Gary Carr/INPHO Sam Cross and Dewi Lake celebrate.
# harsh lessons
Leo Cullen: 'It was error after error after error from us - we looked panicky'
The Leinster coach was reacting to his side’s second half meltdown against Ospreys.

IF LEO CULLEN spent yesterday afternoon wondering who he was going to cut from his match-day squad for next week’s Pro14 final against Munster, then the concluding moments of last night’s defeat to Ospreys has probably made selection a little bit easier.

Leading 19-3 with 13 minutes to go, Leinster suffered a complete meltdown, coughing up three tries to lose 24-19 to their hardened, streetwise Welsh opponents. It’s one thing throwing so many youngsters in at the deep end, another seeing what it is like when they cannot get their heads above water.

“We had lots of inexperienced guys out there,” Cullen said of the final quarter capitulation. “It has been an amazing experience for them to have played their part in getting us to a final next week but there is still a huge amount for the younger players to learn.

“We have used a large number of players in this campaign – which is great for the long-term prospects of the club and sometimes (emerging) players need to go through a period like we had in the closing minutes (of last night’s game).

“We were 19-3 up, looking comfortable and then we lost a man to the bin and it is panic stations. Ospreys hit us for three quick tries and we couldn’t find a way back into it.

marcus-hanan-dejected-after-the-game Gary Carr / INPHO Marcus Hanan is dejected after the game. Gary Carr / INPHO / INPHO

“It was error after error after error in that period. We were a little bit passive defensively as well at times, we just looked very panicky. You do get that from younger players at times.

“Credit to Ospreys. They battled to the end and you could see how much it meant to them. It is important for our guys to see that and learn from that. A lot of our guys are going through a defeat like that for the first time. They have had very little exposure to this type of rugby so it is good for them to go through it.

“I know there is no consequence for the loss – we are still in a final – but that last 10, 15 minutes was really poor.

“Guys were scrambling a little out there.”

For several of them, the chance to feature against Munster in next week’s final has now gone. They probably knew that anyway, with Leinster’s Irish contingent due back from international duty.

“There are lots for us to improve on,” said Cullen.

“This is a massive week coming up for us. We will see what shape the (international) players are in.

“There has been a huge effort to get to this point and it is important we put on a good show over 80 minutes because Munster are a very dangerous team.”

After that it is Europe – and all of a sudden, Cullen has to choose between the players who have answered Ireland’s call and the ones who have kept the show on the road while the top cats have been away.

“It will be difficult (to select the team) because you have internationals coming back, who are excited to play in big days when there are trophies on the line,” said Cullen.

“Then you have guys who have played a lot of games to get us to a final and then you have younger players, who did a very good job to get us to a final but who probably won’t feature over the next few weeks.

“We have two huge weekends coming up – a final and then a Champions Cup knockout tie. We need to be a lot better than we were.

“Leinster/Munster are very tight games. Munster have the ability to play for 80 minutes and we didn’t show the ability to do that last night.”

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