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Dublin: 13°C Tuesday 11 May 2021

Leinster call foul after late penalty denies O'Connor first home win

“I think we’ve got some serious issues that need to be rectified really quickly,” declared the Australian.

Mike McCarthy celebrates Jack McGrath's second-half try.
Mike McCarthy celebrates Jack McGrath's second-half try.
Image: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

LEINSTER COACH MATT O’CONNOR cut a frustrated figure in the post-match briefing room as he tried to explain how his side twice gave away leads to Ospreys.

The Australian was denied his first home win as Blues coach by a Dan Biggar penalty, which made it 29-29, in the 80th minute.

“We went to sleep a little bit [at the start of the second half],” O’Connor conceded. “They got the ball and got their tails up. They looked a lot fresher in the second-half and our little bits of inaccuracies, which are possible early in the season, with new combinations, let us down.”

Leinster found themselves seven points behind the 2012 league champions with 15 minutes to play and the situation worsened when Sean Cronin was sent to the sin bin. Under the new scrum laws, the hooker has greater responsibility for making the initial bind and, following three re-sets, referee Leighton Hodges eventually vented his frustration on the Leinster man.

YouTube credit: RaboDirect PRO12

O’Connor told “How you can pull one bloke out of that mess and sin-bin him is very interesting. We’ll have to talk to the powers-that-be during the week. It’s a potential game-changer and I’ll be seeking clarification on that. I don’t know if we’ve made any progress on that, to be honest.

“From my end, it seems to be a greater frustration for the players and the coaches. I don’t know what it is like to watch as a spectator but I think we’ve got some serious issues that need to be rectified really quickly.”

Leinster managed to score 10 unanswered points on Ospreys whilst at the man disadvantage. The turnaround looked to have given them the points before a late offside call resulted in Dan Biggar tying up the game with the final kick.

Having conceded a penalty at the end of the first half too, the Biggar penalties ultimately gave the Welsh side two valuable points. “I don’t know if it’s a discipline issue,” O’Connor argued. “It’s an interpretation issue and an early season issue, to be honest. I think the boys worked, and tried, really hard inside the system that we’re trying to put in place. There was inaccuracy but I don’t know if it was ill discipline.”

The reigning RaboDirect Pro12 champions got off to a flying start as they led 10-3 after 12 minutes. The home side could not be accused of struggling at the scrum but they did give up a silly free and penalty as the word ‘bind’ had them in an early tizzy. Biggar’s accuracy from penalties kept Ospreys within reach all evening.

“It looked pretty positive, early in the first half,” said O’Connor. “I thought we were doing some really good things with the ball and they were under a lot of pressure trying to deal with us. We probably didn’t get enough opportunities at their end to capitalise on that.” Another “interpretation” upset the former Leicester Tigers coach:

By and large, we were accurate with the ball but the breakdown was our issue. The interpretation is always an issue early in the season and it was hard to get continuity there. We had a lot of ball, a lot of opportunities but they seemed to get around to stifle the 9, lie on the back of it, and we didn’t deal with it, which probably cost us.”

O’Connor lamented the lack of set-piece ball his team could fashion in danger areas. The Australian highlighted how much damage they made when they got lineouts and scrums deep in the Ospreys half.

McGrath’s try and a late Gopperth penalty looked to have given Leinster their second win of the season but those darn interpretations, and that man Biggar, came back to haunt them.

As it happened: Leinster v Ospreys, RaboDirect PRO12

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Patrick McCarry

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