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Dublin: 11 °C Friday 25 May, 2018
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Win in France underlines Leinster's credentials as Champions Cup favourites

The eastern province rolled on with a three-try victory over Montpellier.

Murray Kinsella reports from Altrad Stadium

WHILE IT WAS dubbed a dead rubber game in some quarters, Leinster’s 23-14 win over Montpellier in France felt like an important moment to this group of players.

When the Irish province burst into an early lead through Ross Byrne’s try the outlook was good, but their error rate was alarming for the remainder of the first half and Leo Cullen’s side lost control to trail 14-8 at the break.

Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong after the match Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong celebrate the win. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Already qualified for a home quarter-final before today, Leinster could perhaps have been forgiven for not responding as emphatically as they did, but this fixture in Montpellier had been designated as a key part of their growth.

Having had a poor recent record in France, Cullen’s players arrived in Montpellier with a determined mindset.

“A big focus for us, and I know a few of the lads said it during the week in the media, was coming to France and winning,” said man of the match Sean Cronin afterwards.

“We haven’t done well here the last few years – we drew against Castres last year and played poorly and lost away to Montpellier last year, and lost to Clermont in the semis obviously.

“So it was a big thing for us to come here and show that we’ve progressed, and just get everything right with our set-piece, D and our attack. It was pleasing.”

 

To win in France was important for Leinster in view of the knock-out stages to come later this season, given that the system for the semi-final draw means they could have to travel.

“You can’t really control the quarter-final or semi-final stage – well, you can control your bit – but not the other bits,” said head coach Cullen in Montpellier.

“Getting seeding of one or two is partly important but you can’t control the other games, so you may have to travel to France again.

“It’s one of those things that people could start to talk about. Does that drain confidence? At least you’ve got rid of that potential psychological barrier because we’ve lost a few games in France before.

“They showed a lot of character today, which was pleasing, and controlled the game for good chunks of it.”

Leinster’s season so far has contained many impressive milestones but this win in France will be as pleasing as any of them for the players and coaching group. Bien joué.

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

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Murray Kinsella

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