Monday 16 September 2019

Johnny Sexton backed the forwards and they delivered - Leo Cullen

Glasgow 18 Leinster 34

Leinster try-scoring hero Cian Healy gets to grips with Glasgow’s George Turner at Scotstoun. Photo: Getty Images
Leinster try-scoring hero Cian Healy gets to grips with Glasgow’s George Turner at Scotstoun. Photo: Getty Images
David Kelly

David Kelly

We remember when an erstwhile Leinster coach would rarely miss the opportunity to tell his players, or anyone else within earshot for that matter, that championship moments decide championship matches.

Leo Cullen's men maximised the truth of the maxim in Scotstoun; these moments normally arrive either before or after the half-time break and Leinster played them bigger and better.

Glasgow Warriors' Ali Price is tackled by Leinster's Cian Healy and Robbie Henshaw. Photo: Getty Images
Glasgow Warriors' Ali Price is tackled by Leinster's Cian Healy and Robbie Henshaw. Photo: Getty Images

With the sides level at 7-7 after a pretty error-strewn affair, sprinkled with some of the stardust Glasgow can be capable of when the sun shines, which it never did yesterday, the hosts were awarded a penalty from far out but with the gale behind them. Stuart Hogg, who had given his side the lead with a wonderfully creative score, kicked high and handsome - but also wide.

From the restart, Rhys Ruddock smashed Tim Swinson and his side swarmed to win a penalty in the process.

As if demonstrating contempt for Hogg's errant swipe, Jonathan Sexton, captain for the day, ordered his kicker - which conveniently happened to be himself - to spurn the posts and head for touch as the clock ticked into the red.

From there, Leinster's pack remorselessly trundled a fine, lengthy maul fully 20 yards over the line, Cian Healy the one-man wrecking ball finishing the work of the eight-man demolition crew, scoring his second try of the day after Sexton had ordered a similar drive earlier.

Leinster's Rhys Ruddock is challenged by Glasgow Warriors' Adam Ashe. Photo: Getty Images
Leinster's Rhys Ruddock is challenged by Glasgow Warriors' Adam Ashe. Photo: Getty Images

And so, instead of being 13-10 down, Leinster were 17-10 ahead and primed to accelerate down the tracks like the frequent trains that straddle Scotstoun stadium, while Glasgow's European hopes remain stranded on the platform.

"The two big moments were when Johnny backed the forwards to go for drives, one of them on the far side and one just before half-time," agreed Cullen, whose side sit pretty atop Pool 3 ahead of today's meeting between their remaining rivals, Montpellier and Exeter.

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"Our forwards laid the platform for us and then we are more in control of the game and can play the game in the right areas of the field as a result of those tries," added Cullen.

So it proved, as Leinster bounded clear in the second half and secured the bonus with finely-taken efforts from a domineering Sexton and Noel Reid's 75th-minute try; Tommy Seymour had briefly given the locals in the 7,351 crowd a glimmer of hope.

"We started the second half well but Glasgow are a constant threat, particularly Stuart Hogg at 15 and Tommy Seymour on the right-wing while Finn Russell is a box of tricks as well. We needed to be on our toes all the time."

For his part, Dave Rennie sourced that element of extra grunt and grit as the primary platform for Leinster success and his side's demise.

"We got outmuscled, got beaten by a better side, so we have to take it," said the Kiwi, who watched his side get hustled by a more streetwise, sterner outfit for a second successive week.

This was Leinster's first win here in five years and, with Exeter away as the first half of the decisive December double-header, a third win in 11 road trips will imbue them with confidence ahead of the resumption.

"Exeter back-to-back, listen it's a six-day turnaround and we have a lot of tough games even before we play Montpellier in round six," said Cullen.

Negotiating this particular passage could have been tougher and at times they were the ones who were making it harder for themselves, shoddy tackling a lingering issue from the previous week and they struggled defensively when Glasgow caught the edges out wide in the first half. Indeed, they borrowed the Leinster loop to make their point.

Hogg created his side's opener; his decoy run allowed Russell and Sam Johnson effect a marvellous wraparound, Tommy Seymour grubbered from tight on the right touchline and the gifted but erratic Lion did wonderfully well to dot down. Leinster supporters argued that his right ankle was in touch as he finished in an almost crouching pose; Sexton was in a grouching pose as he complained about obstruction.

Leinster remained composed though as their pack ground out the half-time lead and, as Glasgow's mistakes and anxiety grew incrementally, Sexton's team retained their composure to ultimately ease away.

Glasgow came out breathing fury but technical limitations undermined their assault; Leinster assumed control almost immediately with their third try as they reclaimed the copyrighted loop in the 45th minute. Sexton finished it, benefiting from Fardy's delicious out-the-back deception which bamboozled the defence. Now, at 24-10 they were thinking bonus.

Glasgow proved they could be deadly accurate once they retained the ball and didn't panic; they did so with some crisp passing, eventually finding the overlap on the stressed left-hand side of the Leinster defence, Seymour profiting.

Russell added a penalty and, suddenly, it was a one-score game again, 24-18.

Back came Leinster to end the argument; this time Tadhg Furlong with the excellent carry in midfield as Sexton looped before being held back by Peter Horne; the local was lucky not be carded but was punished nonetheless as the Lions outhalf nailed the penalty to restore the two-score advantage, 27-18.

Sexton departed to a round chorus of boos as his business was concluded with Reid's late bonus.

Scorers - Glasgow Warriors: Hogg try; Seymour try; Russell 2 pens, con. Leinster: Healy 2 tries; Reid try; Sexton try, 2 pens, 3 cons; Byrne con.

Glasgow Warriors: S Hogg; T Seymour, S Johnson (N Grigg 69), P Horne (S Johnson 75), L Sarto (L Jones 61); F Russell, A Price; J Bhatti (A Allan 61), G Turner (P MacArthur 65), Z Fagerson (D Rae 78), T Swinson, J Gray, R Wilson (R Harley 6-23 blood; 28), C Gibbins (G Turner 75), A Ashe (S Cummings 62).

Leinster: J Carbery; F McFadden, R Henshaw, N Reid, B Daly (D Kearney 42); J Sexton (R Byrne 69), L McGrath (J Gibson-Park 62); C Healy (J McGrath 50), S Cronin (J Tracy 50), T Furlong, D Toner, S Fardy (J Ryan 55), R Ruddock, J van der Flier (D Leavy 50), J Conan.

Referee: J Garces (France).

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