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Dublin: 3°C Saturday 6 March 2021
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Cullen delighted to leave South Africa with the points after 'mixed' performance

Leinster recorded their sixth straight Pro14 victory in Port Elizabeth yesterday.

IT OUGHT TO have been a little more straightforward for Leinster in Port Elizabeth but having been compromised by international call-ups and injuries, a 38-31 bonus-point victory over the Kings was a satisfactory outcome in the overall context.

Leo Cullen was left to reflect on a ‘mixed’ performance afterwards as he watched his side stutter and stagger their way to an important away win, but ultimately the return trip home will be a happy one.

Noel Reid makes a break Noel Reid makes a break during yesterday's game. Source: Richard Huggard/INPHO

The windy conditions at the Madibaz Stadium resulted in a scrappy contest as Leinster scored three quickfire tries before the break to seize control of the game, only to allow the hosts back into it late on.

Conceding five tries, as well as a general sloppiness in possession, will no doubt have frustrated Cullen and Stuart Lancaster, while the loss of Rory O’Loughlin [knee] and Joe Tomane [hamstring] in the first half didn’t help matters.

As the wind played havoc, Leinster struck three times in the space of five minutes when the Kings had two men in the bin and the home side’s indiscipline was effectively the difference in the end, as the visitors sealed the bonus point before the interval.

Having conceded inside the opening two minutes, the defending Pro14 champions crossed six times through Adam Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park, Dan Leavy, Max Deegan and Bryan Byrne to make it six straight league wins and open up a nine-point buffer at the top of Conference B.

“We’re delighted to get the win,” Cullen said afterwards. 

“We know the Kings have been going well. They had a big win against Glasgow and were very unlucky last week against Scarlets to lose at the end. We’re very pleased.

Parts of our performance were a little bit mixed. We struggled to control the ball in the first half but then we got a little bit of dominance in the scrum and we got some good rewards off the back of that.

“The three tries just before half-time was probably the winning of the game there. Definitely a bit of a mixed bag from our point of view.”

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Leinster will arrive back into Dublin tomorrow ahead of a three-week break, which will allow Cullen and his players to refocus and work on the areas which require improvement heading into another big block of fixtures.

While Leinster made hard work of it, the performance of man of the match Ed Byrne was hugely encouraging, while Leavy got through a big 80-minute shift which will no doubt please Joe Schmidt as the flanker goes back into Ireland camp. 

Cullen added: “We probably didn’t play that clever when they conceded the first two yellow cards. We’ll look back at all the different moments in the game but for our guys, I thought they kept their heads pretty well. After managing the middle part of the game pretty well, I just thought that last 10 minutes we maybe lost a little bit of control.

I know we had a few injuries as well and guys were playing out of position, even still, we probably should’ve managed the end of the game a little bit better. We’ve got a win, we’re happy to get a win. It finishes out the block and we’re in a good position in the league.

Cullen provided an update on O’Loughlin and Tomane after the game, with both players set to be assessed upon their arrival home.

“With Rory O’Loughlin going off, I think he just twisted his knee so we’ll get him assessed, probably when we get back to Dublin,” he added.

“Joe Tomane, it looked like his was a hamstring injury so, again, we’ll see the severity of that. Obviously with no games for a couple of weeks, we’ll be able to manage the group, some guys will have a bit of time off now and come back in fresh and get back up and ready to go against Ospreys.” 

Source: PRO14 Rugby/YouTube

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