'As good a try as I've ever seen': Cullen praises 20-year-old Leinster starlet's moment of brilliance

The Leinster head coach was quietly pleased with a ‘unique’ bonus-point win at Thomond Park, but is already looking ahead to the next challenge.

Larmour's fourth try of the season sealed an entertaining derby.
Larmour's fourth try of the season sealed an entertaining derby.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ryan Bailey reports from Thomond Park

RELIEF WAS LEO Cullen’s overriding emotion in the aftermath of this evening’s frenzied inter-pro, but the Leinster head coach will leave Limerick incredibly satisfied with his team’s performance as they came away with a hugely-impressive bonus-point win.

Cullen breathed a huge sigh of relief after his side followed up their imposing and clinical first-half display with a dogged defensive effort to weather the Munster storm and emerge with the points and bragging rights.
Jordan Larmour’s 70th minute try ultimately settled a remarkable contest in front of a record Thomond Park crowd as Leinster made it five straight wins and defied all of the pre-match talk that they stood no chance coming here with a ‘second-string’ side.

Of all of Leinster’s exciting young talent, many of whom were on show today, Larmour, the 20-year-old fullback, is arguably the most promising and devastating of them all as he produced a moment of sheer individual brilliance to get his side over the line at a critical juncture in a high-octane inter-pro.

With Leinster’s half-time lead whittled down to eight points, Munster had turned the game on its head, but Larmour delivered one of the tries of the season as he weaved and slalomed his way through the home defence from 60 yards out.

“Pretty amazing, particularly in a fixture of this magnitude,” Cullen said afterwards.

At that stage, Leinster were on the back foot after tries from Ian Keatley and Andrew Conway threatened to overturn Leinster’s first half lead following scores from Dan Leavy, Robbie Henshaw and a penalty try.

But Larmour, playing in this fixture for the first time, conjured another composed and mature display as he stole the headlines with a virtuoso score which started in his own half and ended the game as a contest.

“It was a very strange game,” Cullen continued. “We took our chances when they came in the first 25 minutes which gave us a little bit of a lead. After that we probably lost our way a little bit, particularly at the start of the second half when we did a few dumb things which gives Munster a good bit of access into our end — and when they’re down there, they’re very, very dangerous.

Dan Leavy and Jamison Gibson Park celebrate winning Dan Leavy and Jamison Gibson-Park celebrate at full-time. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“Thankfully we were able to steady the flow for a period and keep the score to eight points which was important as I think if they get to one score, it changes the complexion of the game quite drastically.

“And then Jordan pops up with as good a try as I’ve ever seen. Amazing bit of individual brilliance from him which extends out the score and we’re able to take a sigh because I was getting a bit nervous before that.

“For us, there’s plenty of areas we can get better at. From an attack point of view, we didn’t get a huge amount of play in the second half because we just didn’t manage the game particularly well. There’s definitely areas we can get better at but we’re pleased with the outcome.”

Not many teams come to Thomond Park and dominate Munster as much as Leinster did during the opening period as they showed a clinical edge to storm into a 27-5 half-time lead.

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It was a performance, and result, which underlines Leinster’s title credentials this season and the fact they did so having made 12 changes again reinforces the sheer strength in depth in the squad.

After the teams were named on Saturday, the bookmakers — and several other quarters — didn’t give them a chance against a full-strength Munster side, who themselves had built up serious momentum under Johann van Graan.

“I don’t read a huge amount into it [pre-game talk],” Cullen says.

“Looking back at the Exeter games, and particularly the Aviva game, we’re not sure we got the selection right for that game. Some guys have been pushing hard to get picked and the players know every time they play now it’s a massive opportunity for them because if they go well, the knock-on effects are huge for them.

“I look back on the Exeter game and I’m not sure we got it right as coaches so a lot of guys had a real point to prove today. They prepped well, it was important we made some changes. Guys were disappointed from missing out in Europe as well so they were chomping at the bit to play and I think that showed.

“Overall we’re absolutely delighted to get a bonus point win.”

Richardt Strauss goes off injured Richardt Strauss left the field of play late on with a back injury. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

On the injury front, the Leinster medical staff will have to quickly assess the damage ahead of the New Year’s Day fixture against Connacht at the RDS. On first inspection, Jack McGrath, who was replaced at half-time after taking a bang to the head, James Ryan (ankle) and Richardt Strauss (back) are the main concerns.

Cullen added that he expects to make changes again for next week as Leinster’s attention shifts swiftly to the second inter-pro of this busy Christmas and New Year period.

“We need to dust ourselves down now. I’m focused on Connacht now as they looked incredibly strong against Ulster and have three days extra preparation than us. It’s important we recover well now and look forward.”

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

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Ryan Bailey

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