Wednesday 22 May 2019

Johnny Sexton a doubt for Exeter rematch after bruising slugfest at Sandy Park

Jonathan Sexton of Leinster speks to his team-mates after the European Rugby Champions Cup Pool 3 Round 3 match between Exeter Chiefs and Leinster at Sandy Park in Exeter, England. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Jonathan Sexton of Leinster speks to his team-mates after the European Rugby Champions Cup Pool 3 Round 3 match between Exeter Chiefs and Leinster at Sandy Park in Exeter, England. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Tadhg Furlong of Leinster get involved in a maul with Jonny Hill of Exeter Chiefs. Photo: Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Leinster will be without influential flanker Rhys Ruddock for their re-match against Exeter Chiefs at the Aviva Stadium next Saturday, but Leo Cullen is hopeful that Johnny Sexton will overcome his quad issue to play.

He'll need all hands on deck as Exeter Chiefs supremo Rob Baxter believes his side are more than capable of turning the tables when the two teams do it all again.

Ruddock picked up a hamstring problem midway through the second half of this gruelling, physical battle of wills at Sandy Park as the Irish province engineered a winning try from 44 enthralling phases in the home side's 22 with seven minutes remaining.

Sexton played through his issue, but handed over the kicking responsibilities to Isa Nacewa after half-time.

There was little between the teams but at the end of it all, the three-time champions were in control of Pool 3.

And Tadhg Furlong says they must be just as good on Saturday afternoon to justify their position as one of the strongest teams in this year's tournament.

"It's a good win for us, really important in terms of the pool," the Wexford man said.

"If we want to be ambitious this year, we're going to have to back it up.

"Lessons were learnt for us against Northampton when we won away from home and didn't back it up the following week.

"I wasn't involved and a lot of the squad were, that still sticks in the memory for a lot of lads.

"We're under no illusions how tough it will be, tonight was as physical a game as you're likely to play but it's on us to back it up if we want to get out of this pool."

Despite his professional approach to turning the page on the win quickly, the Ireland and Lions star conceded it had been a very good night at the office.

"There's no getting away from it, to come away to Exeter - English champions, haven't lost here in 12 months - it's a very good result for us," he said.

"We had to work very hard for it as well, as a pack.

"There probably wasn't the razzle-dazzle, the unstructured stuff and getting it into the wider channels from either team that you'd expect to see coming in.

"To go through 44 phases on the line, I felt all 44 believe me, if you take that clip in isolation it probably reflects the whole game.

"They are exceptionally good at the pick-and-go game in our 22 and some of the lads made some really important turnovers there, the energy and enthusiasm for lads to get up off the ground and make double, triple efforts was really good.

"It's going to be tough to recover, short turnaround, but we'll have to get our heads right and review it and move on."

Exeter coach Rob Baxter didn't quibble about the result, but believes his team can still go to Dublin and get a victory.

"I've got no complaints about the result. They obviously played better than we did and deserved the scores they got," he said.

"The positive is I'm pretty confident we can play a fair bit better. We have that opportunity in just six days. The challenge is to try to improve our performance more than Leinster do."

Irish Independent

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