LEINSTER HEAD COACH Leo Cullen hailed his team’s clinical second half after a thumping 60 – 13 win over Northampton Saints last night.
Despite some frustrating first-half moments, the eastern province secured the bonus point win by the midway point in the match, yet some utterly merciless finishes from Isa Nacewa and Sean Cronin (just two of seven try-scorers) ensured a humiliating night for the visitors.
“I’m not sure ‘easy’ is the right word,” said Cullen post-match in the Aviva Stadium,.
“Northampton went really hard at our ruck in particular. You know when a team is going to commit that many numbers to the breakdown, it’s a risk-reward (situation) for them.
“They got some rewards early, but I thought the players showed really good composure.
“We know if they flood that many players into that (breakdown) area, as long as we’re able to recycle ball there’s going to be spaces somewhere. As the game wore on, we were pretty clinical in taking opportunities. We talked before the game about the opportunities we were leaving behind and it’s an area we would have worked on this week quite a bit.”
Nine tries at any level is a commendable return, and the growing chasm between the sides allowed Cullen the space to allow 21-year-old out-half Ross Byrne take over kicking duties on the night of his first start in European competition.
Despite how the 50% conversion rate appears, the former Ireland U20 star struck each of his four attempts well. The gaps he sought out at the tram-lines when he had the ball in his hands worked against him when his team-mates dotted down out wide.
“Every try was scored in the five-metre channel,” laughed Cullen.
“But yeah, he’s been kicking really well and it’s another strong part of his game.”
“Ross is ambitious, he’s hungry to be successful.He works hard and he’s put in a lot of work over the last number of months. It’s good to see him getting rewards. It’s a big test coming in and playing in the Aviva against a strong premiership team – we know the level of resources the teams we face in Europe have – he’s acquitted himself really well and run the team well.
“Joey (Carbery) would have run the team more last week, but Ross stepped in and he’s been really confident and assertive with the group. It’s great to see the characteristics some of the younger players are showing.”
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