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Dublin: 2°C Thursday 21 January 2021

'It's in our hands now' - Leinster's win could be key in race for Pro14 final spot

Leo Cullen’s side landed an important victory in the battle for top spot in Conference A.

Leinster celebrate during their bonus-point win.
Leinster celebrate during their bonus-point win.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

THERE IS STILL a fair bit of road to run in this condensed Pro14 season but Leinster’s bonus-point 24-12 victory over Ulster at the RDS tonight felt like a key blow in the race for top spot in Conference A.

Leo Cullen’s men remain in second place, five points behind Ulster, but they have two games in hand. 

In that sense, it was all the more satisfying for Leinster to deny Dan McFarland’s side a losing bonus point with a muscular defensive set in the final minute of action in Dublin. 

As they now face into what will hopefully be back-to-back weekends of Champions Cup rugby against Northampton and Montpellier, Leinster can be satisfied with a job well done after bouncing back from defeat to Connacht at the RDS last weekend.

“It’s in our hands now,” said captain Johnny Sexton post-match. “There’s still a lot of work to do.

“We’re going to lose a lot of players to the international window and then the rest of the squad are going to have to pick it up. It’s always been a squad effort in this club for those reasons and it’s no different now.

“No, we’ve got a few really tough games to play and during the Six Nations window, we won’t know who’s available. We still have it all do but it’s in our hands now, so that’s all you can ask for.

“We needed to get a game together, for me I haven’t played for Leinster for a long time apart from 20 minutes last week so it’s about getting that continuity.

“You could see we were very rusty, especially in the first half, but I was very proud of how we gathered ourselves at half-time and had a very good second-half performance.”

Ulster, meanwhile, were left dejected with their inability to build on 9-5 half-time lead and deliver what would have been a big win on the road.

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“We came down here with a side that we felt would put in a really good performance and certainly for the first half, we did,” said McFarland.

“We were up against a Leinster team that was more or less fully loaded, very strong. At half time, we put ourselves into a good position with some smart play and some strong play.

“Then at the start of the second half, we made two errors, giving a penalty away needlessly in our third of the pitch, which they scored off.

“And then knocking on when we had a chance in their half of the pitch, that ended in a period of pressure and a try.

“That was was really the flipping of the game. We were always on the back foot from there. A huge amount of effort was put into that, both in terms of the preparation and the physical effort and mental intensity that went into that.

“Ultimately, if you are not close to error-free football here in Leinster, they can make you pay and they did.”

Ulster are now set to return to Europan action with scheduled fixtures against Gloucester and Toulouse, although it remains to be seen what happens next in the Champions Cup as EPCR awaits a decision from the French government on the Top 14 clubs’ involvement.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from the RDS

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