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Wednesday 1 February 2023 Dublin: 7°C
# Click
'It's good to see everything happen the way it's supposed to happen' -- Devin Toner
Big Dev loves it when a plan comes together.

LEINSTER DID WARN us that a result like that was coming.

“There are a lot of smart guys in that office making up good plays, saying all the right things, doing all the right things.

“We’ve got to start doing those things on the pitch now, producing something,” said Luke Fitzgerald last month.

Against Castres on Saturday night, the 2009 Lion’s staunch defence of Matt O’Connor looked well-founded.

Devin Toner speaking after the game Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

The French side may have been the ideal opponents, but it’s not simply that Leinster earned a win or a bonus point and moved top of their pool, it’s the manner in which they did it. The home side imposed their own talents on the game from minute one. The ethos was right, and so the errors that made the first quarter mildly frustrating were quickly forgiven with the crowd treated to try after try.

“Really happy with it,” said Devin Toner when asked about a night when his line-out functioned at 100% and one scrum on their own feed was lost.

“I think we knew coming into the game that our set-piece hasn’t been up to scratch. I think we scrummed really well and got what we wanted out of the match. It’s all positive there.”

It’s a far cry from the dark days of… well, 2014, when Leinster (though they kept finding ways to win) were playing with the weight of the world on their shoulders. Toner either can’t or won’t go into the negative aspects of past performances. The latter would be a completely understandable stance, sportsmen are always keen to box off, forget and move on from unpleasant.

“I couldn’t put my finger on it, to be honest. No-one wants to play badly. No-one wants to have a bad performance. I’m not going to say injuries but not having a full squad to pick from was a factor.”

With Marty Moore restored to the front row, the scrum set the platform for the first sweeping back-line move of the night. A penalty resulted off the following set of phases and that in turn allowed the line-out to lay the groundwork for the opening try. Dave Kearney’s try took the pressure off, perhaps too much so, and Leinster were soon ignoring the need for straightforward penalties.

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Devin Toner and Richie Gray Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

Never mind the downsides of the first half, though. Like Fitzgerald in December, Toner was of a mood to accentuate the positives before next week’s pool decider against Wasps.

“As a forward, it is brilliant to see it all work. First scrum, against the head, winning it. First line-out, off the top, score straight away…

“It’s just hugely positive. As a forward it is great, to get that confidence boost in knowing that the backs are coming through. A lot of lads put their hands up today for man-of-the-match and, for the life of me, I don’t know how I got it.”

When the pack go well, the backs inevitably have room to operate. So, suddenly, the fine margins Leinster were cursing mere weeks ago, looked made to measure.

“It’s good seeing everyone doing well and clicking, and everything happening the way it is supposed to happen. It’s hugely positive and adds some extra confidence to the squad.”

“We’ve got a hugely talented backline and we’ve got these moves up our sleeve that we practice day-in, day-out in training. They are all Mattie’s plays and they’re very good but to see them come off today is great. We know they work.”

With the prize of a Champions Cup quarter final on offer in their newly adopted home ground, Wasps certainly won’t be as accommodating as the Castres tend to be in Europe. However, a little confidence can go a long way for a side with the depth of talent that Leinster do.

“We know our performances haven’t been up to scratch. But in training and [recent] matches we’ve had this confidence building. A lot of lads are coming back from injury now and there is a real confidence in the squad. We trained really well last week and to just go out and put up a score like that is hugely positive.”

“We’ve got a fairly experienced squad now and a lot of lads have played a lot of tough games. That breeds confidence in the squad.”

Confidence and positivity. Sometimes saying the words  often enough can make them materialise.

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