Friday 17 November 2017

Relieved Schmidt hails Cullen's role in lineout triumph

Hugh Farrelly

Relief was Joe Schmidt's primary emotion after Leinster's bruising Heineken Cup quarter-final victory over Leicester at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.

Leinster survived a late Tigers fightback to secure their home semi-final in three weeks' time -- in a contest that Schmidt believes was the toughest they have experienced all season.

"We are in pieces," said Schmidt. "I only hope they (Leicester) are as well because we are feeling it. That was as physical as it has been this season, without a doubt.

"I'm delighted. When you are in a cauldron like that and the pressure is on it can just be a fight to get over the line and I felt we did that.

"They deserved to be that close to us. They had a massive amount of ball and they put us under a lot of pressure. We had the luxury of putting scoreboard pressure on them. We got our noses in front and kept in front," he added.

Isa Nacewa was outstanding from full-back, as he has been all season, and it was his solo try after half-time that gave Leinster the impetus to bounce back from their defeat in Thomond Park the week before and kick on for the victory.

However, Leicester will feel hard done by after the officials failed to spot a blatant forward pass in the build-up. "I haven't seen the pass," said Schmidt.

"To be fair, Isa still had about four guys to beat at that stage and it would be a long way to pull it back for a forward pass. You do get swings and roundabouts. Maybe our swing was a bit wobbly last week (against Munster) and maybe we got the roundabout today."

The New Zealander paid tribute to his captain Leo Cullen, who masterminded a super lineout performance that turned over five Leicester throws -- repeatedly denying the visitors possession at critical junctures.

"I thought Leo was fantastic and that started from Monday when he and (forwards coach) Jono Gibbes did a fantastic job just working hard at deconstructing the Leicester lineout," said Schmidt.

"I do feel for Leicester. I know what it is like to lose key players like Parling, Skivington and Deacon but we all survive with those things. You patch up and go forward."

Leicester coach Richard Cockerill said the better team won and had no issues with the Nacewa try.

"Was it a forward pass? Yeah, maybe, maybe not, but it was 50 metres from your goal-line and you have got to make your tackles. That's not here nor there," said Cockerill.

"No excuses. We had opportunities to win the game. We created enough chances and didn't take them."

Irish Independent

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