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Schmidt relieved to wave goodbye to Warriors as Blues book final spot


Leinster head coach Joe Schmidt

Leinster head coach Joe Schmidt

Leinster head coach Joe Schmidt

SO it will be Ulster and Leinster in the PRO12 League final, in that ranking order. Given the way they dealt with The Scarlets and Glasgow Warriors, it would not be unreasonable to bank on Ulster as favourites.

Then again, the Warriors were within one strike of breaking Leinster (17-15), while The Scarlets must have turned the colour of their jerseys for an output that did not reflect well on them at Ravenhill on Friday night.

There was something of Clermont Auvergne in the 2010 Heineken Cup quarter-final about Leinster-Glasgow in that the best team did not necessarily win at the RDS.

You could see it in the faces of the respective coaches. Leinster's Joe Schmidt talked about the Scots in the same way he talked about seeing the French club once too often in Europe.

"They wouldn't have been my (semi-final) choice," he said. "I had a very good look at them tonight and I am glad I don't have to have another look at them this season."

In fact, full-back Stuart Hogg's badly pushed conversion of replacement centre Mark Bennett's late try turned out to be even more meaningful than the mere two points that would have eked out a draw and forced extra-time. "We were 2-1 down on the try count," noted Schmidt.

"Not only would it have extended the effort of players, we would have actually had to win the extra-time because of try count-back."

It is just as well, with Leinster planning a six-day turnaround to get ready for the Amlin Challenge Cup final against Stade Francais on Friday.

Schmidt was not about to throw out plaudits to a shaky lineout that kept taking away hard-earned attacking positions.

"It was a really frustrating night. I think the platform, we didn't really have," he said. "We missed a few lineouts."

It wasn't the only area of concern, and Pascal Gauzere was not the first French referee to feel the wrath of the New Zealander about the scrum.

"It wasn't well problem-solved by the officials. It looked to us that they were going in and down and that they were hinging."

There was one in particular that got right in under Schmidt's usually unflappable skin: "We felt it was a really tough call (at the) five-metre scrum. We see the backside of their loosehead come right up in the air and shoulders go right down.

"Why would we collapse our scrum, when it has been dominant five metres out from the line? It just beggars belief.

"It is not the first time and it won't be the last time that people are frustrated with that aspect of the game.

"Let's hope that the (new rule) pre-bind coming in on the 1st of September solves all the problems that have ever existed at scrum time."

Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend stressed how "proud" he was of his players and of the journey they have begun as a new entity in terms of challenging for trophies.

"I thought they were outstanding to come here and create a few opportunities in the first half, be held up over the line and, on another occasion, we lost the ball over the line.

"Knowing that we would have to go in to the wind against double European champions, we just upped our tempo, upped our rugby and created so much, got a great try. I felt we were really unlucky not to get the win," he said.

Did the better team lose? "No. The better team is the team that wins. Leinster just had a bit more experience. I thought they were smart around the breakdown, got penalties in a lot of situations and just had the edge over us there.

"There are two quality teams in the final that finished first and second. It shows you the quality of the competition that Leinster were pushed very close by Glasgow.

"It will be a cracking final."