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Dublin: 16°C Saturday 8 May 2021

Leo Cullen tries to find positives after Leinster fall to morale-sapping defeat

The Leinster coach watched his side suffer an emphatic 51-10 loss against Wasps.

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen watches his side's game with Wasps.
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen watches his side's game with Wasps.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

IT’S HARD TO find positives when your team has just suffered a seven-try demolition, but Leo Cullen did his best on Saturday evening.

Fittingly, Leinster’s Pool 5 campaign finished as it started — with a thumping defeat at the hands of Wasps.

There were talks this week of a revenge mission in Coventry after that harrowing 33-6 loss at the RDS last November.

Last weekend’s heartening victory over Bath, where six tournament debutants stole the show, inspired further optimism among the Leinster ranks, but this shellacking at the Ricoh Arena was yet another reality check for Cullen and this squad.

Leinster had their moments against Bath and Toulon, but Wasps have been a class apart in this group.

“There was fine margins in a couple of games,” said Cullen on his side’s European journey.

In our games against Wasps, how we managed the game; we were well and truly beaten in those games. Even though we start the games well, we did just lose our way and end up playing into their hands to a certain degree because they are a very good team.

“It’s disappointing looking back on it now because we had a lot of high hopes going into this competition this year but, in the games against Wasps, we’ve been well and truly second place.”

It all began so well when Zane Kirchner raced over for an early try. Leinster couldn’t have asked for a better start but then Jonathan Sexton left with a worrying head injury and would not return.

Jimmy Gopperth and Joe Launchbury both crossed and it started to feel like one of those days, but the visitors made the next statement with Eoin Reddan’s well-worked try.

Trailing 15-10 at half-time, Leinster’s task did not look insurmountable but what followed was a traumatic second-half in Coventry.

The floodgates opened as the likes of Elliot Daly, Frank Halai and Charles Piutau contributed to a 36-point haul with no reply.

I thought the guys started the game with really good intent. We created a lot of opportunities. We were five points behind… then we gave away a cheap penalty. We’re down by eight, and then they score a try, then suddenly its 15 points behind,” Cullen added.

“It was a little bit like our game in round one at the RDS where we start chasing the game very, very early. Wasps just defend with most of the players in a line. We end up forcing passes, not respecting the ball and, as a result, when we turn the ball over , very cheaply on a couple of occasions, Wasps then go the length and score.”

“So, it’s really disappointing how we managed that early part of the second-half because we were in that game at half-time.”

A traumatic end to a traumatic campaign.

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