Five things we learned from Leinster's Champions Cup win over Bath
It was edge of the seat stuff, but in the end Leinster did just enough to book a place in the semi-final of the Champions Cup. Here are five things we learned from their 18-15 win over Bath.
Leinster breathe a massive sigh of relief
By the time the full time whistle went, the Leinster defence was out on their feet after what was a massive collective effort.
The returning internationals put in a good shift but their week off was evident by the end.
Bath were playing for extra-time which was understandable given they had the fitness edge over their opponents but Leinster just about held on.
Leinster take on the Dragons in Wales next week when Matt O’Connor is likely to rest his front line players for the Champions Cup semi-final against Toulon or Wasps.
The coach will be grateful to have two full weeks training with his squad and after another try-less victory, there is still a huge amount of room for improvement.
Experience trumps ambition
Bath coach Mike Ford spoke last week about how his side would come to Dublin and look to play their own expansive game plan and they didn’t disappoint, however, they lacked the know-how of European knockout rugby.
Although it did improve in the second half, Bath’s indiscipline was woeful and with Ian Madigan kicking as well as he was, they were repeatedly punished.
Leinster were perfectly happy to stay patient and take the points on offer which was the mark of a team who had been in a similar situation plenty of times in the past.
Bath’s style of play was easy on the eye but they didn’t have enough experience to see them over the line. They will learn from today’s defeat and with such a young squad, will be all the better for it.
Watson’s sin-binning proves decisive
Although it was unquestionably a penalty, Bath full-back Anthony Watson was perhaps a tad unfortunate to be shown a yellow card as well.
The parallels between Jared Payne’s red card against Saracens last year were similar and interestingly, it wad the same referee, Jerome Garces.
Watson spent 10 minutes in the bin and during that time Leinster scored six points to Bath’s none.
Afterwards Mike Ford felt that the French referee’s decision was correct but they didn’t help their cause by allowing Madigan the chance to slot two penalties.
He was however less pleased with the decision of the final penalty decision that went Leinster’s way:
"The last 10,15 minutes I was convinced we were going to win. It's small margins. I've looked at the last penalty again and it's dead-set penalty for us,” the visibly disappointed coach said.
George Ford is the real deal
Madigan was named man-of-the-match which going on the basis that the award goes to a player from the winning team was hardly a surprise but had Bath stolen it at the death, there was only one winner.
Although he will be disappointed with two missed kicks, George Ford gave a majestic display at out-half and was desperately unlucky to be on the losing side.
Ford has the special ability of being able to create something out of nothing; he scored one try and brilliantly created another.
Ford returned to Dublin with something of a point to prove after his subdued performance for England against Ireland but he silenced any critics that he may have had.
The 22-old isn’t the finished article just yet but England have a unique talent on their hands ahead of the World Cup.
Madigan exorcises his demons
For the second game running, Madigan put in a flawless display from the tee, kicking six from six – which ultimately sealed Leinster’s semi-final place.
After his almost crucial miss at Murrayfield, Madigan has shown terrific character to bounce back.
He needed the help of a post to slot one of the penalties today but the manner in which he is striking the ball is excellent.
Madigan is level-headed enough to know that he won’t be the first choice out-half or goal kicker at the province next season but there would be few better back-ups judging by the kind of form he has shown in the last two games.