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Slim pickings for Cullen as Leinster meekly surrender

Connacht 47 Leinster 10

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Connacht's Kieran Marmion runs in to score his side's fifth try in the match against Leinster. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Connacht's Kieran Marmion runs in to score his side's fifth try in the match against Leinster. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Connacht's Kieran Marmion runs in to score his side's fifth try in the match against Leinster. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

As it happened, Leinster didn't even need the solitary match point required to guarantee a home semi-final.

It's just as well, because, in fairness to Leinster, their abject shadow side made a sporting fist of coughing up the 126-point swing required for Scarlets to pip them.

"I don't know if the players were trying to make me anxious in the coaching box or what," mused a bemused Leo Cullen after the romp.

Nonetheless, Leinster have bought a weekend off before their Champions Cup final in Bilbao as they now take the direct route to a home Guinness PRO14 semi-final.

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Connacht's Niyi Adeolokun is tackled by Leinster's Joey Carbery during the Guinness PRO14 match. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Connacht's Niyi Adeolokun is tackled by Leinster's Joey Carbery during the Guinness PRO14 match. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Connacht's Niyi Adeolokun is tackled by Leinster's Joey Carbery during the Guinness PRO14 match. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

On the basis of this evidence many of these players have earned the time off.

Few will enter the thoughts of the Leinster brains trust ahead of the European decider either; if this was billed as the perfect audition, too many fluffed their lines.

As one men bade farewell to a career, some more may have waved goodbye to any more meaningful action this term.

Culture

As a demonstration of professional culture from potential champions, this was a failure on all fronts.

Leinster's squad to tackle Racing 92 will be a formidable combination and the gap between them and the rest may have been quite more significant than we had suspected.

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Leinster's Noel Reid  is tackled by John Muldoon, left, and Shane Delahunt of Connacht. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Leinster's Noel Reid is tackled by John Muldoon, left, and Shane Delahunt of Connacht. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Leinster's Noel Reid is tackled by John Muldoon, left, and Shane Delahunt of Connacht. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

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"It was hard to pick many positives out of that to tell you the truth," said Cullen. "Slim pickings."

Jordi Murphy, slated to bench, was a late withdrawal after feeling "tightness" en route to the venue; the rest of his colleagues were seemingly gripped by a violent form of travel sickness.

Murphy, certain to play eight in the Bilbao showpiece, will be fine. Complaining of a foot problem in the team hotel before the game, prudence prompted his withdrawal.

A wise choice. Days like this can happen, when the momentum becomes a remorseless snowball. Everything Connacht touched turned to gold; Leinster were Midas in reverse.

Resignation, rather than anger, was Cullen's default position as the shambles unfolded before his eyes.

"I wouldn't be angry because I see those guys working hard. There are a lot of things they need to develop in terms of the mental toughness needed to dog it out in games like this.

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Connacht's Kieran Marmion goes over to score his side's third try during the match against Leinster. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Connacht's Kieran Marmion goes over to score his side's third try during the match against Leinster. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Connacht's Kieran Marmion goes over to score his side's third try during the match against Leinster. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

"You never like to see that sort of thing happen to your team when you're involved in coaching them, or in any capacity.

"People need to understand, Treviso were fully loaded, so were Connacht, and we've a lot of young guys in there as well.

"Jeepers, they're going through some learnings. Over the course of the season, over the 21 rounds, there were a lot of positives obviously to finish top of our conference.

Everything

"But, yeah, this is tough viewing. We were second-best to everything."

For an outfit that is preparing itself for an assault to be the best in Europe, Saturday was a humbling affair and yet perhaps a reflection of the difficulty in chasing two hares.

There is a bigger picture; Connacht's season is over; Leinster are chasing a May double."Very few teams are capable of doing it in two competitions. That's one of the things we have discussed as a club, how to do that, understanding the challenges of it," Cullen pointed out.

"We've gone a step further this season. It's hugely exciting. It's not exciting right now because there are a lot of things going through my mind about this game. But when May comes, these are the games we want to be involved in."

CONNACHT - T O'Halloran; N Adeolokun, T Farrell, B Aki, M Healy; J Carty (C Ronaldson (64), K Marmion (C Blade 64); D Buckley (P McCabe 68), S Delahunt ( T McCartney 68), F Bealham (C Carey 61), G Thornbury, Q Roux (E Masterson 56), E McKeon, J Butler, J Muldoon (capt).

LEINSTER - J Carbery; B Daly, T Daly (J Larmour 55), N Reid, J Lowe; R Byrne (A Byrne 70), N McCarthy (J Gibson-Park 52); J McGrath capt (C Healy 52), J Tracy (S Cronin 52), A Porter M Bent (53), R Molony, M Kearney (D Toner 35-40), M Deegan (C Doris (62), P Timmins, J Conan.

Ref - A Brace (IRFU)


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