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Blues do just enough to hit the knockouts


Fergus McFadden

Fergus McFadden

Fergus McFadden

The Leinster of old, or that from 2009-to-2012, would never have gone to the bother of building up a 14-point lead only to throw it away.

Coach Matt O'Connor must have been tempted to yank what hair he has left out of his head as his Leinster played all the rugby to move into a home quarter-final scenario.

They had Wasps at their mercy, on bended knee by half-time.

The English club went a fair part of the way towards shooting themselves in the foot right from the start when flanker Ashley Johnson was extremely fortunate to avoid a straight red for taking Dave Kearney out in the air.

South African Johnson was removed for ten minutes, while Kearney was taken out of the game in what seemed like an unfair trade.

Thereafter, Leinster played all the worthwhile rugby and took away well-devised tries by wing Fergus McFadden and scrum-half Isaac Boss to open up a 20-6 advantage as Lorenzo Cittadini also saw yellow.

The only blots on their copybook were the two needless penalties handed to Andy Goode by Sean Cronin in the sixth and 31st minutes.

It was all going sweetly to plan until Kane Douglas stepped up to hammer Johnson without the ball in what would offer Wasps an inlet into the game.

"It is one of those things that happens in the spur of the moment," defended O'Connor.

"The ball goes to Johnson, it's a fantastic tackle. The ball zooms across his chest, it very, very hard for defenders.

"If you get it wrong in this day and age, you end up in the sin-bin. I wouldn't fault Kane in that regard."

In the time Douglas was waiting to make amends, Jordi Murphy went into overdrive.

But, Leinster were thwarted by Dominic Ryan's obstruction ahead of Michael Bent.

"From there, we lost our momentum," added O'Connor.

Then, Wasps started to take over, building confidence and pressure.

They had to wait for two tries by prop Matt Mullan in the 61st minute and number eight Nathan Hughes in the 68th minute to get on terms, Goode converting both of them.

Leinster did well to absorb these blows and the loss of captain Jamie Heaslip to eke out a shot at recovering the edge.

But, Ian Madigan missed, for the fourth time, in the 76th minute in what was an uncharacteristic down day from placed-balls.

"It is unfortunate for Ian because he has very, very few, if any bad days. He'll take that pretty hard," said O'Connor.

"It wasn't all down to him. It was all about the group. There were enough opportunities out there for us to win the game, if we had been a little more accurate."

They failed to trouble the scoreboard in the second-half and, ultimately, that was to their detriment.

Leinster blew the guarantee of a home quarter-final through a period of self-harming which could even have been terminal.

"You've got to give credit to Wasps," pointed out O'Connor.

"They fought their way back into it. They capitalised on our ill-discipline and they executed when they had opportunities, like from the lineout drive at the end of the half.

"You can't take anything away from them. They had a chance to win the game and that would have changed the dynamics again."

Out-half Goode's last minute drop goal could have knocked them out of the last eight were it not for the charge of Jack Conan to pressurise the kick.

Wasps captain James Haskell felt it was one that got away.

"We should have won that," he said.

"Leinster are a quality side but we weren't great defensively in the first half.

"It is just disappointing because we should have won that. They were the better team in the first half but we made them look like a million dollars.

"We won the second half battle and we know we have a lot of work to do but we pushed a very good Irish side and we know we should have won."

Should have. Could have. Didn't.

Matt O'Connor's Leinster were rampant at 20-6 when Dominic Ryan obstructed Michael Bent two metres out in the 45th minute.

When Leinster needed someone to jet-propel them forward, the Barcelona born kid was ready, willing and able.