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Dublin: 2°C Thursday 21 January 2021

Leinster pleased with response to 'kick up the arse' from Connacht

Hugo Keenan and co. notched a bonus-point win against Ulster and denied the visitors anything.

Hugo Keenan impressed for Leinster on Friday night.
Hugo Keenan impressed for Leinster on Friday night.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

FROM THE EARLIEST stages, it was clear that Leinster were ready to deliver a response.

Their impactful double tackles began in the very first defensive as the likes of Caelan Doris, James Ryan, and Rhys Ruddock put their shoulders in the way of Ulster ball-carriers.

80 minutes later, with Ulster desperately searching for a losing bonus point, Leinster were still at it in defence as one final collective effort concluded with Ross Byrne intercepting Dave Shanahan’s pass to seal the 24-12 victory.

While Leinster weren’t perfect and found themselves something of a hole as they trailed 9-5 at half time, there was never anything less than intense aggression from Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster’s men, who turned the screw in the third quarter.

A backlash was always likely from Leinster in the wake of their home defeat to Connacht the weekend before and even with Cullen making wholesale changes, there was a point to prove.

“I suppose it gave us a bit of a kick up the arse and a bit of a wake-up call as well,” said player of the match Hugo Keenan afterwards.

“We knew there was a big onus on the group just to bounce back and respond well. Losing in the RDS is never a nice feeling.

“Monday morning was tough, we’d a tough review, but then it’s moving on, you can’t really let it affect you all week. It’s about focusing on the next game, the task in hand and bouncing back. I think we did that really well.”

Leinster’s win puts them in a strong position in Conference A of the Guinness Pro14, just five points behind Ulster but with two games in hand.

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johnny-sexton-celebrates-after-the-game-with-hugo-keenan Leinster were happy on Friday night. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

There is a fair bit of road still ahead but denying Dan McFarland’s visitors that losing bonus point was highly satisfying for Leinster.

“This conference table is going to go down to the wire and every point is crucial,” said Keenan. “We’ll see come the end of the year whether it will make a difference but it certainly could.

“If we did concede in that last period, it would have left a bit of a bad feeling in our mouths after the game so it was good just to finish on a high and stop them getting anything from the game.”

Keenan was impressive in the number 15 shirt for Leinster once again, looking threatening in attack and consistently providing calm backfield coverage and strong communication in defence.

The Ireland international was part of a collective good back three effort from Leinster along with try-scorer Dave Kearney and the returning Jordan Larmour.

After his excellent 2020, Keenan was happy to get up and running for 2021.

“It was good to blow off the cobwebs after a nice Christmas just chilling,” said the 24-year-old. “You don’t really have much time to think about it, it’s just straight back in.

“It was such a big game for us so you have to make sure you’re coming out of the blocks pretty quickly, you couldn’t be rusty, so it was good for the whole group and good for me.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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