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Dublin: 13 °C Thursday 16 August, 2018
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'Week in, week out, finals footy': Lowe relishes the big stage as he leads the way for Leinster

The freewheeling Kiwi was one of Leinster’s standout performers yesterday, with his one-handed offload for Jack Conan a particular highlight.

Lowe made a big overall impact.
Lowe made a big overall impact.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Ryan Bailey reports from the RDS

IT DIDN’T TAKE long for this semi-final to become the James Lowe show, as the Kiwi winger sprinkled his magic on an absorbing inter-pro contest in the way only he can.

Fuelled by the frustration of missing out on last weekend’s Champions Cup final, Lowe wasted little time in making his impact felt yesterday with a man-of-the-match performance to help Leinster keep their double dream alive in front of a sold-out RDS.

Through no fault of his own, Lowe has been left on the sidelines for some of Leinster’s biggest games in recent weeks so it was wholly appropriate he would have such a big part to play in this 16-15 win, showing his class throughout an influential display.

Whenever Lowe, the freewheeling winger without a care in the world, gets on the ball, something always happens. He brings an X-Factor to proceedings, as evidenced in one of his first involvements down this left side.

James Ryan’s immense hit on Jean Kleyn forced the turnover in midfield during a breathless opening quarter, allowing Leinster to counter-ruck and spread it wide left to Lowe, who steamrolled Simon Zebo with pure power and pace.

Lowe’s penchant for offloading out of the tackle is one of his strengths and his rugby intelligenace and awareness is second to none, with the supporting Isa Nacewa fed to continue Leinster’s forward momentum.

A couple of phases later, Lowe was back on the ball — this time bursting past James Cronin after Jack McGrath’s pop pass back inside — and again he ran straight through Zebo’s tackle, to audaciously offload for Conan to go over for Leinster’s opening score.

“If the ball comes your way it’s awesome but early on in the game you mentally need to win your contact, your first breakdown and you don’t want to sit and wait to see what happens,” Lowe says of making an early impact.

“You need to be as dominant as you can so fortunately those first few plays came off and mentally you’re like ‘yeah, this is it I’m going to keep doing this’. You try and fortunately it came off today.”

Overall, Lowe’s contribution was huge and if it wasn’t for a superb try-saving tackle from Sammy Arnold in the left corner, he would have embellished an excellent afternoon with a 10th try in Leinster colours.

James Lowe offloads to Jack Conan to set up their first try Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

As it was, we saw a different side to Lowe’s game in the second half as he won three, if not four, aerial contestables from Conor Murray box-kicks to ensure Leinster retained possession when Munster were looking to turn the screw.

“Yeah, Conor Murray gives me nightmares,” he laughs.

“But yeah man, the sun was out, it was good rugby and the boys delivered. It was awesome.”

The good times keep rolling for Leinster, and they have another big Aviva Stadium date to look forward to next week with a historic Champions Cup-Pro14 double just one win away.

Lowe missed out on the European semi-final against Scarlets at the same venue due to Luke McGrath’s injury but will hope to get his chance on the big stage next Saturday when Leinster and Wayne Pivac’s side renew battle lines.

“Week in, week out, finals footy,” Lowe continues.

“We’re looking forward to it and I’m sure they are too. These next 48 hours are going to be huge for the team. We’re going to do everything we can to put ourselves in the best head space coming into Monday, as it’s the best day of the week as we review and preview and we do everything we can to make sure our bodies our right. Come Tuesday it’s all hands on deck and everyone is putting their hands up to get into that starting XV. It’s awesome, it’s exciting.

“We’ve played them a few times in the last seven months. Man, they’re good. They’re good ball players, they’ve got a Kiwi coach as you can tell from how they play. They put a lot of teams under pressure with ball in hand and then they’ve got some big fellas up front who smash the ruck.

“I guess last time we really dominated that physical battle and they’ll look at that and know it can’t happen again. They’re coming to the Aviva with a lot of confidence as they should do. They don’t see it as daunting, they shouldn’t either but I mean the stars are aligned, we’re back in…we’re just down the road and hopefully a lot of blue turns up.”

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Ryan Bailey

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