Ryan Byrne/INPHO
the inquest

'Gutted' Cullen at a loss to explain Leinster's worst performance of the season

The Leinster head coach admits it will be painful to watch next weekend’s Pro12 final.

THREE DAYS HAVE passed and certainly Leo Cullen has had a little more time to reflect on his side’s performance, but it’s likely the Leinster head coach will still be at a loss to explain what went so horribly wrong on Friday night.

At first glance, there were a number of factors which contributed to the province’s shock 27-15 defeat to Scarlets but even fathoming those basic errors is difficult.

“I’m gutted. Gutted with the way we performed,” Cullen said.

“I am gutted with the way we reacted to knowing we were in a scenario where we made a few errors. We couldn’t dig ourselves out of that hole.

“We have good enough players to be able to manage the scenario better. Credit to the Scarlets for the way they defended and the way they tactically set up to play but, from our end, we were gutted the way we performed and the way we reacted to being in a difficult spot.”

Leinster conceded three tries inside the opening half as, just like against Cardiff Blues at the RDS a few weeks ago, were caught and then exposed by quick turnovers.

The dismissal of Steff Evans just before the break seemed to tip the balance in the hosts’ favour but Leinster never got going as their season, one which promised so much, ended with a whimper.

It was Leinster’s third defeat in four games in all competitions and that sudden loss of form at the business end of the season will make the summer months particularly long for Cullen and his staff.

Johnny Sexton dejected after the game Tommy Dickson / INPHO Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

“Our home form has been really, really strong over the course of the season,” he continued.

“It’s hard to explain how off we were, in terms of giving the ball up cheaply, giving the Scarlets chance-after-chance.

“When we turned the ball over what our reactions were like. We need to be better at dealing with the expectation. If we are expected to win a game, that we actually go out and win a game.

“You get remembered by what happens on these big days, unfortunately.

“Leinster have gone through different phases in in their history on the professional era. In the early days, Leinster flattered to deceive on a lot of big days and came unstuck when the pressure came on.

“For the most part, the players have been outstanding, particularly when they’ve been playing at home this year.”

Cullen refuted the suggestion his side lacked leadership and that some of the players had taken their eye off the ball with a Lions tour looming.

“We had a tonne of experience in that team,” Cullen said. “I don’t think we’re lacking in leadership. Sometimes, we just lacked calmness out there.

Hayden Triggs reacts after losing possession Tommy Dickson / INPHO Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

“It is disappointing for guys who are leaving. The players are gutted for them because they don’t get another chance.

“For younger guys coming through and guys here next year, as painful as it is, you’ve got to understand how you get yourself out of that situation. We’re going to find ourselves in that situation again.

“It will be an interesting week, going through the review, getting the feedback from the players. What are they seeing? Why are they not seeing the pictures?

“There was nothing new that we weren’t prepped for. We prepped for a plan and we went away from it.”

The former second-row added: “There is still enough at stake for the group. They’ve worked hard together. They build their values together. They wanted to see out this campaign.

“To dish up a performance like that is bitterly disappointing. Some guys will go on the Irish tour. Some will go on The Lions tour. We wish them well.

“But, for others, that is going to be their last game of rugby. Everyone knew what was at stake, the carrot of a final in The Aviva.

“We will have to sit back and watch that game and that will be painful to watch.”

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