Tuesday 18 June 2019

Kaino hails 'world-class' opponents as Fardy looks to improvements for final

Scott Fardy brings a quiet steel to everything he does. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Scott Fardy brings a quiet steel to everything he does. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

They are strangers in this land, this pair of Antipodeans who wore opposite numbers in the last World Cup final but found the tables turned beneath a sunny Dublin sky.

The All Black great Jerome Kaino now wears the red of Toulouse and skippers the team, while Wallaby Scott Fardy dons the blue of Leinster and brings a quiet steel to everything he does.

Pitched from the bench at the 11th hour, Fardy scored two tries as his side produced a performance of real quality to send Kaino's group of all-singing, all-dancing hot-steppers out of the tournament.

Toulouse have been a breath of fresh air all season, but Leinster's relentless defence was stifling and their attacking play was ruthless.

As a man who was until recently a member of the greatest team of all time, Kaino respected what he came up against.

"They are definitely up there," said Kaino who left New Zealand after the 2017 Lions tour.

"I've said before they're world class, some of their players are the best in their position in the world and as a collective they're great.

"That's definitely up there with one of the biggest games I've played in.

"They were able to build on their momentum. We defended well at times, but we weren't able to build on our momentum when we got it, every time they went into our red zone, they got a score.

"There were many factors hampered our momentum - (Richie Gray's) yellow card, penalties. They built on their continuity."

Fardy was picked as a bench option, but he was ready to step up when Rhys Ruddock failed to shake an illness on the eve of the game.

Johnny Sexton gently joked that the 34-year-old doesn't do much training these days anyway, but when the call came he was ready to deliver a superb performance that was capped with a well-finished try that sealed the game.

"Leo didn't really tell me during the Captain's Run yesterday so I wasn't sure but then I saw Rhys on the sideline and he wasn't feeling well," he said of his late call.

"I'd done the role during the week so I knew I could do the job. I was confident with the reps Rhys had given me during the week that I could do the job today.

"Our set-piece operated very well.

"We were able to go to our driving maul a couple of times and get some results on the back of it, whether it was a penalty or a try.

"We're happy with that. As forwards, Leo is constantly pushing us in making sure we're getting better in that area of the game. We're going to have to be against Saracens because they have a very good set-piece."

Already, he was looking forward to the next challenge. He might not have to rely on an illness next time around.

Irish Independent

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