Tuesday 27 September 2016

'We were fortunate to hold on'

Brendan Fanning at the Aviva Stadium

Published 05/04/2015 | 02:30

Leinster made it through to the semi-final of the Champions Cup despite a late comeback from Bath before a crowd of 43,958 at the Aviva Stadium yesterday. They will play the winners of this afternoon's tie between Toulon and Wasps, with Leinster away from home in that game in a fortnight.

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A hugely relieved Matt O'Connor praised his side's defensive effort when the heat came on in the last quarter of the 18-15 win.

"It was a pretty stressful last 15 minutes but I was pretty comfortable before that," he said. "I though we managed field position pretty well but they came back at us very strong and we were pretty fortunate to hold on. But I thought the scramble and the work-rate from the lads to solve those couple of opportunities was pretty important at the time.

"We'd probably change the first 20 minutes of the second half where we were a little bit inaccurate. We didn't get to play off an opportunity where Zane (Kirchner) was knocked into touch early in the second half and that probably would have taken the game away from Bath. I think the referee was probably playing a triple advantage at the time and that was a pretty significant turning point."

Centre Ian Madigan converted six penalties, although the visitors claimed touchdowns by England outhalf George Ford and captain Stuart Hooper.

"We should have won that game today," Bath head coach Mike Ford said.

"There is a lot of disappointment. The first-half performance, especially, we are a lot better than that. It is probably where we lost the game. We couldn't really control the ball and we gave away some penalties.

"We made quite a few line-breaks, but there is more than one way to win a game. It is not just about scoring tries. They kicked their penalties and fair play to them. But we are so disappointed because we are a lot better than what we showed today. That last 10-15 minutes, I was pretty convinced we were going to win the game, but it's small margins."

It will be Leinster's first semi-final since they last won the trophy in 2012, and the fact that they are away from home will make them outsiders.

"You've got to make sure that you're not holding on away from home especially against two quality sides, whether it be Toulon or Wasps," O'Connor added. "We've got a little bit of history recently with both of them so we're pretty well versed on the threats that they pose."

Aside from Fergus McFadden, who appeared to be knocked out after an accidental collision with Bath's Kyle Eastmond, the coach said they had no fresh injury problems coming out of game that captain Jamie Heaslip likened to a Test match for speed and intensity.

Leinster are back in action this day week, away to the Dragons in the Pro12, and have only one home game left in their run-in. They are in fifth place in the table, four points off the play-off zone.

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