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Cullen: 'It’s disappointing when we don’t give a full account of ourselves'

Leinster lost today’s Champions Cup semi-final to La Rochelle.

Image: Manuel Blondeau/INPHO

LEO CULLEN, THE Leinster coach, has outlined the scale of his team’s disappointment after today’s nine-point defeat in the Champions Cup semi-final.

Despite getting the opening try of the game, and leading at half-time, Leinster were outmuscled by La Rochelle in the second-half, Will Skelton and Gregory Alldritt excelling for the French side who now play Toulouse in the final.

“We weren’t clinical enough really,” Cullen said. “In the first-half we created lots of opportunities but they just hung in there, just kept the scoreboard ticking over. 

“We couldn’t pull far enough away from them at that stage and then, after having lots of good pressure and play, they got a few turnovers at the start of the second-half, which gave them more field position and territory.

“Once they had that, they just started to play that pressure game; some of the big power runners they have, particularly Skelton, were influential.

“It was just not quite accurate enough from us at various stages.

“A lot goes into getting us to this point so it’s pretty disappointing when we don’t give a full account of ourselves on the day.”

will-skelton-celebrates-after-the-win-with-arthur-joly Will Skelton celebrates with Arthur Joly. Source: Dave Winter/INPHO

In contrast, La Rochelle – first time semi-finalists – did account for themselves. Their power game was too much for Leinster to cope with.

Cullen added: “You have got to give them a huge amount of credit because in fairness they hung in there well.

“When they got their opportunities they put the squeeze on us then – again, around a power game more than necessarily out-manoeuvring us in any particular way. In addition, Ihaia West nailed all his kicks which kept them in the game in the first-half and then he pulled them out of our reach in the second-half.

“They were very aggressive around the contact area, very aggressive at the ruck and we just needed to be able to deal with that better, to understand what the referee’s interpretation on that was.

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“The thing is that in the first-half we got some of those calls, the penalty count was high in our favour but that changed after half-time. So it’s incredibly frustrating for everyone. The guys are gutted.” 

Captain Luke McGrath added: “It is a very quiet dressing room. Where do I think it slipped away from us? You know we started very well but we probably didn’t convert enough pressure into points, we probably could have scored an extra try to give us that lead but credit to La Rochelle there. 

“We just started poorly in the second-half. They put so much pressure on us in the territory game and we couldn’t really get out of our half.

“Even with 10 minutes to go (when La Rochelle opened up a nine-point lead) we felt we could score twice. Probably the Skelton try (to put La Rochelle 32-16 ahead on 73 minutes) put us under even more pressure. It was just disappointing that first 20 minutes of the second-half, we couldn’t get into our flow and ultimately that is where the game was lost.”

About the author:

Garry Doyle

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