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Dublin: 8 °C Saturday 23 March, 2019
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Leinster's young guns shine but sloppiness leaves room for improvement

Leo Cullen was largely pleased with his side’s performance during their 40-7 win over Ulster.

Ryan Bailey reports from the RDS

 A SATISFACTORY, IF not complete, performance from Leinster leaves further grounds for optimism and, importantly, plenty to improve and work on heading into the serious business of the season.

Leo Cullen’s side could, and probably should, have won by an even greater margin here, but the precision and accuracy they displayed during a rampant first-half display escaped them during a largely non-descript second period.

Jack McGrath celebrates after the game Jack McGrath came through his injury return. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Still, it was an enjoyable evening’s entertainment for the near-capacity crowd as a number of standout individual cameos embellished a routine bonus-point victory over a callow Ulster outfit, who were completely overmatched in all facets.

Sean Cronin’s first-half brace set Leinster on their way, while Conor O’Brien was among those in blue who caught the eye, as the 22-year-old centre continued his impressive form with a man-of-the-match display.

Leinster’s pack was dominant throughout, as Jack McGrath got through 50 minutes on his return from injury, Andrew Porter scored the hosts’ bonus-point score on the stroke of half-time and Max Deegan seized his starting chance at the back of the scrum. 

Teenager Scott Penny, too, was outstanding as he made 19 tackles and made seven breaks across 44 metres during a typically energetic and hard-working display on just his third senior appearance.

After defeat in Limerick last week, the eastern province ensured they got back to winning ways ahead of next week’s Heineken Champions Cup visit of Toulouse, while also extending their commanding lead at the top of Conference B of the Pro14 to 19 points.

Reflecting afterwards, Cullen was largely pleased with the net return as he watched a number of the squad’s younger players again stand up, while Rob Kearney, McGrath, Cronin and Andrew Porter got a valuable inter-pro workout under their belt.

“There are plenty of positives to see young guys mix it in with the older fellas,” the head coach said. 

The result is the result, the performance is more important from our point of view. There were good bits, particularly in the first 20 minutes when our control of the ball was really, really good and Sean Cronin gets in for a couple of tries.

“We concede that try, which is a bit tricky in terms of how we manage that, but the good thing is we hit back straight away. Conor O’Brien gets in for a very good individual try, where he beats a number of defenders and we close out the half well with a classic tighthead try.

“The start of the second half, the first 20 minutes, we can probably be a bit better there in terms of applying more pressure when we’ve got the ball. We just let Ulster off on a couple of occasions when we just didn’t respect possession and gave it away too cheaply.

“We regather a bit of control and momentum as the half goes on, the last 20 minutes were a bit better but that third quarter can be a bit better.”

Leinster celebrate a penalty try Leinster scored six tries at the RDS. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Leinster did add two more scores through Jamison Gibson-Park and a penalty try in the second stanza to record an emphatic 40-7 bonus-point win, but poor execution and decision-making led to a modicum of frustration at the end of the night.

“The message at half-time was just keep our attention to detail around the basics of the game, which I don’t think we did particularly well,” Cullen continued.

“In a closer game, they’ll [the opposition] really hurt you. We didn’t get punished today, and got away with a few things I thought, so that’s the thing from our point of view.

“But the young players getting exposure to a full house at the RDS is an amazing experience for them. It was sold out early in the week and it’s amazing at this time of year, the support they’re getting is fantastic. It builds us into next week and the next couple of weeks.”

Attention now swiftly turns to European matters, and the small matter of next Saturday’s clash against Toulouse, which is effectively a Pool 1 decider. 

Having rotated his resources for the third and final derby fixture of the Christmas and New Year period, Cullen will have his frontline internationals fresh and ready for the round five showdown between the two four-time European winners.

“We’ve a big game here next week and if we can get everyone in early again, get that atmosphere in the ground and make it difficult for the opposition that comes here,” he added.

“We’ve got ourselves into a reasonably good position in our conference, but now we’ll just park that now for a couple of weeks as everything’s back into European mode now.

“Toulouse are on an unbelievable run of form so it’s going to be an unbelievable test for us.” 

Gavan Casey, Murray Kinsella and Andy Dunne preview the weekend’s action:


Source: Heineken Rugby Weekly on The42/SoundCloud

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Ryan Bailey

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