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Dublin: 3 °C Monday 21 January, 2019

Pivac full of praise for Leinster as Scarlets turn their focus to Pro14 run-in

The Welsh region’s first European semi-final appearance since 2007 ended in disappointment.

Tadhg Beirne and his team-mates after today's 38-16 defeat.
Tadhg Beirne and his team-mates after today's 38-16 defeat.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Ryan Bailey reports from the Aviva Stadium 

IT WAS A great shame for the Scarlets and their legions of travelling support that they did not manage to throw so much of a punch in anger during this semi-final showdown, with their progressive campaign grinding to a disappointing halt.

An unhappy return to the scene of the Welsh region’s greatest triumph will be a bitter pill to swallow for Wayne Pivac and his side, particularly when so much of the pre-match talk revolved around how closely matched the two teams were, and how they didn’t the opposition.

Leinster, seeking revenge for last year’s Pro12 semi-final defeat, bullied and blitzed their way to a five-try victory, one which was built on the dominance of their forwards and complemented by their ruthlessness in seizing opportunities.

Pivac was effusive in his praise for the province after the game, admitting Leinster were much the better side on the day and were fully deserving of a place in next month’s Champions Cup final.

“Leinster fully deserved their win,” the Kiwi head coach said. “They were the better side on the day. It was a mixture of how well they played and probably how well we didn’t play; we didn’t play as well as we would have liked.

“With that combination, we had the result we had. They did very well to look after the ball in contact. They had good speed of ball which kept us on the back foot; they just got that roll on. Once they got into the 22 there were very clinical. In a game of feet and inches they won. They put us under pressure and fully deserved to go through to the final.

“The first thing you have to do is say that Leinster played very, very well, across the board. As hard as it is to take sometimes you have to say that they were very, very good. And then when you fall behind and try and play a bit of catch-up, often that compounds things.”

Wayne Pivac Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Appearing in a European Cup semi-final for the first time since 2007, Scarlets got off to the perfect start as Tadhg Beirne won a turnover and then Leigh Halfpenny drew first blood after Scott Fardy was penalised for a high tackle.

That was as good as it got for Scarlets, however, as Leinster — through the work of their pack, particularly at the set-piece and breakdown — dictated and dominated the tempo, running in three first-half tries and then two more after the break.

Pivac continued: “We knew going into the game that they have some players there that have come in and are doing a great job for them. The coaching set-up has been together that extra bit of time, working with the players. They have a done a good job and you can see that in their performances.

“They have a deep squad and a very talented squad. Yeah they are a lot improved on last year. If things go our way and we work hard over the next few weeks, who knows we could be back at the Aviva getting a second crack at a very, very good Leinster side [in the Pro14 final].

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Ryan Bailey

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