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Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

IT is a funny old game this.

Leinster's championship mettle was tested and found wanting by the Ospreys at The Liberty Stadium on Friday. The result? They recorded back-to-back defeats from Heineken Cup and PRO12 League rugby.

You pick your poison when it comes to excuses.

Leinster's quickfire return to play on the Friday after Sunday in Toulon was too much, too soon, especially in Swansea where they always struggle, going down to their fourth straight League reverse.

"We knew it was a tough turnaround in five days with two away matches and to take a point can be important for us in the run-in. There was a lot of effort and character out there, but unfortunately we weren't quite good enough," said coach Matt O'Connor.

"We have three games we need to get maximum points out of to make sure we control where we are and, from that end, it is going to be very tight.

"We have Treviso, Ulster and Edinburgh. They are good sides, so we will have to make sure we are on form, have a handful of bodies back and get maximum points."

The middle leg of those three at Ravenhill looms large as the make or break match that will either confirm or deny Leinster's claim to a hometown end to the season.

Ulster rebounded from a torturous week made almost unbearable by the broken body count thrown up from their Heineken Cup exit to Saracens.

Coach Mark Anscombe lost Ruan Pienaar, Rory Best, John Afoa, Dan Tuohy and Roger Wilson in the tangle with the English club and they could have been vulnerable to an in-form Connacht on Friday.

Hard-nosed Anscombe wanted a reaction. He got it. Connacht were drilled for the oil that is five points in professional rugby, Tommy Bowe turning a few tricks at number 13, Andrew Trimble posting a hat-trick.

The scene w as all set for Ireland's only Heineken Cup semi-finalists Munster to keep on trucking back in the PRO12.

INCREASING

This reckoned without the increasing excellence of Gregor Townsend's Glasgow.

"I never won here as a player, so to come here and produce a performance like that is very special," said Townsend.

"Results over the weekend have made it a tighter league at the top. Now, we have four games left and need a big squad effort in all our remaining games."

The Irish provinces hold sway at first, Leinster, second, Ulster, and third, Munster in the League with The Warriors, in fourth, fast closing in on a home semi-final given they trail Ulster by five and Munster by three with a game less played.

The Scottish club has shown on various visits to the RDS and now Thomond Park that they are a force to be respected, even feared, rounding the final turn in the race for the play-offs.

They are the dark horses, though their pedigree is not proven.


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