Thursday 21 November 2019

We left it all out there and we got our just rewards

A home European quarter-final and top-four place in the PRO12 is a great platform but now we have to drive on

24 January 2015; Leinster water carrier Shane Jennings. European Rugby Champions Cup 2014/15, Pool 2, Round 6, Wasps v Leinster. Ricoh Arena, Coventry, England. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
24 January 2015; Leinster water carrier Shane Jennings. European Rugby Champions Cup 2014/15, Pool 2, Round 6, Wasps v Leinster. Ricoh Arena, Coventry, England. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

What a weekend that was! After a tense Sunday of viewing various games around Europe we have achieved what we set out to achieve. We are delighted to have a home quarter-final against Bath.

Last Saturday was, even though I hate to say it and to use a cliché, a game of two halves. But that is just what it was like.

We started the game very well and held our discipline in difficult conditions. The pitch and the underfoot conditions were an issue and you saw lads slipping and losing their footing. Jimmy lost his at one stage when we were on the attack and you could see the issues both packs were having in the scrum with the grass peeling away at the slightest heave.

We also managed Wasps well enough. We didn't allow them much ball and when they did get it we put pressure on them and didn't allow them to gain any real momentum. We had identified their main threats and by and large we kept the ball away from a dangerous back three.

It was looking really good coming up to half time and we had converted the majority of the chances that were on offer. Our messaging at half time was simple and concise and the lads knew what needed to be done.

I was cover for the game and was running water. My job for the weekend was to pass on the messages that Matt and the other coaches wanted to get to Jimmy and Jamie. Usually you can get a good idea of where the lads are when you're doing this job as you hear what they are saying at the breaks in play.

Thankfully the messages were similar to what was coming from the coaches and the lads had a great feel for what was going on. They understood where we needed to go to on the pitch to try and execute moves that we felt would give us rewards. It was great to see us get a few tries and some of the lads really stepping up with a good shift.

The start of the second half went to plan. Yes we were down a man for a bit but we came out and dominated possession and only for a crossing call from the ref Benty might have bundled over for a try. The next 30 minutes though was about digging deep and defending.

Wasps are no mugs and unfortunately they started to look after the ball a bit better and used their maul to great effect and got their tries from two similar situations, which to be honest is very disappointing from our point of view. But there were some stages when the ball was in play for minute after minute, phase after phase and yet we kept them at bay, held our discipline. That sort of effort does take its toll and for 99 per cent of it, we held our line but as I said the two tries that we let in, on another day could have cost us.

It's a game that we could have won but it also could have been an awful lot worse had Andy Goode nailed his drop at goal. He was a bit hit and miss for them and I know Ian would have expected to kick a few more for us. But again I'd go back to the pitch and the conditions underfoot. The planting foot for both kickers can not have been steady.

When you see a team playing for the drop goal opportunity and you see the clock ticking away you know it will come down to one opportunity, one shot. I think Jack Conan put great pressure on Goode and he missed.

Thankfully with the draw we were in a strong position and we really had done as much as we could. The lads left it all out there in attack and in defence, so by Sunday it was time to sit back and relax and see what happened elsewhere.

Unfortunately we picked up a few knocks, with Dave Kearney, Eoin Redden and Jamie but thankfully I don't think any of them are as bad as first thought.

That's it for Leinster for a few weeks now, with a lot of the boys off into Ireland camp and with the other members of the squad off for a week of R&R.

It's been a very busy period over Christmas and the new year so it has been great to get away from rugby and regroup and re-assess where we are and what we need to do to get to where we want to be. For all the negativity that surrounded us at times this year, we find ourselves in a great position being able to compete in both competitions and with more and more lads returning from injury every week.

It's a big few weeks coming up with the Wolfhounds game and the Six Nations squad taking shape. It will be hugely important for all of us to maintain the momentum in the PRO12 while the Irish lads are away and it will have a huge influence on whether we are in the shake up come the end of the season.

This has always been a huge challenge for us in the club but a time where we have done well in the past. I personally can't wait for the up coming games and the next few weeks that will determine our season.

Irish Independent

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