Saturday 3 December 2016

Leo Cullen's ref complaints can't mask Leinster failings in humbling Belfast trip

Published 02/05/2016 | 02:30

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen after his sides 'hiding' at the hands of Ulster at Ravenhill. Photo: Stephen McCarth /Sportsfile

Ultimately, this result may have had little material effect on how and where Leinster will play their semi-final but their wildly inconsistent form may have a much more meaningful impact on their chances of challenging the seemingly unstoppable defending champions from Glasgow.

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"A 30-6 scoreline wouldn't suggest fantastic form," messaged Leo Cullen in the aftermath of what his captain, Isa Nacewa, called a "hiding" where the side's indiscipline, creative impotence and defensive weakness combined for a pretty humbling day.

Cullen, however, was angst-ridden about the manner in which his side's indiscipline was punished by George Clancy; it wasn't merely those with blue-tinted eyes who felt a penalty try was an extremely harsh imposition of double jeopardy for Rob Kearney's first-half block on Ruan Pienaar.

"I thought there was cover there with Dave Kearney and a penalty try was harsh," said Cullen. "It was a bit dramatic from Ruan and he seemed to be okay for the rest of the game."

Leinster's Garry Ringrose is tackled by Luke Marshall during the match against Ulster. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Leinster's Garry Ringrose is tackled by Luke Marshall during the match against Ulster. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Asked later to expand on what was more than a subtle, accusatory hint of gamesmanship, the Leinster coach became strangely muted; "I've no idea, I can't suggest that at all. He was down for a long time."

Ulster's view was, unsurprisingly, also myopic.

"It is definitely a penalty try," said Stuart McCloskey. "What is he meant to give? He moves into him, he chips him, it is cynical.

"If you actually go to the point that it went dead," added Les Kiss, "you know Ruan is quick, the fact is we identified the space, worked to it, we got that play.

"And if he is not impeded you have to go to a point where you make a decision, that is a definite. It takes away any opportunity of a try. I am happy with it."

Cullen was also displeased with the second-half yellow for Luke Fitzgerald who tangled with Rory Scholes in what seemed an incident more redolent of the soccer field.

"I thought Luke was trying to get his hand into that space," moaned Cullen. "Is it a yellow card? I don't know, it's up for debate. I'll have to have a look again and try to break it down."

Leinster should look elsewhere to ascertain the reasons for a stunning implosion. "Everyone has a sob story here and there," notes Kiss.

"That was not the defining part of the game today, the defining part lay in other areas of the game to tell you the truth."

Cullen objected to any charge of complacency after a result which, in reality, will not impinge on their advance to an RDS semi-final given the top two meet on the final day.

But they clearly left something behind them at the border; a rate of 21 missed tackles is simply unforgivable for a side holding any aspirations towards winning silverware.

"When you go behind early and come up with yellow cards, you can lose your rhythm quite quickly.

"I didn't feel Ulster were pounding away at us for the whole game. We had plenty of ball.

"There was just that period in the middle of the second-half where we lost control."

Spanking Treviso next up will offer no worthy measure of how long it may take them to regain it.

Irish Independent

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