back it up

Leinster find a way as Bath promise to go 'full metal jacket' for return leg

Leo Cullen’s side have breakdown issues to fix before the Premiership side visit Dublin.

IN TOULOUSE, LEINSTER lost their way even after edging in front.

In Bath, it was a different story as Leo Cullen’s side nudged ahead via Jordan Larmour’s intercept try and then closed out a hard-fought victory. The win puts them back into a strong position from which to earn Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final qualification.

“Finding a way is sometimes important,” said Cullen post-match at the Rec, where the conditions were miserable.

Jordan Larmour celebrates scoring a try with Noel Reid, Jonathan Sexton, Josh van der Flier and Cian Healy Leinster celebrate Jordan Larmour's try. Tommy Dickson / INPHO Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

“In that game against Toulouse when we go ahead, do we just mentally switch off a little bit or do we think we’re naturally going to go and score a try to get a bonus point to win? I think that probably is in a lot of people’s heads.

“Suddenly, the opposition team who are fighting in their home ground come back strong and they take a chance and get an intercept.

“We got an intercept today, and that’s the fine margins. You’re playing top-end teams that have massive resources, so I think everyone talks about us because we had a good year but we’re playing against the same teams that we were struggling against two or three years ago.

“It’s certainly fine margins and you need to get a lot right on any given day, particularly when you’re away from home.”

Those fine margins were evident throughout a gruelling December encounter. Important moments all over the place, enough of them going in Leinster’s favour.

Cian Healy’s turnover penalty in the Leinster 22 in the second half. Rob Kearney cleverly falling to ground to ensure Joe Cokanasiga couldn’t hammer him on kick chase. 

James Wilson opting for a double skip pass on a windy day, presuming he had advantage. The scrum penalty won by Healy, Sean Cronin and Tadhg Furlong. Cullen’s men just about edged onto the right side of those fine margins.

That said, they were bettered at breakdown time by the ferocious dual threat of Bath back rows Sam Underhill and Francois Louw, with Cullen citing some poor ball-carrying and lethargy in support players who were “losing that race into the space.”

Jackson Willison with Johnny Sexton and Tadhg Furlong It was a highly-physical encounter in Bath. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

It remains to be seen exactly what kind of shape Bath arrive in Dublin this weekend for the return fixture, although boss Todd Blackadder promised that they will come “full metal jacket” in a bid to keep their quarter-final hopes alive.

Their late losing bonus point on Saturday possibly did as much for now, although the Premiership is the priority for the English club.

Nonetheless, Cullen will be warning his players about any temptation to relax.

“People sometimes assume that when you win a game away, you’re just going to rock up and [win the home game]… we’ve been burned by that in the past.”

“For us, it’s about putting together a performance that’s going to be good enough to give us a win next week. 

“You can get sidetracked by bonus points and all that chat. It’s just about putting a performance together now. There’s lots of things that we can get better at. 

“For us, sitting as coaches in the stands, we’re like, ‘We’re not quite doing what we want to do,’ so conditions played a part but we’ll see what conditions are like next week and how we manage the game and how we manage the prep leading into the game. 

“Huge week ahead.”

Murray Kinsella, Gavan Casey and Andy Dunne preview a big weekend of Heineken Cup action and dissect the week’s main talking points.

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