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Dublin: 12°C Thursday 15 April 2021

Cullen hails record-breaking Sexton as Leinster build momentum ahead of Montpellier

The Leinster out-half become the province’s all-time leading points scorer at the Aviva Stadium this afternoon.

Sexton with his son Luca after the game.
Sexton with his son Luca after the game.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Ryan Bailey reports from the Aviva Stadium

IT WASN’T PERFECT, but Leinster came away with exactly what they wanted from this grand occasion as they made another step in the right direction ahead of the considerably stiffer challenge of Montpellier next week.

Leo Cullen declared himself ‘reasonably pleased’ with his side’s overall performance but there are certainly areas for improvement, most notably in defence and a sharpening of their attacking edge.

Rory O’Loughlin’s first-half brace and another man-of-the-match performance from the peerless Johnny Sexton guided the hosts to their fifth victory of the season in front of over 46,000 fans inside the Aviva Stadium.

In kicking the first of his three second half penalties, Sexton capped a fine individual display and a progressive afternoon for the eastern province by becoming Leinster’s all-time leading points scorer, displacing Felipe Conetpomi from the position.

Not only did Sexton kick 13 points from the tee but the manner in which he marshalled and controlled proceedings was in stark contrast to Munster’s disjointed backline, with Rassie Erasmus’ side slipping to another defeat on this ground.

Cullen was quick to praise his captain as he reflected on a job well done by his side.

“We’re reasonably pleased with the performance, a lot of effort went into it,” the Leinster head coach said. “We’d looked quite strong and dominant up until the [Ian] Keatley intercept try and we had played a good pressure game.

“We’ve done enough to win both games [Edinburgh and Munster] and that’s the most important part. There are things to work on and I thought we were definitely better than last day. We created a lot of opportunities out there and could have been a bit more ruthless in finishing the chances but we would have taken that as a result going into the game.

“From a defensive point of view there are bits we can look at as we’ve conceded three tries which is unlike us. We’ll turn our attention quite quickly to Montpellier as it’s going to be a huge step-up again.”

Johnny Sexton kicks a penalty to become the all time leading Leinster point scorer Sexton knocks over his record-breaking penalty. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

On a landmark day for Sexton, Cullen added: “Delighted for Johnny. I was surprised he was turning away so many shots at goal last weekend, kicking to the corner. It was good that he had a few shots at goal today.

“He’s shown amazing consistency and resilience coming back at various different stages. He’s worked hard since coming back from New Zealand and is in really good shape now. Good to get him through 65 last week and 75 today, he’s going to play a huge part in our season.”

Even allowing for Leinster’s dominance up front, there was still a physical and intense edge to proceedings with Cullen also lauding the blue wave of support that played their part.

“A fantastic occasion there today, an amazing crowd and to have that level of support for the team is unbelievable,” he continued. “Hopefully we’ll get a full house at the RDS next week, and we can try and squeeze the 47,000 into 18,500.

“I thought it was a really physical game with two games going hard at it but played in the right spirit. Some huge hits going in there, guys will be sore after that and it’ll be important we recover now ahead of a big challenge for us next week.”

Cullen reported a relatively clean bill of health with nothing more than a few ‘bangs and bruises’ the only concerns at this stage.

Josh van der Flier went off with a cut below his eye during the closing stages, and Leinster will continue to monitor the fitness of Isa Nacewa and Sean O’Brien when attentions turn to Montpellier on Monday.

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O’Loughlin on the double as Leinster inflict more Aviva Stadium pain on Munster

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Ryan Bailey

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