Sunday 19 January 2020

Leo Cullen hails 'clinical' Leinster as they storm into Champions Cup final with thrilling performance

Leinster coach Leo Cullen. Photo: Sportsfile
Leinster coach Leo Cullen. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Leo Cullen hailed his ruthlessly “clinical” Leinster side, as they easily disposed of the reigning PRO12 champions to book their place in the Champions Cup final.

The Scarlets were blown away by Leinster's dominant forward pack and led by the supreme Johnny Sexton outside of them, Cullen's men were never in any real danger.

The 38-18 victory seals a place in the Bilbao decider as Leinster now await the winners of tomorrow's second semi-final in Bordeaux between Racing and Munster.

“I thought the players were pretty clinical in terms of taking opportunities,” a delighted Cullen said afterwards. “When we got into the 22 and coming away with points more often than not.

“Scoring that (McFadden) try just on half time - clearly when you score early and have a lead, it allows you to be able to manage the game and try squeeze the opposition a little bit more.

“I thought the players did well in terms of those parts of the game. The try on half time, they are always big moments and it gave us real positive momentum.

“How the guys managed the start of the second half, played in the right areas of the field. Again when Scott (Fardy) scores and then Johnny 10 minutes later, we were always able to keep the game in the right areas of the field for us put pressure on Scarlets.

“Ultimately we're delighted to get the win. We have a lot of respect for Scarlets in terms of what they have done in recent times.

“We certainly well and truly came up second best against them last year, different competition I know but everyone has worked hard to get the team to this point – the players in particular, all the backroom team behind the scenes.

“It's important that we just dust ourselves now and get ourselves ready for Bilbao, which will be a bit different for us, but a great challenge nonetheless.”

Fergus McFadden is set for a scan on his leg after being forced in the act of scoring the crucial try on the stroke of half time.

There were no other major injury concerns, while to add to the good news, both Luke McGrath and Rhys Ruddock are expected to return in time for the final.

Cullen also praised the Leinster supporters, who will be expected to flock to Spain for the May 12 decider.

“The drive into the ground was amazing, a lot of blue out on the streets,” the head coach added.

“Going through the pool stages we talk about all the little margins through the course of those six games and all that work that goes in to make sure that you get a home quarter-final first off and then that you do everything in your powers, in your control, to try and get a semi-final in Ireland somewhere, which is ultimately here.

“Bilbao is a slightly more difficult venue to get to but I’m sure we’ll have great support over there as well.

"It's a great challenge, a final in Spain, it will be a special day, we hope, we just need to give ourselves the best chance now.

“We've had two great days in the Aviva, it's a very different challenge to go away to Spain. We'll make sure we have a good plan and prepare the players as best we can."

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