and Madigan insists that Leinster must win in Castres next month to maintain their target of qualifying within that elite quartet.

"It could cost us," he said. "We are still in control of the group, but it is disappointing that we lost, especially at home.

"In the Heineken Cup you want to end up at No 1 seeds and get the eighth team, especially as you know that's the easiest. Unfortunately, we gave that up. But the target is still a home quarter-final and that's attainable.

"We have to be confident we can win in Castres -- they'll be a passionate team down there."

Coach Matt O'Connor tried to adopt the same approach, refusing to wallow in the point that got away, instead praising his side for their commitment to retrieve the victory their performance scarcely merited.

"That's sport, isn't it? There's three or four opportunities where we could have scored in that final sequence, but we didn't. At least the boys were playing to win the game, which is what you want," he said.

"Fair play to them. You drop the ball and it costs you a point, but you wouldn't have it any other way to be honest."

Only they must finish the job in their next two games.

"We need to win the next two," agreed the Australian, whose side's trip to France comes before their final home date against the Ospreys.

CHANCE

"If you don't, you're in the lap of the gods. We need to make sure we get results against Castres away and Ospreys at home. And if we do that, we'll win the group and give ourselves the best chance.

"If you win tonight, you win the group, that's the way the numbers looked. Especially off the back of the Castres result, which was potentially beneficial for us.

"We took our eye off the ball a little bit. We need to make sure we build into Heineken rounds five and six really well."

Northampton, brooding from last weekend's humiliation at home, were not only intent on reversing the round-three script, but they also sought to rewrite the plot of the entire pool with their repeated refusal to take three-pointers in preference for line-out drive options.

They are more than capable of winning their last two pool games and being able to take advantage should Leinster mess up again.

"It gives a little life to the group," admitted their coach Jim Mallinder. "We're not dead and buried. We've still got two tough games to go, but Leinster have got that as well."

One presumes Leinster will be more resourceful in France than they were in familiar surroundings on Saturday, as they slipped to only their second home reverse in 17 European outings, and their second successive one at Ireland's rugby headquarters.

O'Connor waved away charges of complacency after the previous week's romp.

"I don't think it was complacent. It was inaccurate. We didn't execute, we didn't look after the ball. We were our own worst enemy," he said.

"It was a pretty tough game of footie. There wasn't much given by any team. Fair play to them, they held on and got the result. They threw everything at us, they came to be as abrasive as they could. So if you're a little bit inaccurate under those conditions, you get found out.

"They're a good side, they're no mugs. They're a good team and we were second best."

Irish Independent

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