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Dublin: 14 °C Sunday 21 October, 2018

Cullen disappointed not to see Leinster pull clear before dramatic derby finish

‘When we’re eight points in front I’d rather we go to 15 points in front and get out of sight.’

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

LEINSTER HEAD COACH Leo Cullen could afford to smile in the wake of his side’s incredibly tight 21-18 win over Connacht.

Having watched his side dig deep to defend their line against a powerful onslaught from the westerners, the head coach was asked if he’d like to see that sort of character on display more often.

“Eh, no. When we’re eight points in front I’d rather we go to 15 points in front and get out of sight,” Cullen said with a grin.

Twice the hosts at the RDS opened up that eight-point lead which has so often proved decisive this season. However, Connacht’s ability to set up camp in the 22 and steadily build pressure helped them overturn the lead once before half-time, and almost a second time before the final whistle.

“A lot of credit to Connacht, they’re a very cohesive team, very similar selections and confidence from their big wins against Brive in Europe.

“They were outstanding against Ulster, pretty much dismantled them and destroyed them up front in the set-piece and got quick ball as a result of that.

“It was a tough challenge for us today. We’re a bit disappointed with the fact that we didn’t push on when we’re eight points ahead, but it’s a win another four points and we don’t have long to wait for our next game here (on Saturday).

“It’s a quick turnaround, we’ll watch the Munster-Ulster game now, see what we can get out of that and try to prepare as well as we can in a short space of time.”

Johnny Sexton celebrates after the game Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Preparation for the next inter-pro will begin by accounting for the resources at Cullen’s disposal. Dan Leavy looks set to miss that encounter having prematurely ended a fantastic performance with a lower back injury – though the first-half knock does not appear to be a serious one in the eyes of Cullen.

Luke McGrath, scorer of what turned out to be the winning try, was replaced by Nick McCarthy late on so that he could undertake a HIA. Cullen reports that the scrum-half passed the assessment.

“Credit to Connacht,” adds Cullen, “they came back strong and were in the game the whole time. Good spirit from the guys at the end to hold Connacht out. We made life quite difficult for ourselves during the course of the game.”

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Leinster withstand late Connacht onslaught to sneak New Year’s inter-pro honours

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Sean Farrell

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